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Our ninth newsletter:
The first 20th century New Jersey BMD index is coming soon to a computer near you


Reclaim The Records has had a lot of new interest in the past few weeks. We've only been in existence as a group for a few months now, but we already have over 2,600 Facebook fans and over 2,100 people subscribed to this e-mail newsletter, and we're growing every day. It seems like a lot of people have taken an interest in joining in, or at least reading about, archival activism. Hello and welcome to all our new friends!

For those of you who have been following our work for a little longer, you might remember that last November, right around Thanksgiving time, we talked about a project to obtain and publish some New Jersey records, back in our third issue of this newsletter. It's also one of the Records Requests we have listed on our website.

We're now happy to announce that after a short delay, those plans are now coming together, and we're looking forward to a lot of new records getting uploaded this summer!

Reclaim The Records is happy to report that the non-profit genealogical organization FamilySearch has generously offered to digitize all the New Jersey microfilms we obtained from the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton late last year -- for free!

These twenty-nine microfilms (plus three alternate copies) represent the first-ever publicly available vital records indices for New Jersey for the twentieth century. The Archives have done a fabulous job transcribing a lot of the eighteenth and nineteenth century records and turning them into free databases on their website, and some well-known genealogy websites have some spotty records coverage for some counties in some twentieth century years, but we think this is the first time a full official index for the twentieth century will go up on the Internet.

The years and record types are these:

  • NJ birth index 1901-1903
  • NJ marriages (Grooms Index) 1901-1903
  • NJ marriages (Brides Index) 1901-1914
  • NJ death index 1901-1903

All told, this record set probably contains over 400,000 names. These are just basic indices, so if you see a name of interest, you can order a copy of the actual record from the Archives.

Once these microfilms are digitized, the images will be uploaded to the Internet Archive, just like how the 1908-1929 NYC marriage index records were handled last month. There will be no copyrights or paywalls or usage restrictions on the images, because that's how we roll here at Reclaim The Records. 😎

We don't know yet if FamilySearch will re-post these new images to their own website too, but they're certainly entitled to do so -- and so can all the for-profit genealogy companies, other non-profit organizations, and individual researchers. No restrictions!  And we don't know if there will be an indexing project set up for this, but we assume someone will take the lead on it...eventually.

The boxes of microfilms were FedEx'ed to Salt Lake City yesterday. If all goes well, we should receive the portable hard drive with the newly-scanned images in late June. That means that the images can (hopefully) start going online in early July.

New Jersey genealogists and historians, we hope you're ready for a busy summer of research ahead of you.

Thank you to Mr. Joseph Klett and the whole team at the New Jersey State Archives and to all the people behind the scenes at FamilySearch for helping to make all this happen! (Please feel free to send them thank you notes, hint hint.) For more information about how we obtained these microfilms in the first place -- no OPRA request needed, no legal wrangling required! -- check out our website for the backstory.

We have a lot of other encouraging news to report about our other pending records requests in New York City, New York State, and Missouri, but we're going to save that for our next newsletter. We also heard about one infuriating bit of news out of New York City just in the past few weeks, but we're going to save that story for another newsletter. Let's just say that lots and lots of things are happening behind the scenes and we'll have more news soon.

Stay tuned...

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