Reclaim The Records: The NYC Marriage Index 1908-1929 Goes Online

The following announcement was written by the folks at Reclaim The Records:

The 1908-1929 NYC marriage index goes online for free public use

Reclaim_the_Records_logoIt took one Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, one modification of that FOIL request, one FOIL Appeal, one Advisory Opinion issued by the New York State Committee on Open Government, one “Article 78” legal petition filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, one legal settlement with the City of New York, 46 brand new microfilm copies created from the master films held in one city agency’s vault and another two films from another city agency’s vault, one portable hard drive full of high-quality digital scans of the 48 films donated by a kind non-profit organization, several days working in the headquarters of another non-profit to borrow their Internet bandwidth and hard drive space, and sixteen months.

But we did it. Today, Reclaim the Records is very pleased to announce that the index to the New York City Clerk’s Office marriage records (the application, affidavit, and license) for 1908-1929 is now online and open for public use.

There are no logins required, no paywalls, no copyrights, and no usage restrictions. The index is now free and open data, forever.

39 of the 48 microfilms are now online at the Internet Archive, and the remaining nine films will be put online throughout the next few weeks.

Here’s the link!: https://archive.org/details/nycmarriageindex

This includes (so far) 48 items scanned from 39 microfilms:

  • MANHATTAN 1908-1929
  • BROOKLYN 1908-1929
  • BRONX 1914-1917

Coming soon are the final nine microfilms:

  • BRONX 1918-1929
  • QUEENS 1908-1930
  • STATEN ISLAND 1908-1938

Details about how to join a new volunteer-led transcription project for these images, to turn them into a free online searchable database, will be announced shortly.

Quick notes and updates

  • Our first court date in our Article 78 legal petition in the Supreme Court of New York against the New York City Clerk’s Office, seeking the first-ever public copies of the 1930-2015 NYC marriage index under the New York State Freedom of Information Law, has been pushed back one month, to May 9, 2016. We will let you know how it goes.
  • Our case to be reimbursed our attorneys fees by the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS, parent agency of the NYC Municipal Archives) is scheduled to have its oral arguments on May 25, 2016. We’ll let you know how that goes, too.
  • Last month, Reclaim The Records was one of the organizations that was a signatory to a letter to Senators Grassley, Leahy and Cornyn, all of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for the Endorsement of Immediate Passage of FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. Yup, Reclaim The Records is going to start getting involved in governmental lobbying efforts to improve FOIA and strengthen state Freedom of Information laws.

The start of the avalanche

Thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey to make this dream of open records a reality.

And we’re just getting started… There’s more news coming soon.

27 Comments

These would go great with some of the original wedding photos and marriage licenses on JustaJoy!

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That’s lovely for NYC. I’d like to see this type of project open up to researchers with non-NYC ancestors. These folks are still struggling. Why is New York state research so terribly difficult and complicated?

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    Reclaim The Records April 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Don’t worry, we’ve got A LOT of other open records requests and projects in the works (and one new lawsuit in progress), including work on the New York statewide indices. Our attorney has been in touch with the New York State Department of Health’s Records Access Office just this week, in fact. Stay tuned!

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In reply to the above, go to their website. They take requests. They aren’t just focused on the NY or the northeast. They took mine for NJ (or maybe someone else submitted the same suggestion) and already have the records, and are in process of posting. They are working on Missouri as well.

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    Reclaim The Records April 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Exactly! If you are a genealogist or researcher who has been wrongly denied access to documents by a state or municipal archive, library, clerk’s office, or other agency, let us know about it! We’ll investigate and add it to our “to-do list”. We started with NYC, but this activism is going to be applied nationwide.

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You cant beat city hall, without some effort and skill.

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    Reclaim The Records April 16, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    It also takes a willingness to rock the boat, something that far too many genealogists and genealogy organizations were (and still are) simply too nervous to do. It’s been enlightening to see the reactions to this new kind of activism in the genealogy world: who vocally supports this tactic of Freedom of Information records request followed by lawsuit if needed, and who just stays on the sidelines and doesn’t want to potentially get their hands dirty (well, until the records come out, of course).

    I am hopeful that these efforts will snowball and that more and more government agencies, libraries, and archives will come to realize that yes, their records really are subject to their states’ Freedom of Information laws and Sunshine laws, and that they do not have a valid reason for denying access to their records to researchers and genealogists. And moreover, if they continue to deny people access to records without a good legal reason, they will be challenged.

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Tried a last name search but since that last name is English it pulled up more records than I could read in my lifetime since it refers to the language of every record, lol. Quotations with the first name included didn’t fair that much better. Sigh.
I ‘ll bet there are some great records to be had in there. I will have to play around in there to find the sort of record I am looking for.

