More than five million records from the Maryland State Archives covering more than a century, both the basic text indices and full vital records certificates 🤩 most of them never publicly available online before
Records released through successful Maryland Public Information Act request All received records online.
@EnduringLegacy @ReclaimTheRecs Thank you so much! I spent many hours in the Maryland Archives with my pencil and my phone camera because that's the only way to access genealogy records. This is a huge step forward. Thank you!
😊 It was a privilege to lead this major acquisition, feeling powerless for years, and thinking there is no excuse no one has put this amazing collection online yet. So if you reading this feel that way about a collection, let people know, and look for ways to get it done. ✊
😊 It was a privilege to lead this major acquisition, feeling powerless for years, and thinking there is no excuse no one has put this amazing collection online yet. So if you reading this feel that way about a collection, let people know, and look for ways to get it done. ✊
Maryland vital records have gone online @internetarchive. Congratulations to our neighbor state Maryland and @ReclaimTheRecs along with our former social media manager Michael @EnduringLegacy who lead the acquisition.
🤩 IT’S THE MARYLAND MOTHERLODE! 🤩Hi. Please excuse the all-caps, but we’re currently hyped up on a sugar high from the pumpkin pie, and a records-high from OVER A HUNDRED YEARS OF NEW AND TOTALLY FREE GENEALOGY RECORDS THAT WE JUST PUT ONLINE and we’re all pretty darn excited.Ahem. We at Reclaim The Records are so proud to finally announce one of our largest record acquisitions to date: MILLIONS of vital records spanning over one hundred years of history for the state of MARYLAND.These records have never previously been publicly available online anywhere else — not on FamilySearch and not on Ancestry and not on MyHeritage and not on [insert some other genealogy website here] — except for some records that had only been available at the Maryland State Archives’ internal website, if you happened to be sitting in their building in Annapolis and using their in-house computers, or on their external website, but only if those records were more than a hundred years old.This announcement is groundbreaking for us at RTR. Not only is this an unusually large cache of materials for one of our records projects, but this time, our acquisition was not limited to a basic name and date index — although we did get those, too! — but in addition to the decades of vital records indices, we also got the digital images of the actual birth, marriage, and death CERTIFICATES for the state of Maryland. Yep, the real certificates. And now we’ve put them online, free! ⭐HERE’S WHAT WE GOT⭐These records cover the entire state of Maryland. And we honestly have no idea how many there are of them in total, but saying "several million? probably more than five million?" seems like it’s in the right ballpark. Maryland may be a small state, but this haul is more than a century of material, and it covers more years and more types of records than even their own state Department of Health officially counts.But for the city of Baltimore, which is distinct from the larger county of Baltimore, the records were often kept separately by their own city Department of Health, and were often not included in the "statewide" record sets. Generally, when the so-called "statewide" records here refer to "Baltimore" prior to about 1972, they’re only referring to locations in the county of Baltimore, and not the independent city. So if you’re looking for someone from Maryland, you’ll often need to check through two different sets of data.There’s super-specific information about each of these new record sets on our website, but here’s the gist of it:⭐BIRTHS: We received scanned images of actual Maryland birth certificates for 1898-1922 statewide, including certificates for Baltimore City since 1875.We also got the basic Maryland state birth index for 1898-1951, and a separate Baltimore City birth index for 1875-1941 and 1950-1972. There is no separate Baltimore City birth index for 1942-1949 at the Archives, so for those years you can use try using the state index.To be clear: birth records in Maryland are restricted for a hundred years, hence the 1922 cut-off on publishing copies of actual certificates, but that rule doesn’t apply to the basic name/date text index, and therefore many more decades of data are available for the index.⭐MARRIAGES: We received scanned images of millions of actual Maryland marriage certificates for 1914-1940, June 1951-1988 and 2007-2013 statewide! (*wooooo!*) Note that these are generally organized by county, and then semi-chronologically within each county.Why are there gaps? Well, 1941-June 1951 exists at the Archives, but they have not been scanned yet, so we didn’t get copies. 1989-2004 are scanned and legally available to the public, but only when ordered one at a time directly from the Archives, because the standardized marriage form for those years unfortunately listed both parties’ Social Security Numbers on it, and those numbers need to be manually redacted from each digital image case-by-case. 2005-2006 are scanned and don’t have the issue of SSNs on the forms, but we’re still working on getting them.