Re: NYC city clerk marriage license #general

Asparagirl <asparagirl@...>

Allan Jordan (aejordan@...) wrote:

There is a new organization which is promising to bring the City Clerk
files to the Internet but so far I do not believe they have achieved
that. They did a FOIA request and were able to get the microfilms from
the Municipal Archives.
Allan is correct and he is referring to a new not-for-profit activist
group I founded called "Reclaim The Records". You can check out our
website here:

We have been filing record requests under state Freedom of Information
(FOI) laws to get "inaccessible" genealogical record sets released
back to the public, which we then put online for free, without usage
restrictions or copyrights. In our pilot project, we won a legal
petition in the Supreme Court of New York last fall, against the NYC
Municipal Archives' parent agency DORIS, providing the first-ever
public copies of the New York City Clerk's index for 1908-1929
affidavits, applications, and licenses.

We received the microfilms >from the Archives late last year. We
recently were able to reveal that FamilySearch has generously agreed
to digitally scan all 48 of the films for us for free on their
professional-grade equipment. We just received the films back in the
mail >from them yesterday and we should receive the hard drive with the
newly scanned images sometime this week or next week. At that point,
they will be put online for free use by everyone. Allan is correct
that these indices will still have to be transcribed, but the original
indices are already broken down by borough, then year, then section of
year, and then in alphabetical order by surname, and then separated
out by gender, and so they don't look too hard to read through.

These City Clerk's files are *not *the same records as the
ItalianGen-indexed Health Department marriage licenses, which run from
the 1880's through 1937. The City Clerk's files are an entirely
different set of three-page documents, just not as well known, which
is a shame because they have far more information than the basic
standard two-page Health Department marriage certificates most
genealogists have been requesting and receiving >from the Municipal
Archives all these years.

For more information on the backstory of our public records request,
the ensuing lawsuit, and the differences between these two
complementary sets of NYC marriage documents, you can see my article
in the most recent issue of the quarterly Jewish genealogy journal
"Avotaynu". Or you can attend one my upcoming talks on the subject,
this Sunday March 13th in San Francisco or the following Sunday March
20th in Sacramento, both to the local JGS's. I'l also be speaking
about the project at the IAJGS conference in Seattle this August.

A small correction, though: so far, Reclaim The Records has only been
using the individual states' FOI laws, e.g. New York's law is called
the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), New Jersey's law is called the
Open Public Records Act (OPRA), Missouri's law is called the Sunshine
Law, and so on. We have not yet used the more famous Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA -- note the A on the end), which is only for
records held by Federal agencies. So for the City Clerk's marriage
index referenced above we used New York's FOIL (note the L) as our
legal tool.

On December 30, 2015, we filed a brand new FOIL request with the New
York City Clerk's Office asking for the entirety of the 1930-2015
marriage index for New York City. This data has never been available
to the public before. As Allan mentioned, you could search early
years of this index onsite at the Municipal Archives, but only on
microfilm and only onsite at 31 Chambers Street, never online nor on
FamilySearch microfilm.

The full text of our FOIL request, as with all of our 2016 FOI
requests, is available publicly on the MuckRock website, so that
people may watch the FOIL process in real-time:
[ --Mod.]

Our attorney filed our formal FOIL Appeal a few weeks ago, and while
we are still in negotiations with the City Clerk's office's FOIL
officer, who is also their attorney, it is looking likely that we may
file our second lawsuit this Friday, March 11th. If and when that
happens, I will make a posting to the JewishGen list, if the
moderators allow it, with the court case number so that people may
follow all the details and legal filings through New York's eTrack
court case tracking system.

So, for those of you with NYC relatives and ancestors: hang in there,
and if we're lucky, then maybe by this time next year we may finally
have that elusive marriage index data online.

(Fun fact: if we win the case, this will also be the first-ever
publicly available marriage index to include records for same-sex

- Brooke Schreier Ganz
Mill Valley, California

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