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.