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

A. E. Jordan

Brooke Schreier Ganz writes
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.

I have had some experience with these files at the Health Department.  As part of a search a few years ago I asked for access to these files or the ability to check for a missing birth record.  It was a long drawn out process with the Health Department constantly asking me if I was the father of the child born in 1910 who died in 1912.  I got a certified copy of the death certificate from the Archives and using the DOH own rules I should have been permitted access to the birth record which was critical for the research.

After convincing DOH that it was mathematically (and biologically) impossible for me to be the father of a child who died 100-plus years ago one of the supervisors worked on my search.

When I raised the question of the geographic birth index to help solve the problem they admitted it exists on microfilm but later came back to me saying it was not possible that the records were "molding away" in their sub basement.

It would be great for Reclaim to win with the DOH but I fear what they may find.

Allan Jordan


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

Judy Kaufman

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?

e l

Hello Brooke,

As a retired attorney who spent much of his career working with tax exempt organizations, I would like to point out the the correct citation is §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.  That designation was put in place in or a bit after 1918 and remains the same to this day except that the date of the Code has been revised whenever there has been a major revision.  That designation was certainly used in the Internal Revenue Code of 1939.

Edward David Luft


Hello again from Reclaim The Records!

We've just released the first-ever online copy of the New York City
*Geographic* Birth Index. It's a new tool to help find people born in
New York City in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
especially if their birth records had spelling variants or poor

This record set is an index to all births in New York City from
roughly 1880-1912 (or 1917-ish in some cases outside of Manhattan).
But unlike a typical birth index arranged by surname or by date, this
one is arranged by the child's place of birth, the actual exact street

We think there's about 2.8 million names in here, maybe more, in over
half a million images. They've never been available outside of New
York City before. And now they're all online, and all free!

Read all about it in our latest newsletter:

But you can also jump right to the records themselves, which are
available online at the Internet Archive:
(Note that you can even download some or all of the half a million
images from the Internet Archive, if you really want -- although the
.zip files are pretty big!)

And the records are also online at FamilySearch:
And that's because FamilySearch generously donated the microfilm
scanning work for us again -- thank you, FamilySearch!

So if you already know the address of a New York City family from
another source, such as a census record (US Federal Census, New York
State Census, or the 1890 New York City "Police Census") or a city
directory or a vital record, go check that same address through the
years to see if any other kids with a similar surname were born at
that address, too. You might find some previously-unknown births where
the names might have been misspelled or mistranscribed in the
"regular" New York City birth index. Check out our newsletter, linked
above, to see an example of what we mean.

Reclaim The Records is a 501(c)3 non-profit, independent from
JewishGen, but we appreciate their letting us use this lovely new
discussion group to mention some of our ongoing activities. ;-)

To learn more about Reclaim The Records, and the kinds of work we do
to acquire new historical records and put them online for free public
use -- sometimes with the help of Freedom of Information lawsuits that
we file against government agencies, archives, and libraries -- please
check out our website:

Special shout-out to Jewish/NYC genealogist Jordan Auslander, who
first alerted us to the existence of the microfilm records at the New
York City Municipal Archives -- at an IAJGS conference session he
presented a few years ago.

- Brooke Schreier Ganz
Mill Valley, California
President and Founder, Reclaim The Records