(One certainly could make a perfectly legal Maryland public records request for all of those 1989-2004 marriage records in bulk, and have the Archives staff work on the image redactions, but then that requester would also have to bear the costs of the staff’s work at their hourly rates for all those images and…well, we were quoted an estimate in the low six figures. We thought about it, but demurred. But maybe one of the larger and deeper-pocketed genealogy websites out there will consider doing such a thing someday, HINT HINT.)We also received a statewide marriage index for 1951-2013, with some years having separate indices for brides and for grooms.A statewide marriage index also exists for 1914-1930 at the Archives (item S-1498), but it has not yet been scanned by the Archives. (Again, perhaps some genealogical fairy godmother wants to fund that scanning project to get the index for those years, HINT HINT.) And those previously-mentioned not-online marriage records for 1941-1951 also do not have any index at all, alas.There initially was no separate Baltimore City marriage index from 1914-1940 at the Archives. Luckily, the Archives just wrapped up a big indexing project for those years, which can now be both viewed and text-searched at FromThePage. Some independent organizations have also run their own indexing projects; for example, a Baltimore City marriage index for 1915-1919 is available for Maryland Genealogical Society members on their society’s website.⭐DEATHS: We received digital copies of Maryland death certificates for 1898-2012 statewide, including certificates for Baltimore since 1875. We’re talking about millions of records here, actual full death certificates with tons of information (including parents’ names!), never before available like this. 🤩We also received the statewide death index for 1898-1968 and 1973-2014. For whatever reason there is no Maryland statewide (excluding Baltimore City) death index for 1969-1972 at the Archives. But there is an online index created by the Baltimore County Genealogical Society for those years, and of course, the original death certificates are now available for those years as well.We also received the Baltimore City death index for 1875-1972, with some years (1875-1880 and 1943-1949) even existing in duplicate index formats.Most of these death indices are new digital scans of old dot matrix print-outs from old databases, or of old books compiling the lists of deaths by year. For some years, the death index data is also available in annual .CSV or text data files, all ready to transform into a text-searchable database.⭐NATURALIZATIONS: And we even managed to get some naturalization data too — namely the card index to immigration and naturalization records for multiple courts in both Baltimore County, 1796-1851, and Baltimore City, 1827-1933.These files are digital scans of microfilms of handwritten 3×5" index cards, sorted roughly alphabetically by surname, identifying the court, the time frame, and the volume or folio number. There are 76 PDFs in just this one collection, and each PDF has about one thousand images, so that means …*quickly mashes buttons on calculator app*… maybe about 76,000 names just in this naturalization index alone? Sweet.Altogether, the diverse group of materials we requested and received covers more than thirty record series, and more than five and half terabytes of data. Most were scanned by the Archives into high resolution images that were then saved as PDF format, but a few are presented as raw images or as text files. ⭐GIMME!⭐So, where are these amazing new records, and how can you check them out? Well, it’s an almost overwhelming amount of material, so to see direct links to each specific type of content, and in a much more detailed and useful tabular format, check out our website!www.reclaimtherecords.org/records-request/31/And if you find these new records useful, and/or if you have some leftover slices of pumpkin pie, we would very much appreciate some of it:reclaimtherecords.org/donateWe at RTR thank you very, very much for your awesome support. We really appreciate it. And have a happy Thanksgiving!⭐ A very very very special thanks to our RTR Intern Extraordinaire Michael W. McCormick, Accredited Genealogist for making this very complex project happen! We couldn’t have done it without him. ⭐ … See MoreSee Less
