Not as magic bullets, but as helpful reference librarians.
Remember in middle school when you had to write a report about how many lobsters were caught in Maine each year? You went into the library and told the librarian your project.
She (and in my middle school days, it was always she) would never tell you the answer because very probably she had no idea. Instead, she would suggest that you consult the latest Maine State Yearbook, or perhaps a publication from the federal government.
Then, you had to do your own digging.
That is how a good investigator uses search engines. If a one-stop electronic solution existed, lawyers and accountants would have it and investigators would be dispensible. Instead, you engage in meta searching – looking for the thing that will lead you to the thing that (if you’re lucky and persistent) gets you to the answer. See our post from a few years ago, Meta Searching Fake Royals and Other Facts.
Even before Google, there were supposedly “secret databases” that revealed a person’s entire asset picture at the touch of a button. But unless you are in law enforcement, without a court order it’s nearly impossible to see a list of someone’s bank and brokerage accounts without breaking the law.
Then starting a little over 20 years ago, people flipped over Google. But as I have said consistently, if you Google yourself you will find one or two percent of what you know about yourself on there. Unless you are very famous, you won’t see a complete employment history, a list of people you’ve dated, worked with, fought with, and a list of places you’ve lived. You won’t find a complete list of court cases in which you’ve been involved. Why should it be different for the person you’re researching?
Now, the investigation killer is supposed to be ChatGPT. But again, it’s just a tool. As I’ve written here, ChatGPT is only useful in giving you material based on what it was already scanned. But if you want to search an obscure person (and 99% of us are for computer purposes obscure), then ChatGPT won’t be of much use. If there is nothing already written about you, ChapGPT will be helpless (although it may make stuff up to seem more helpful).
Your learned in economics (I hope) that there is no free lunch. This applies to fact finding because it applies to everything.
If it’s that easy to find it, you will still need to spend the time verifying that the findings are accurate. That takes time, and if time is money, then you will need to pay someone for their time to do it properly.
Your reference librarian didn’t work for free, after all, but aren’t you glad she was there for you?