I was in the middle of a busy day when my phone rang and our receptionist told me I had a call from someone I'd never heard of. “He has a banking-related question,” she said.
I spoke with a nice man named Norman who had recently discovered some documents from the 1960s showing that his father owned stock in two banks. His problem? Neither of those banks exists any longer, and he needs to find out which companies bought them so he can contact their investor relations departments.
I was initially stumped. I know that information must be out there in the land of public documents, but I had no idea where to find them. So I turned to our resident expert, researcher Alaine Keisling, who immediately went to www.fdic.gov.
After a few failed clicks, she used the function on the right-hand side of the website beneath “Find More Information.” Where it says “I Am A …” we chose “Analyst/Researcher/Student,” and where it says “I Want To …” we chose “Find basic information about a bank.”
Eh voila, we were taken to the FDIC’s Bankfind page (for the record, you can get there simply by clicking the link beneath all that stuff we picked that says “Bankfind”). We entered the name of the first bank this man was looking for – Keystone Bank – and were rewarded with a list of 17 entries.
Ugh. Not what we were hoping for. About five clicks later, we determined this was a knot that kind Mr. Norman was going to have to sort out for himself – we could spend hours looking through the information before finding what we were looking for.
But the next entry – Dauphin Deposit – yielded just two entries, both with the same FDIC number. And then we found the best news of all: The record clearly shows that what was Dauphin Deposit is now owned by M&T Bank.
Success! We had helped Mr. Norman at least a little bit.
After speaking with Norman for several minutes, I emailed him the link to the list of 17 entries for Keystone Bank. The last time I heard from him, he was still in the midst of sorting through the records to determine which one of them once had a branch at Third and Broad streets in Harrisburg.
I recommended to him that, if the FDIC records don’t contain the information he needs, he should next contact the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds office and get the tax information for that property in the 1960s. Though the office’s records are searchable online, I suspect the generic name of the institution would cause him headaches similar to the ones the FDIC records are causing.
Once the phone call was over, I found myself oddly exhilarated. Yes, it was just a few Web searches and some clicking around – which I do ad infinitum every day – but I felt like I had just been digging through history, getting my hands covered in dust by opening an old volume that hadn’t been touched in decades.
It was an excellent phone call. And I hope Mr. Norman finds everything he’s looking for.
Amy Gulli is the managing editor of the Business Journal. Follow her on Twitter, @amygulli.