A MILLION NEW RECORDS FROM MISSOURIUpdated public datasets now available for more years of the Missouri Birth Index and Missouri Death IndexHi again from Reclaim The Records! Today we’re announcing a big update to two important record sets that we initially put online a few years ago. Big, like about a million records, including the (or one of the) first-ever full state death data files available from a state department of health from the pandemic era.And as usual, we’re releasing it all for FREE use, reuse, downloading, uploading, remixing, and — best of all — for searches on our free websites, including searching by surnames, given names, soundalike names, common nicknames, close spelling variants, wildcard searches, names combined with dates, and even searching by specific date ranges with no name data at all. Yay, open data!Reclaim The Records is proud to announce the addition of the following data sets to the Missouri Birth Index and Missouri Death Index websites for free searches — and to the public domain, for use and reuse:– The Missouri Birth Index has been updated with 588,542 new records from 1910-1919 and 2016-2022, for a total of 8,090,516 records covering 1910-2022. Check out our website www.MissouriBirthIndex.com for these files.– The Missouri Death Index has been updated with 482,900 new records from 2016-2022, for a total of 3,081,382 records covering 1968-2022. (A Sunshine Law request for the pre-1968 death index data is in progress, but the actual death certificates from those years are already online, see below.) Check out our website www.MissouriDeathindex.com for these files.Important note: in both cases, the 2022 data files are legally considered "provisional" releases by the state of Missouri. meaning that they may have some mistakes or missing records. The finalized copies of the 2022 birth data and 2022 death data will likely be released in mid-2024, along with the provisional data sets from 2023. We’ve added little warning symbols next to any 2022 births and deaths that pop up in the search results to let people know about this.Another important note: the official 1910-1919 state birth index file is highly incomplete, because the statewide compliance with vital records registration laws was not-great back then. You might be able to find other sources for pre-1920 birth data from towns, cities, or counties that kept their own records, or from churches and religious communities, not all of whom may have reported their information to the state level. And some pre-1910 Missouri birth and death records are available on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website.The Secretary of State’s website also hosts scanned copies of all Missouri death certificates that are more than fifty years old (i.e. 1910-1972 at the moment). Over the years, these files have been name-and-date-indexed by volunteers, including indexing for the deceased person’s parents’ names and spouse’s name for the records starting in 1955. And so we have updated our website’s search results to indicate when a scanned and online copy might be available for a record in our dataset, and to link to their site, when possible.The original .CSV data files for the birth and death indices are also available for download, hosted at the Internet Archive, and linked from our websites. Do whatever you like with them, they’re public domain. We just kindly ask that you cite us somewhere and link back to our website if you use them in something, please.And indeed, it’s that time in our newsletter when we mention our website again. We like getting public data released to the public. We really, really like it, even if it sometimes involves a multi-year fight with a state (or city, or federal agency, or government archive or library) to get it. This Missouri case was a particularly crazy case, but we have a lot of cases (several we haven’t even announced publicly yet!) where the behavior of government agencies has been less-than-awesome, and we could sure use some help fighting them in court, when needed.And we can only do that with your help. If you like seeing records like these Missouri vital indexes go online for free, for everyone, forever, and you want to see us keep doing this kind of thing, and in more states nationwide, please consider making a donation to help fund our work. We really appreciate your support! You can donate on our website.Thanks, and we hope you enjoy the new data. And for the FULL version of the story behind this update, including the very juicy backstory about our four year fight with the state of Missouri, please check out our newsletter here: … See MoreSee Less
Hello again from Reclaim The Records! Today, we come to you with a long-awaited present: millions of new free genealogy records — or at least, new searchable and downloadable indices to those millions of records, and helpful instructions on how you can order the underlying certificates, even very recent ones. And of course, we also have yet another Kafkaesque story about why the world is still missing public access to even more years of this great data, and how we’re working to fix that.Introducing ConnecticutGenealogy.org/ ! It’s a FREE searchable database of 576,638 births, 2,180,700 marriages, 2,086 civil unions, and 2,772,116 deaths from the state of Connecticut, spanning three centuries. Some of this data had been online before, scattered across several other websites, but with fewer years, in non-downloadable and non-shareable formats, locked behind paywalls, and/or with tools that couldn’t handle searching the quirks and oddities in the data very well. Well, now it’s all in one place, and we think we’ve got better data and better tools, and we’re here to tell you all about it!ConnecticutGenealogy.org includes the first-ever online publication of Connecticut birth index data from 1897-1917, and this new data is the only statewide index of Connecticut births that exists publicly online anywhere. (Yay!) We also acquired marriage and death index data