Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Another Win for Reclaim the Records: The New Jersey Death Index
Another stunning victory for Reclaim the Records. Here is the announcement from a recent email:
The New Jersey State Department of Health actually responded to our attorney's request in record time, and without a fight. We're guessing that they probably looked her up online and realized we'd hired the most badass OPRA attorney in the state, and then wisely decided not to stonewall or ignore us. 
This was a far cry from their attitude a year ago when genealogist Alec Ferretti tried to get a copy of the very same death index from the New Jersey Department of Health on his own. Oh no, said an attorney for the state to Alec, we can't just give you a copy of the death index! Why, we have rules about mortality data, and privacy! So very many rules! 
Well, this is why Reclaim The Records is constantly fundraising so that we can hire attorneys — because while the various state Freedom of Information laws are supposed to treat all citizens fairly, in practice it seems that the citizens with attorneys get treated just a little better. 
So, we drafted a new OPRA request, and our attorney sent it out under her name, and this time the state didn't fight us. Funny how that works, right? 
Anyway, the New Jersey Department of Health sent us every death index record they had, delivered as files on a USB stick. But it turns out that even the state Department of Health, who are legally required to keep these records, don't actually have all of them anymore. Even though that's, like, their job. 
We were able to get all of the New Jersey death index records for about half of 1920-1924, all of 1925-1929, and then from 1949 to 2017! The files prior to 2001 are available in PDF format, each of them scanned images of typeset pages and old dot-matrix printouts. And the newer files from 2001-2017 are in two text spreadsheet (.CSV) files exported from the state's own databases, and are text-searchable immediately. 
But come on, who wants to sit and tediously search through spreadsheets? Nah, let's do something better with all that data. 
Your one-stop shop for everything you ever wanted to know about the New Jersey Death Index, with a searchable database of over 1.2 million records for 2001-2017 and direct links to over 500,000 digital images for the not-yet-transcribed 1901-2000 data. It's all there and it's all free, free, free!
What can I say more than that?

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