Re: New records online: the New York City *Geographic* Birth Index, late 19th and early 20th century, from Reclaim The Records


Judy writes:
"Manhattan 1910-1914 only has "a" which only goes through 425 East
Broadway (of course I need Norfolk St.) - will the rest of Manhattan
1910-1914 be added?"

Hi Judy,

Reclaim The Records has acquired, digitized, and posted online every
microfilm of the New York City Geographic Birth Index that the New
York City Municipal Archives currently has in their possession --
that's 96 microfilms. But as you've noticed, the records
unceremoniously cut off in the early twentieth century, in different
years depending on the Borough (county).

There are many other films of this Geographic Birth Index, which
supposedly go up through the 1940's or possibly the early 1950's. We
believe they are still in the possession of the New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and were not turned over to
the Archives.

But as far as we know, the only way to get access to these newer
films, and the millions of names in them, would be to file a New York
State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the DOH. And
judging from the DOH's terrible behavior concerning FOIL and
historical records access, it is likely that they would ignore such a
FOIL request, or try to deny it on ridiculous terms, perhaps inventing
"creative" new FOIL exemptions, or claiming that their internal
policies or rules could somehow trump the state law. And therefore,
this request would most likely have to turn into a real Freedom of
Information lawsuit -- which is more accurately an "Article 78"
petition filed in the Supreme Court of New York.

And we're perfectly happy to do that, if needed! Since our founding in
2015, Reclaim The Records has filed *nine* lawsuits against various
city, state, and federal government agencies...well, so far. And other
than the awesome Alex Krakovsky in Ukraine, we seem to be the only
genealogists in the world who actually fight for genealogical records
access in court. And we're pretty good at it. ;-)

But the thing is, Reclaim The Records is *already* suing the NYC DOH
in a different Freedom of Information suit right now, fighting for the
first-ever public release of all New York City death certificates for
1949-1968. And we're also attempting to strike down their awful new
rules against access to NYC birth and death certificates. You can read
more about that ongoing case here:
(FYI, the first hearing is coming up this Thursday!)

So if you'd like to help fund *another* lawsuit to sue the NYC DOH
under FOIL, to get the other forty years of the New York Geographical
Birth Index out of the hands of the DOH and onto the Internet where it
belongs, we would be happy to help. And it's certainly something that
we might chose to do in the future. But the reality is that these
lawsuits cost money, and we're a small non-profit, with an
all-volunteer board. So we need to pick and choose our battles, and
schedule these lawsuits strategically...and also ask for donations, to
help make these lawsuits a reality.

To sum up: yes, of course we want to get the rest of this great record
set, and many other historical records too, and not just in New York
-- but the only way to make that kind of thing happen is to raise more
funding to hire lawyers, or else find more attorneys who are willing
to work with us pro bono. The good news is that the law is quite often
on our side, and that these suits can work really well. The bad news
is that we have to pace ourselves and can only file and manage a few
suits a year, so that our ambitions don't outstrip our bank account.

- Brooke Schreier Ganz
Mill Valley, California

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