from 1897 through 2017, while the next most complete online version of the index only had data through 2012. And our search engine is set up to better handle some of the weirdness in this data, such as the official records from 1969-1979 only having the first five letters of each person’s given name, and some of the pre-1925 data missing some names entirely. Our search engine also has all the fun bells and whistles like automatic nickname and partial name searches, wildcard searches, automatic typo or letter transposition searches, date range searches (even down to the exact day, not just the year), and so on.And we even geo-coded all the data, and we also auto-supplemented all the data with county names.That means you can use this new website to do much more complicated things with this data, like search for every person named Elizabeth and no last name provided, and in any type of Connecticut record dated between July 13, 1902 and February 8, 1903, and within 25 miles of the town of Hamden — and get back hundreds of results that might help you find her, even if she was listed in the record as Eliza, Lizzie, Bessie, or Elise. You can even make queries like “show me all births in Town X or County Y in early August 1908” without specifying any name data at all which is so important when it comes to finding that elusive relative’s record, especially because we’ve discovered that over 100,000 of these records (particularly ones from pre-1925) are missing a given name, a surname, or both, often due to the original handwritten records’ illegibility.And we even added graphs and maps, which update along with the search results! Because those are fun! 💫And we’re also publishing for the first time anywhere the Connecticut civil union database for 2005-2015. These unions were formally registered at the state level beginning in October 2005. Nearly all of these were automatically converted over to full state-recognized marriages in October 2010, then federally recognized in June 2015. Earlier records for domestic partnerships (which are legally distinct from civil unions, at least in Connecticut), were filed with some of the individual towns and cities in Connecticut dating back to circa 1993, or with religious institutions, but were not kept at the state level, and are not included in our database. Our huge thanks to genealogist and archivist Jeremy Berry-Cahn who has been doing the first concerted project (that we know of) to catalog and acquire all domestic partnership and civil union genealogical datasets in the United States.To obtain all this great data we (and Jeremy) submitted a few Connecticut state FOIA requests, made a few calls, and cut the state a few checks. The process for getting these indexes was almost entirely amicable, and did not require any litigation. However, we’ve also got a ridiculous situation dragging on in the state, to try to get more years of birth index data. More on that in a sec…== I found a name! But how do I get a copy of the actual certificate? ==Well, the website gives more complete instructions, but let’s review them here briefly. To order a certified copy of a vital record, you can write to the state, meaning the Connecticut Department of Public Health, which has statewide records going back to 1896. But for shorter processing times, it is preferable to order directly from the town in which the event occurred. So if you know an event happened in Town X, you should probably try getting the record from the clerk of Town X, rather than asking the state and waiting a while.Connecticut marriages and deaths are open records and may be obtained by anyone, while births and their associated indexes are currently closed for 100 years. There is no provision to request an uncertified copy of a vital record, but there is a very simple and very awesome workaround to get more recent birth records.Ready? Okay. Any person who holds a membership in a genealogy society authorized to do business in Connecticut may present a card to a local or state clerk to obtain birth records within the closure period. Here’s a list of those state-recognized societies, fourteen of them at the moment:libguides.ctstatelibrary.org/hg/researcher/gensocietiesSo when making a request to a clerk, you should include a photocopy of your identification and your Connecticut genealogy society membership card with your mailed request.Once more, with feeling: anyone can get any Connecticut marriage or death record, and if you belong to a recognized Connecticut genealogy society, and you have your physical membership card handy, you can get a copy of any Connecticut birth record, and you don’t have to wait a hundred years. (Gosh, if only more states were this amenable and sane about public records access…)== But now we come to the Kafkaesque nightmare, because of course ==Acquiring all this index data from the state was relatively straightforward until we came to the question of getting more birth index data. We are currently battling with the state of Connecticut over this issue, although we are technically not in the court system…at least, not yet. And this ongoing fight has been the primary reason we did not announce this data earlier, as we had been hoping (and are still hoping!) to