A Spotlight on Reclaim the Records

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Today we’re writing about a non-profit organization that we believe deserves the spotlight  — Reclaim the Records. Led by genealogist Brooke Schreier Ganz, this group of activists — which includes volunteer genealogists, researchers, lawyers, and open government advocates — works tirelessly to get public genealogical data released into the public domain. Their goal is to “put [records] online, for free, for everyone.”

Reclaim the Records locates important archival data sets that are not available to the public online, and they use Freedom of Information (FOIA) laws in the U.S. to get copies of this information released to the public. They document everything they learn about filing these requests, and create a guide for genealogists, open data fans, and others who want their state, local, and federal records made more available. When they meet with record custodians that defy the law, who drag their feet intentionally or unintentionally, they put up a legal fight, and they usually win.

Once they’ve acquired the records, they digitize what they can and put it all online for free, without paywalls or usage restrictions.

“Too many government agencies and archives have long treated genealogists as if we were asking them for a favor when we ask to see their records — our records — rather than recognizing their responsibilities to the public under the law,” their website states.

So far, Reclaim the Records have achieved the public release of over 25 million records, which were previously accessible only by physically visiting government agencies and archive buildings, or not accessible at all.

We at MyHeritage truly appreciate the important work that Reclaim the Records does on a daily basis. We support them in their endeavors to open up records to the general public — a difficult but necessary mission. Their efforts align perfectly with our belief that every person has a right to know their heritage. We have benefitted from their work as well, and through us the entire genealogy community has benefitted. In every collection we publish to SuperSearch that was sourced by Reclaim the Records we give credit to this wonderful organization.

To show our solidarity with Reclaim the Records and its mission, the senior management team of MyHeritage gathered last week to take the picture below, all proudly wearing yellow Reclaim the Records t-shirts:

To learn more about Reclaim the Records and the important work they do — or to contribute to their cause — visit their website: https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/.

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  • Cherie


    March 18, 2020

    This is awesome. I’ve been sick about all the records being locked down.

  • Glen Dean Van Etten


    March 21, 2020

    I am looking forward to learning more about this blog.

  • David


    March 22, 2020

    Why don’t they have 6 feet os separation?

  • Bob & Mary


    March 23, 2020

    I love your idea and hope it brings all of us genealogists of learing much about our relatives that we haven’t been able to get answers to for so long. Also I hope any relatives are saving all the older photos so the genealogist can get photos of our ancestry as we get in contact with relatives we find you are living. Thank you so much. I hope to keep watching ,

    Fondly,
    Mary

  • Sherry Morrish


    April 5, 2020

    1940 census,Chicago IL. Drakes hospital.
    I saw my grandmother’s record. I didn’t save it not knowing it would never be seen again. I called Drakes Hospital to try to get a copy and I was cited HIPAA regulations. She passed in 1971.

  • William Grant


    April 6, 2020

    Thank you for sharing about Reclaim the Records. I wish everyone would support their efforts.

  • Dave Carnell


    April 6, 2020

    I find it difficult to know why we have to pay for what after all is information that belongs to us

  • Elizabeth Wildes


    April 6, 2020

    thank you for all the hard work you do to make my searches easier. i appreciate you

  • JUAN CROES


    April 7, 2020

    HI HOW ARE YOU..I AM FROM ARUBA THE NETHERLANDS ANTILLES..I WANT TO HAVE RECORD..FROM MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER AND MY GREAT GREAT GRANDMOTHER..PIETER LAMPE AND SPOUSE ANNA CHRISTINA MULLER OR MULDER..

  • Mark


    April 7, 2020

    i like to see my grand aunt birthday record from the census records, please contact me.thank you very much!

  • Dan Navarrette


    April 7, 2020

    I tried getting copies of birth certificates from a couple of different states but was turned down. Ex: In Arizona, I wanted to get a copy of my great grandmother’s birth certificate but was refused because I was not a grandson or on that level to get one. Apparently being a GREAT grandson was too far removed. Many state laws are this way although they are slowly doing away with them, too slow as far as I am concerned.
    Any tips for getting round this archaic law would be appreciated.

  • Jeff Cooksley


    April 10, 2020

    It’s a shame that i did not see this article sooner. As i see this today it only leaves me 2 days to go through my family tree and update it. I can not afford ” to pay for my rightful history of my family and ancestors”.

  • Eunice McMurray


    April 15, 2020

    Well done to all the researchers who are digitising old records to help us put the meat on the bones of our heritage.

  • Patricia Finnegan Lena


    April 15, 2020

    I have been trying to get the census for 1930 for the housemaid of my family because she is the mother of my brother. they lived in Bronx NY Household name would be under Louis LaPeruta.

  • cory harrington


    April 29, 2020

    interesting to find an advocacy group trying to provide a service at no cost..want to hear more in future news letters…. txs…CAH