Tuesday, June 20, 2017
The Most Wondrful News I Never Heard!
For years I've had a love/hate relationship with the New York State Department of Health. From taking forever, and I'm talking a YEAR here, to fulfill requests for vital record certificates, to finally putting a few death indexes online, but making it as difficult as possible to ascertain where the death occurred, they have earned my ire. Apparently I'm not alone in this regard.
You may have heard of the non-profit group, Reclaim The Records -- made up of genealogists, historians and researchers-- in other words, my kind of people. Near the top of their website is this sentiment, "Tired of restrictions and paywalls around public data? So are we." And they are doing something about it by filing Freedom of Information requests for public data and posting that data online---for free! They filed a FOIL request to New York State and won access to the entire set of NYS death record indexes from 1880-1956. Ridiculous as it seems, it took seventeen months to accomplish this even though the indexes are available on microfiche at several libraries around the state. The group is now in the process of uploading these indexes to the internet via Internet Archive, which I have to admit is one of my least favorite sites (I can never get the search function to function) but it beats driving to the city of Rochester Library, paying to park, and then spending another half hour driving home in order to check the index. Which is fabulous! Their page invites other genealogy sites to also put the indexes online, and with a little luck Family Search may just do that and make them searchable. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
The earlier images are online now and the others are coming soon, completion by August is the goal. Those later images can be viewed if you download the zip file, but these files are huge, and August isn't so very long to wait. It should be noted the index does not include deaths in New York City, those in mental institutions may be omitted, and compliance with the law requiring that deaths be reported was spotty in the early years.
I don't know how I missed this great news, although since the loss of my husband I haven't been paying much attention to genealogy. Now that I'm getting back into my research, this was a very pleasant surprise. I'll still have to wait an interminably long time if I choose to order the actual certificate, but this is a definite step in the right direction.