We Want Our Records Back.

And we get them! More than twenty million records reclaimed to date.

We’re Reclaim The Records, a new not-for-profit activist group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates. We identify important genealogical records sets that ought to be in the public domain but which are being wrongly restricted by government archives, libraries, and agencies. We file Freedom of Information and Open Data requests to get that public data released back to the public. And if the government doesn’t comply, we take them to court.

Then we digitize everything we win and put it all online for free, without any paywalls or usage restrictions, so that it can never be locked up again. Learn more about our work and sign up for our newsletter.

Help us reclaim even more.

We started our work in New York City in 2015, expanded to three new vital records jurisdictions in 2016, and became a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2017. Your support helps us continue the fight for open records nationwide.

October 2018: Reclaim The Records launches our eighth Freedom of Information lawsuit. We’re taking on the New York City Municipal Archives to acquire and publish a portion of the Brooklyn (Kings county) “Old Town” records, approximately 143 microfilms worth of material from 1670-1898. These documents cover births, marriages, deaths — including for many enslaved people in New York! — as well as school records, tax records, military records, manumission papers, and more. They’ve never been online before. And yet the NYC Archives refused to make copies of these valuable records under the Freedom of Information Law. Learn more >>

July 2018: Reclaim The Records launches our fifth Freedom of Information lawsuit. We’re taking on the New York State Department of Health to acquire and publish their e-mails, vendor agreements, invoices, and other records that may show preferential treatment by the agency towards Ancestry.com in access to public records, in comparison to the six-figure cost estimates, access restrictions, and multi-year delays for individual genealogists and non-profit organizations making identically-worded public record requests. Learn more >>

Recent Records Requests

The New York State birth index

Index to New York State Births (Outside of New York City), 1881-1942

Finally, New York researchers can ditch the microfiche sheets and join the twenty-first century.
No litigation needed! All records online.
NYC Geographical Birth Index

Geographical Index to New York City Births, late 19th century – early 20th century

Hey, remember how the NYC Dept of Health "retroactively classified" the NYC birth index, removing it from the public? Well, they forgot one of them. But we didn't!
No litigation needed! Microfilms being digitally scanned right now.
Photo of DVD containing the records we won

Index to New York City Marriage Licenses, 1996-2017

Wait, you mean we’re gonna have to sue the same city agency again? Over the same records set? After they lost to us last time?
Litigation successful! All records online
Missouri Death Index, 1965-2015

Missouri Death Index, 1965-2015

They tried to charge us $1.5 million for a public records request. Then they decided to ignore the state Sunshine Law altogether.
Litigation in progress! Case filed November 23, 2016.
Reclaim The Records - New Jersey Marriage Index - example #2

New Jersey Marriage Index, 1901-2016

We acquired and published the first-ever data set of everyone married in the Garden State
Legal wrangling, but no litigation needed! All records online.
New York State Death Index

Index to New York State Deaths (Outside of New York City), 1880-1956

It took us seventeen months of fighting with the government just to get a list of the names of dead people.
Legal wrangling but no litigation needed! All records online.
Screenshot of the initial estimated costs of our Missouri Sunshine Law requests

Missouri Birth Index, 1910-2015

They tried to charge us $1.5 million for a public records request. Then they decided to ignore the state Sunshine Law altogether.
Litigation in progress! Case filed November 23, 2016.

New York City Birth Certificates, 1910-1917

They're more than 100 years old, but NYC won't let us see them.
NY FOIL request in planning stage against NYC DOH
Photo of the microfilms we received

Index to New York City Marriage Licenses, 1930-1995

Yes, you can fight city hall — and win! Of course, it helps if the city refuses to return your e-mails and calls until you take them to court.
Litigation successful! All records online (minus Queens 1971-72 images)
Reclaim The Records vs. NYC Municipal Archives - Brooklyn (Kings County) 'Old Town' records

Brooklyn (Kings County) “Old Town” Records

Welcome to the single stupidest lawsuit we've ever had to file against a government agency
Litigation in progress! Case filed October 15, 2016.
Yonkers NY Death Index book from the 1870's

Index to Deaths in Yonkers, New York, c. 1870-1915

"Out there, there's a world outside of Yonkers..."
NY FOIL request filed with Yonkers City Clerk's Office on September 6, 2017
Wyoming Death Index

Wyoming Marriage, Death, and Divorce Indices, 1900-1965

Frozen in a snowbank outside of Laramie? We got your record. Thrown off your wagon team in Cheyenne? We got your record too.
Coming soon...
NYC Marriage License Index

Index to New York City Marriage Licenses, 1908-1929

What do you do when a city archive won’t share its records with the public? Fight back. Read about our pilot project that started it all.
Litigation successful! All records online.
New Jersey Death Index

New Jersey Death Index, 1904-2017

Why should these records be available if you're onsite at the state archives, but not available on the Internet?
Legal wrangling but no litigation needed! All records online.

Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Almost 100,000,000 public records have been available only through a $300/year paywalled commercial website. We're gonna change that.
FOIA request filed with Social Security Administration on September 20, 2017
Buffalo Death Index

Index to Deaths in Buffalo, New York, 1852-1944

These records were sitting on a hard drive in a city government's Inactive Records Center, not online for public use. We fixed that.
No litigation needed! All records online.
Reclaim The Records vs Veterans Affairs

Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File

When a veteran dies, why is their basic service data locked up forever behind a $300/year commercial website's paywall?
Litigation in progress! FOIA lawsuit filed in United States District Court (SDNY) on September 17, 2018.

Index to New York City domestic partnership records, 1993-2017

🌈All people and all families deserve to have their genealogical records available to them.
NY FOIL request in planning stage against NYC Clerk's Office

Index to Deaths in Albany, New York, 1880-1915

Corruption's such an old song that we can sing along in harmony, And nowhere is it stronger than in Albany
NY FOIL request filed with Albany City Clerk's Office on September 6, 2017
List of Registered Voters, 1924

List of Registered Voters in New York City for 1924

Historical voter data is often covered by Freedom of Information laws. We were the first to publish this often-overlooked resource online.
No litigation needed! All records online.
New Jersey marriage index

New Jersey Birth, Marriage, and Death Indices, 1901-1903 and 1901-1914

We acquired and published the first public twentieth century vital records indices for New Jersey.
No litigation needed! All records online.
New York State marriage index

Index to New York State Marriages (Outside of New York City), 1881-2017

This FOIL request has so far taken nine months and counting, proving that even babies are faster than the New York State government.
Litigation in progress! Case filed August 24, 2018

Lectures and Presentations

Upcoming

2019: January 15 – San Ramon Valley Genealogy Society (Danville, CA)

Recent

2018: JGS of Washington State (Bellevue, WA); Mt. Diablo Genealogical Society (Walnut Creek, CA); Fairfax Genealogical Society (Vienna, VA); JGS of Maryland (Baltimore, MD); National Genealogical Society annual conference (Grand Rapids, MI)
2017: Live-Streamed Lecture at the 2017 IAJGS conference (Orlando, FL); Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society; San Luis Obispo County Genealogy Society; Oakland FamilySearch Library w/ SF Bay JGS; JGS of Cleveland (Beachwood, OH, via videoconference)
2016: JGS of Long Island (Plainview, NY); The Center For Jewish History (New York, NY); Lecture at the 2016 IAJGS conference (Seattle, WA); San Francisco Bay Area JGS (San Francisco, CA)

Awards and Recognition

FGS Director's Award

WINNER of the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2017 Director’s Award, presented in recognition of both exceptional contributions to the field of genealogy and family history, and extra-mile efforts to promote good will and improve services.

IAJGS Outstanding Project of the Year

WINNER of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies 2017 award for Best Project for our work bringing genealogical and archival records back to the public.

EFF Foilies Award

WINNER of a 2017 Electronic Frontier Foundation Foilies Award for our records requests and subsequent lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, recognized as exposing one of “the year’s worst in government transparency.”

Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE/NICAR) - Golden Padlock Award Finalist

Our open records work and ongoing lawsuit in Missouri led to the state’s Department of Health being named a FINALIST for the 2017 Golden Padlock Award, which is given annually at the IRE/NICAR banquet to “the most secretive government agency or individual in the United States.” This satiric award usually honors the work of television and newspaper investigative teams in uncovering government corruption; we were the first archives-related organization to be recognized.

John Stedman Memorial Grant Recipient

TWO-TIME WINNER of the annual $3,000 grant for genealogical records projects that provide access to new sources. 2018: Grant awarded for our upcoming FOIL request and likely lawsuit for the New York City birth and death index; 2017: Grant awarded for our ongoing lawsuit for the Missouri birth and death index.

Do you know about records that ought to be available to the public, but aren’t? Take our Records Survey and tell us about them!

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












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