get a complete birth index to the present day. After all, if any Connecticut genealogy society member can get any actual Connecticut birth certificate from any year, then why can’t we get a basic birth index dataset from any year? What’s wrong with seeing just a list of names from 1940 or 1980 or 2010, if the full underlying records are essentially open?Well. In August 2020, we made a Connecticut state FOIA request for the remaining unreleased birth index from the state, everything from January 1, 1918 to the present. As time has marched on, five and a half more years of these older records have since passed beyond the purported one hundred year restriction, so at the very least those 1918-1923 years of birth index data ought to be available to the public, nevermind the other 100+ years of more recent birth data.Citing delays from covid, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) did not respond to our FOIA request until February 2021, at which point multiple follow-ups had already been made. And when they finally responded, the news was not good. They told us that index to births from less than 100 years ago could not be released, as they claim that there is a legal question about whether the provision restricting access to certified birth certificates, Conn. Gen. Stat. §7-51, extends to the basic name indexes as well. We think they’re wrong, but this is not an uncommon stance for a state to take when we fight with them, trying to apply legal restrictions that were only meant for actual record copies to the underlying basic finding aid or index.But Connecticut’s response was worse than that. They also said that even the much older years of the state birth index, the ones from more than 100 years ago, could no longer be released to FOIA requestors, even though we already had the 1897-1917 section in hand (and now online) from a previous request. And the reason they gave was that all this state data is stored in a very very very old and rickety FoxPro database, and the one and only state staffer who was familiar with such an outdated data program had recently passed away. And she was the one who had previously helped give us the export of the 1897-1917 segment of the data.In other words, Connecticut doesn’t want to give us, or anyone else, any recent birth index data, for reasons we think are both silly and incorrect, and they don’t even want to give us the indisputably very old birth index data because the state of Connecticut no longer has the technological knowledge to export parts of their own database, because their vital records database software is between 29 and 32 years old and their only employee who knew how to use it died. This is…not great. Not great for us as researchers, and frankly not great for the state itself, to potentially lose their own data to lock-in and obsolescence.Naturally, we appealed this denial to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC), whose purpose “is to administer and enforce the provisions of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, and to thereby ensure citizen access to the records and meetings of public agencies in the State of Connecticut.” They issue binding determinations in cases when members of the public believe they were wrongly denied public records. Similar quasi-judicial agencies exist in other states, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.Again, citing covid, the FOIC was a bit slow to respond, but a hearing was set up for the fall of 2021, in which RTR and the DPH had to submit two rounds of briefs arguing their positions. We argued the two points that had been brought up in the initial denial: that the basic indexes were not restricted for 100 years, and that there was no real technological impediment to the DPH exporting the older records. Surely they could hire an outside consultant to help them convert, export, or otherwise re-engineer such an immensely important collection of state data? Worst case scenario, could they maybe, like, print it out?Meanwhile, the DPH made a few brand new claims to the FOIC as well, such as a purported lack of any state birth indexes at all for some of the years. (We’re kind of not sure whether it would be better if they were telling the truth about this data hole or not.)A lot of these disagreements about the meaning and intention of the law stem from very specific words and phrases that appear in the statute, sometimes as specific as the placement of modifiers. You may read all of the paperwork if you would like to understand the full case, as the issues we argue are complex, but we have summarized our main points below, excerpted directly from the filings:======“The Respondent [Connecticut Department of Public Health] claims that birth indexes created less than 100 years ago are unambiguously exempt from FOIA by selectively quoting § 7-51, leaving out the fact that this provision only applies to certified copies of birth records. § 7-51’s initial text is that “The department and registrars of vital statistics shall restrict access to and issuance of a certified copy of birth and fetal death records and certificates less than one hundred years old, to the following eligible parties…,” (emphasis added). Although they claim this