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    Reclaim The Records April 16, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Hi Lori. These 48 microfilms have been scanned and turned into digital images, but the images have not been transcribed into a text-searchable database yet. For now, you’ll have to pick a borough and a year (say, Brooklyn 1914) and page through all the images in that index. Luckily, they’re alphabetical.

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This is great. It took some time but I finally found my husband’s grandparents marriage date and the spelling of his grandmothers maiden name.

Liked by 1 person

I’m not sure how this works? I’ve typed in a name where it says Search Inside and I get nothing. Since it’s handwritten I guess one can’t search. One must scroll through the pages the way one does at the Municipal Archives on the microfilm?
Penny

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    Reclaim The Records April 16, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Hi Penny. Yes, you still have to scroll through the images one by one; they haven’t been transcribed into a text database yet.

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Italiangen.org has had these records online for some time. Not the actual index book but the transcription. I found several on the italian gen.org website but could not find them in the actual book on reclaim the record.

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    Mary Dresser Taffet April 15, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Kim, These are NOT the same as the records available at Italiangen.org. This is an index to the LICENSES, not the CERTIFICATES. It is a different set of records that I can tell you from first-hand knowledge contain more information than is available on the certificates. These are City Clerk records, not Department of Health records. Much more detailed than the DOH records.

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This has now given me a huge amount of my work to do on my NY Family. Great!
But this is an index. What do we do with this information in regards to obtaining the original full documents? Maybe an article on this would be good?

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    Jeff, with this information you can contact NYC City Clerk and request the license. Yes, there is a $10 charge. See:http://www.cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/marriage/records.shtml
    I sent mine off today. Good luck.

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    Reclaim The Records April 16, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Jeff. You can order copies of the original three-page document (the City Clerk’s Office affidavit, application, and license) from the NYC Municipal Archives, but unfortunately they do not have a form online on their website to handle this kind of record yet. So you’ll have to send them a letter in the mail. The address and instructions to do this are on every page on the Internet Archive that holds the images.

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    The instructions with these records say that copies of the documents can be obtained from the NYC Municipal Archives, not the City Clerk. I copied this from the page with the specific record set I needed (NYC Marriage Index – Manhattan 1916):
    “You will have to write them a letter by postal mail to order a copy, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope and a check made out to the New York City Municipal Archives for $15 (US).
    In your letter, make sure to list the full name of the bride or groom, the full name of the person’s spouse if you know it, the Volume number (if listed in the index), the Page number (if listed in the index), the Document number, and the date of the document (month, day, and year). Remember that the date of these documents is probably a few weeks before the wedding took place. If you already know for sure the exact date of the wedding, you should include that information in your letter, too.
    Mail your letter to:
    New York City Municipal Archives
    31 Chambers Street
    Room 103
    New York, NY 10007
    USA
    Don’t forget to enclose your check and your self-addressed stamped envelope.
    Finally, we request that you please add the following line, or something like it, to your letter: “I was made aware of this information through the not-for-profit group Reclaim The Records, and their work to put genealogical data online for free public use.””

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Same problem as Kim Wickman. I have marriage details from the Italiangen.org website (transcribed from NYC Health Dept records) for my father’s sister, but can not find her marriage in the NYC Clerk’s Office records just released by Reclaim the Record. She was married in Manhattan July 1929. I searched the records for the whole year (Jan-Dec) with no results.
I am going to look in 1928, for lack of any other explanation.

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    Reclaim The Records April 16, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Check all the boroughs for that year — you could apply for your license anywhere in the city, although people did tend to apply in the same borough where the wedding was taking place.

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    Hi, Look in 1928 as the licenses were valid for a year.

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    Dear RTR
    Thanks for the tip. I found my aunt’s records in The Bronx.
    For those using the Italiangen website, there are spelling differences between the NYC Health Dept transcriptions and the NYC Clerk’s Office records (Smahl vs Small).
    Great job, thank you for you considerable efforts, they are much appreciated!

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Congratulations to you! I hope you’re able to bring many more records online!

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This is great! It shouldn’t have taken so much work (and money). These records should be public records and it shouldn’t take an act of god (or the courts) to let the public search them. I’m so happy there are groups out there who will go the extra mile to make sure that these records are made public like they are supposed to be.

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How may I email someone at “Reclaim The Records?” I applaud them for their motivation and culminating successes, but some facts they post are wrong. EX: This is in fact an Index to NYC Marriage Licenses, as in pre-marriage applications. RTR keeps referring to them as “marriage records.” It’s important to use the classic terminology so that family searchers don’t get confused. In another case they are fighting to acquire NYC Births 1910+ and state that present access must be over 100 years. Again, the fact is more than 75 years. I would be happy to offer my expertise to Reclaim The Records, if someone would forward me an email address.
Is anyone at RTR aware that some of these Marriage License Index years are incomplete? Some only include parts of years. Was this intended as a beta project?

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