We’re a not-for-profit group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates who are filing Freedom of Information requests to get public data released back into the public domain. We’re collecting information about archivally important data sets that are not available online or on publicly available microfilm, and we’re using Freedom of Information laws and Open Data initiatives to get copies of this information released back to the public.
We were founded in 2015 by Brooke Schreier Ganz, a genealogy nerd who lives in California, and we launched publicly in early September 2015. Within six weeks we already had more than 1,000 supporters subscribed to our e-mail newsletter and more than 1,100 people who Liked our Facebook page. By February 2016, our newsletter had grown to over 1,600 subscribers, and by July 1, 2016 we had over 2,300 subscribers.Here is what they do.
We make requests for copies of genealogical and archival records and data, from city and state libraries, archives, city clerks’ offices, departments of health, and other government agencies. Our primary method to force the release of this data is the use of state Freedom of Information laws. We started with one pilot project in 2015, and after winning the release of that data, we launched six more records requests in late 2015 and early 2016.
We plan on documenting our experiences and creating a “how-to” guide for others. We hope to inspire more genealogists and historians to use these lesser-known methods of regaining access to public information being kept by state and local government entities.Their To-Do list of projects is very long and involved. Obviously, these legal actions take time but they have already had some significant success. This is definitely an organization that needs to go on your watch list. I suggest subscribing to their newsletter and sending them any projects you can identify in your part of the country. This kind of action may be just the thing to get some of these political jurisdictions to make more of their records available.