unambiguously includes an uncertified birth index, instead this unambiguously precludes the birth index, as it need not be certified. This statute does not govern the release of uncertified indexes. […] The Respondent continues to discuss the legislative history of these provisions, stating that if the Legislature wanted to explicitly make birth indexes a public record, they could have. This is true, but also irrelevant. The purpose of FOIA is to make all records public by default.The Respondent is relying on a definition of an index that does not match that which is in the dictionary. They claim that their database of who was born before 1948 is not an index, while that is the very definition of an index – it is a finding aid to an otherwise hard-to-navigate subject matter (in this case, sequentially-filed birth certificates). Although the law did not require them to keep an index until 1948, all records held by an agency are subject to FOIA, including those which are not required to be maintained by statute. […] There is no semantic difference between an internal reference list and an index. They could call it a turducken, but it’s still an index.The Respondent provides another reason why they will not export data from 1917-1947. The reference list is contained on an archaic FoxPro database, and they claim that they are unable to manipulate the database because the staffer who was familiar with it recently passed away. Registrar Frugale testified that she was afraid that attempting to export the database could lead to the file being corrupted, but admitted this was not based upon any advice from any IT professionals. […] If there exist any copies of the Foxpro file anywhere, then there is no risk from manipulating the database, as any copy could be exported, with backups extant in case of issue. If the state does not currently have someone available on staff who is knowledgeable enough to work with FoxPro, then they can certainly hire a vendor to handle these tasks, just as their now-deceased staffer did in the recent past. […] While it is the preference of the Complainant to receive the file in a modern format such as a csv, to the extent that is impossible for the Respondent to do that, it would be acceptable to simply provide an exact copy of the database file, in the native Foxpro format, leaving the migration work to Complainant. […] In short, the Respondent’s technological incompetence is not a valid reason for them to withhold nonexempt records, especially when nearly identical records have in fact been provided to the same Complainant in the very recent past.===== We filed the last brief in October 2021, and so our case has lingered before the FOIC for almost two years now, and we’re still waiting. When we inquired as to why there was such a long wait from a regulatory body, we had some more Kafkaesque fun: we learned that our FOIA case fell into a covid-related gravity well.During the pandemic, the governor of Connecticut had apparently tolled the statutory deadlines by which the Commission had to adjudicate state FOIA requests. But when the deadlines resumed, the older requests made during that pandemic time period fell into a limbo, where the Commission had no legal obligation to respond by a certain time. The legal deadline applied only to all new and future complaints. Thus, the FOIC have responded to the complaints from 2022, but are basically ignoring the older ones, including ours from 2021. This is obviously not ideal, and we are now stuck twiddling our thumbs waiting for them to issue a decision.And so here we are launching this ConnecticutGenealogy.org website today with a birth index for 1897-1917 and no way to know if anyone will ever have access to any of the other years of the birth index ever again, nor any agreement about whether the state will ever bother to update or export their senescent FoxPro database that indexes state births, which they now also claim in their filings isn’t even an index at all.On top of that, we have been fighting this case pro se, without lawyers. One of our intrepid directors, genealogy badass Alec Ferretti, has been handling all of the filings himself, going head-to-head with the State Registrar and the Attorney General’s Office, and we think, holding his own! We did not retain counsel for this project because, well, lawyers are expensive. But taking on these agencies without legal representation is never ideal, and if we ever want the state’s precious data to be online, or anywhere other than a very old and decrepit FoxPro database that not a single person on their own staff can use, then this is probably what we’re going to have to do.And we can only do that with your help. If you like seeing records like these great Connecticut vital indexes go online for free, for everyone, forever, and you want to see us keep doing this kind of thing, and in more states nationwide, please consider making a donation to help fund our work. We really appreciate your support! You can donate on our website.Thanks, and we hope you enjoy the new database! Happy searching! … See MoreSee Less
Reclaim The Records is an IRS-recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our EIN is 81-4985446. Contact us at [email protected]