We are excited to announce that Reclaim The Records, a national organization that has been instrumental in securing the release of over twenty million public records in New York and other states through freedom of information requests and lawsuits, has joined the New York Adoptee Rights Coalition as a strategic partner. The non-profit organization, led by Brooke Schreier Ganz, will bring its expertise to the coalition, including their ongoing work to acquire and publish genealogical and vital records throughout the country, and their extensive history of open records work in both New York City and New York State. They will also promote the coalition’s legislative efforts to its own constituents and followers.
With over 5,000 members and supporters across the country, approximately one fifth of whom live in New York, Reclaim The Records works to restore free public access to archival records that have been wrongly withheld by government agencies, archives, and libraries. They have filed numerous successful freedom of information requests around the country, which have led to the first-ever free and online publications of important data sets including the New York State death index for 1880-1956, the Buffalo death index for 1852-1944, the New York City marriage license index for 1908-1995, the New Jersey marriage license index 1901-2016, and soon to include the New York City geographic birth index and several decades of three different vital records indices from a western state. They have been the lead plaintiff on four state freedom of information lawsuits since 2015, three of them filed in the state of New York, and are in the early stages of planning their first two FOIA lawsuits in DC court against federal agencies.
Reclaim The Records is fully committed to the rights of adult adopted persons to request and obtain their own original birth certificates, without restrictions or conditions. They strongly support the rights of all people to obtain official records about themselves and their own families, free from unnecessary or paternalistic government interference.
In September 2017, Reclaim The Records filed a New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the state Department of Health to acquire the first-ever digitized public copy of the statewide birth index for 1880-1942. That request is still pending, and estimated to be completed this summer. Later in 2018, Reclaim The Records will be making a separate FOIL request to the New York City Department of Health for the first-ever public database copy of the standard New York City birth index, which could result in an Article 78 FOIL lawsuit for the records’ release. Books containing the city’s alphabetized birth index were once freely available to the public on the shelves of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, but were suddenly removed by the Department of Health in 2016, without public comment and in violation of the state’s law. Access to the city’s birth index has been a critical tool for adoptees who wish to search for information that appeared on their original birth records.
You can find out more about Reclaim The Records at their website ReclaimTheRecords.org and sign up for their free monthly newsletter. They are also active on Facebook and on Twitter at @ReclaimTheRecs.