Tired of restrictions and paywalls around public data? So are we.

We’re Reclaim the Records, a not-for-profit group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates who are filing Freedom of Information requests to get public data released back into the public domain. We’re collecting information about archivally important data sets that are not available online or on microfilm, and we’re using Freedom of Information laws and Open Data initiatives to get copies of this information released back to the public.

We’ve started our work in archives, libraries, and government agencies in New York, New Jersey, and Missouri, and are expanding into different parts of the country, based on demand from people like you. Along the way, we’ll be documenting everything we’ve learned about filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and creating a Do-It-Yourself guide for genealogists, open data fans, and others who want their state, local, and Federal records made more available.

Our goal is to get these record sets put online, for free, for everyone. Want to learn more? Read our Frequently asked Questions.


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(We ask because some states' Freedom of Information laws only allow state residents to make a FOIL request.)













Here's what we've been up to (so far)

Records Request #1 (Pilot Project)

Current Status:
  • Litigation Successful! We won!
  • Attorneys' Fees Being Sought
  • Records Have All Been Completely Uploaded!
  • Records Request #1 - Records Arrival - Photo #2 of 2

    Winner, winner, chicken dinner! These are 46 of the 48 microfilms we won from the New York City Municipal Archives in late 2015, though our pilot project.

Index to New York City Marriage Applications, Affidavits, and Licenses, 1908-1929

Reclaim The Records‘ first FOIL request, our pilot project, was an attempt to get access under the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to the index to some old marriage documents that were stored only in the New York City Municipal Archives in lower Manhattan.

There are two sets of marriage-related records kept on-site at the NYC Municipal Archives. The better-known is the late 1800’s-1937 marriage certificates, originally kept by the NYC Health Department. There are two indices to this record collection, commonly called the “Brides Index” and Grooms Index”, to help you find the right document. Both the certificates and its indices are available on FamilySearch microfilm. They have also been transcribed and turned into a free searchable database through a volunteer-run project organized by non-profit genealogy groups. That volunteer-created transcribed database was also recently added to Ancestry.com.

If you’ve ever ordered a copy of your family’s New York City marriage certificate, this is almost certainly what you got: a brief two-page document from this Health Department record series.

But our FOIL request was not about those certificates.

Instead, we were trying to get public access to the index to a much lesser-known but very important record set. This set was originally kept by the New York City Clerk’s Office, and it is the 1908-1929 application, affidavit, and license for a marriage, a totally separate three-page document that is generally dated a few weeks before the actual marriage took place.

AND WE WON.

Read More...


Records Request #2

Current Status:
  • Litigation Filed!
Index to all New York City marriage records, 1930-2015

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Records Request #3

Current Status:
  • Request Acknowledged by FOIL Officer
Index to New York State Deaths (Outside of New York City), 1880-1956

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Records Request #4

Current Status:
  • Request in Planning Stage
New York City Birth Certificates, 1910-1915

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Records Request #5

Current Status:
  • Records Received!
  • Records Being Prepared For Digitization
New Jersey Birth, Marriage, and Death Indices, 1901-1903 and 1901-1914

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Records Request #6

Current Status:
  • Request Acknowledged by FOIL Officer
  • Litigation in Planning Stage
Missouri birth index, 1910-2015

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Records Request #7

Current Status:
  • Request Acknowledged by FOIL Officer
  • Litigation in Planning Stage
Missouri death index, 1965-2015

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Want to learn more about us? Read our Frequently Asked Questions.