Wins its Petition of the NYC Municipal Archives Using Freedom of Information Law

In the September 9, 2015 newsletter, I wrote about the petition of Brooke Schreier Ganz and in trying to obtain what should have been public domain records from the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS). Now there is good news: the petition was granted!

Reclaim The Records has won its first legal case, winning access to over 600,000 never-before-public genealogical records!

Details may be found at and in Avotaynu Online at


This is a good thing and I “liked” their FB page but, I don’t see anything about what the intend on doing with this information once they get it.


    They said in the blog post (and on FB) that they are digitizing them and putting them online. After that, anyone who wants a copy of the microfilms can have it. They mentioned being “in discussions” with FamilySearch about placing a digital copy there and including the records in the indexing projects.


Marissa is correct — and just to be clear, here’s the plan for the next few months:

– We paid our invoice with DORIS a few days ago. They take AmEx. ๐Ÿ™‚
– We are due to get 46 of the 48 requested microfilms mailed to us in the next two weeks.
– The other two microfilms need to be dug out of the vaults before the copies can be made, so they’ll take a little longer to get to us. That’s fine.
– We’re going to start scanning every microfilm, breaking them up into individual images. Scanning will be done at high quality, probably 300 dpi. We’re planning on using the scanners at the Internet Archive ( which is located in San Francisco.
– We’re going to take those scanned images and upload them to the Internet Archive’s website. Their website is not the ideal one for browsing through genealogical images *but* it will enable us to stick an enormous amount of data online in a robust way, both free for us (no charge for the server space!) and free for anyone to use.
– Once everything is uploaded, anyone will be able to browse the images and find names and dates in the index. It is broken up by borough (county), year, part of the year, surname (first two letters, alphabetically), and finally by gender (brides on one side of the page, grooms on the other). So even though there’s no text-searchable index, it shouldn’t be too bad to use. The records are handwritten, so unfortunately we can’t even attempt to use OCR on them, but the handwriting is generally pretty good.
– Also once they’re uploaded, anyone who wants can *download* the images. The Internet Archive even automatically packages everything into torrent files, to make it easier to grab things in bulk, in addition to image-by-image.
– And then the real fun starts: anyone who wants to can then use those images to do anything they want with them. Doesn’t matter if you’re a big for-profit company (i.e. Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast, etc.), a big non-profit company (FamilySearch, etc.), a small non-profit genealogical group (the IGG/GGG, or one of the NYC area groups, etc.), or just an individual. They’re free, and have no copyright, so go wild!
– We’ll offer microfilm copies of our 48 physical films to anyone who wants them, although you’ll have to pay for your own copies (microfilm copying isn’t always cheap). If the scanned images are already online, I’m not sure if anyone will really want to do this, but they’re welcome to do so.
– Finally, when all the requests cease, the 48 films will be offered as a donation to the New York Public Library, probably the genealogy reading room at the 42nd Street branch, since they seem like the logical home for these films.
– And then in 2016 we start up with MANY MANY MORE FOIL requests for more data from more state and city agencies! ๐Ÿ™‚
Questions? E-mail me at or seek us out on Facebook or Twitter. More newsletters with more updates will be going out shortly!

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