She had been the person behind the lack of transparency on pricing, the ten-day exploding offer, the months of delays, and all of that. And as we were approaching the legal deadline of whether or not to pursue legal action against the state, we heard through the grapevine that this woman was suddenly no longer the Records Access Officer. In any case, she was now gone. This meant that instead of suing the state, we could try a different tactic.
Social Security Death Record Limits Hamper Researchers - The New York Times
Luckily, this new one was far more pleasant to deal with, and as far as we could see she did not do anything overtly illegal. At this point, it was nearing the end of In an effort to move things along, we asked the new Records Access Officer if we could bring in our own digitization vendor to do the scanning of the microfiche sheets they held, just to make it easier on the state and get these records copied already.
She replied that we could indeed hire our own vendor to do the scanning…with a few minor restrictions.
And so on. Frustrated but persistent, we said yes to all these demands. But can we just have the death index already? Well, no. And that meant that we also had to wait while they discussed and approved the government funding to hire this archivist. So while we waited, we tried yet another tack to speed up this request, which was by now more than a year old. Hey, remember how there are about eleven libraries in New York State where the public can use a copy of this microfiche?
Can we maybe scan one of those copies instead of waiting for you guys in Albany to get an archivist to assess your copies? They claimed that the libraries are under the Department of Education, and to get access to their holdings, including these death index microfiche, we would have to file a FOIL request with the Department of Education instead of the Department of Health. And then? Another bombshell dropped — but this time, a good one, or so it seemed, The Records Access Officer, on one of our many phone calls to her asking for a status update, suddenly let us know that the Department would be hiring a vendor to scan the vault copies.
But now it was all going to be handed to us for free? And a few months later, seventeen months after the original FOIL request had been filed, we finally received in the mail a small USB hard drive containing all the seventy-six years of scanned microfiche. Several months later, we found out why Reclaim The Records had never received a bill, or even an estimate, from the state itself or from the mysterious vendor who had scanned the microfiche sheets on behalf on the state.
The vendor turned out to be none other than Ancestry. They, along with every other genealogy organization in the world, as well as those from many other industries like insurance companies, had been hammering on New York State for years, for decades, begging for copies of the incredibly valuable data of this statewide death index. And at that point, Ancestry apparently felt threatened and did not want to be cut out of the records pipeline entirely.
Even though Reclaim The Records always has and always will post all our data online for free, whether images or text, clearly in the public domain, it seems like Ancestry wanted to make sure they still were a player in the game with unique access to the state. This meant that they had a head start on scanning and perhaps even indexing this brand new data and preparing it for upload to their website, while we at Reclaim The Records, the original FOIL requestor, waited ignorantly and patiently for our own copy to arrive in the mail. They presented it entirely as their own achievement. Ancestry never mentioned that Reclaim The Records had initiated the FOIL request, had fought the state and their underhanded tactics for over a year, had paid our own attorneys for for legal help.
And in their publication of the new database, including their press releases and blog posts and even a specially-made video introduction they filmed for social media, they never once mentioned a single word about Reclaim The Records, or our work, or gave a link to our website.
Ancestry will, however, make quite a bit of money off these millions of valuable New York records being posted behind their paywall, an especially important concern as news reports indicate that the company was until recently moving towards an IPO. We did it for the love of open public records access.
Online Searchable Death Indexes for the USA
Was all this legal? But was it right to cut all of our work and initiative out of the story? Was it ethical, or even just plain nice? Meanwhile, Reclaim The Records took our hard-won copies of the statewide death index and returned our copies to the public domain, totally free, just as planned. Eventually there will be free copies of a text database of the New York State death index, not behind paywalls, for everyone to use.
Also, the age at death will now state whether the number refers to age in years, age in months, or age in days. In , the state death index starts to spell out many more characters of the county name and the town or city name for both the place of death and the place of residence, not just the first few characters. This record set is only the index to New Jersey death records.
If you find a name of a relative or other person of interest in this index, you can then place an order for a copy of the original death certificate, which will have much more information on it, such as the person's place of birth, the names of the person's parents and spouse, and their burial location.
For copies of records from January to the present , you have more options available to you, depending on how quickly you want to receive the record, how much you want to pay, and whether or not you require a certified copy:. If you want a non-certified record from - , you can either go to New Jersey State Archives in Trenton yourself, or you can hire a genealogist to go on your behalf, to get a non-certified print-out copy made from a reference-only microfilm.
Unfortunately, the New Jersey State Archives staff are not allowed to provide this record copy to you, so you cannot order it from them by mail or phone, but you or someone else who is actually in the building can print it. If you want a non-certified record from - , you can order a "genealogy" copy directly from the state of New Jersey , but you can only place the order by mail , and it is not expedited. You will have to provide your official identification with your order, but you won't have to prove your relationship to the deceased if the death was more than forty years ago.
This method may cost somewhat more than going to the Archives or hiring someone to go to the Archives.
- Can I Get a Death Certificate Online for Free??
- Can I Get a Death Certificate Online for Free? | VitalChek.
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If you want a certified record from to the present, you will need to order online directly from the state of New Jersey and you will have to provide proof of both your identity and your relationship to the deceased. This method is usually pretty quick, but it's also the most expensive one. It's also the only option if you want to use the certificate for any kind of legal or identification purposes, such as probate or applying for dual citizenship.
Interested in learning more about Reclaim The Records and our work to obtain and publish genealogical and archival data through Freedom of Information requests? Stay up to date with the latest news by signing up for our mailing list. We send out newsletters about once a month. We ask because some states' Freedom of Information laws only allow state residents to make a request.
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Did you find this website helpful? If so, please help us bring even more public data back to the public. We're Reclaim The Records , a c 3 non-profit organization founded in , made up of genealogists, historians, researchers, journalists, and teachers. We use Freedom of Information requests to acquire and publish archival data sets, public records that have never before been available, or not available online.
We focus on government agencies, archives, and libraries that have previously been unwilling to share their data. And if they don't follow the law, we file lawsuits to make them turn over the records.
Research Our Records
As of July , our organization has filed five lawsuits against government agencies, with three settled in our favor and two still pending. We put all the data we win online for free public use, without usage restrictions. After all, our taxes already paid for it and it belongs to all of us. This data is in the public domain. There are no usage restrictions or copyrights attached to it.
Official Record Dates
Feel free to use it however you'd like. Thank you to the New Jersey State Archives and their executive director Joseph Klett for their help tracking down records for this project. Thank you to the Internet Archive for providing free web hosting for the more than , images of the death index. The New Jersey Death Index A free searchable database of 1,, deaths in the state of New Jersey between , and over , free digitized images of the death index for the years , , and For help obtaining the person's Railroad Retirement Board claim number, see: U.
If your ancestor died before or they are deceased, but not in the SSDI and you believe they may have applied for a Social Security Card, you can still obtain a copy of their SS-5 you will need to provide proof of death. The first SS-5s were used in late The Social Security Administration does not have information about people who died before about when Social Security payments were first paid out.
The SSDI has very few entries for people who died from Try the state listings below for some death indexes before and for other time frames