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Index to New York City Marriage Applications, Affidavits, and Licenses, 1908-1929

Index to New York City Marriage Applications, Affidavits, and Licenses, 1908-1929

One of the most exciting research items to become “available” to the general public on the Internet this year are the indices to New York City Marriage Applications, Affidavits, and Licenses for the years 1908-1929. Not just because they’re finally online in digital format, but because it’s the culmination of a years long battle taken on by Reclaim The Records. 1)Reclaim The Records is a not-for-profit activist group that uses state Freedom of Information laws to obtain copies of genealogical and archival data sets from government agencies, state libraries, and municipal archives. They then make the data available to the public for free, without any copyrights, usage restrictions, or paywalls. You can learn more about them and sign up for their free e-mail newsletter on their website at https://www.ReclaimTheRecords.org/ or follow them on Twitter at @ReclaimTheRecs.

Researchers at the NYC Municipal Archives are able to freely access microfilms of NYC marriage indices prior to 1930, and have been since the archives first photographed those records. Of course, this took a visit to those archives in order to have this free access. What about those of us who can’t visit? You could request a search and copy of a marriage record online for the last decade or so, but this involved a fee, and your search was not guaranteed, though it has been helped by a free online index (BridesGrooms) located on the Italian Genealogy Group’s website. When searching for their marriage records at the NYC Municipal Archives, researchers would have access to two separate indices, one for the grooms and one for the brides. If the researcher wished to obtain a document of the marriage record they would receive a two page document (front and reverse side) of the marriage certificate after paying the current fee. The Family History Center was able to film these records and you can now search the certificates using their free online index or order a microfilm of the entire reel to be viewed at any local FHC.

This is so old-schooled!

Unfortunately, the New York City Clerk’s Office has placed a “vice grip” on all of their records, refusing to release them, or make them more publicly available online — even under a properly filed FOIL request 2)Freedom of Information Law(), the office refused to release the microfilm for a different set of marriage records, the index to New York City Marriage Applications, Affidavits, and Licenses. These records are not the same as the ones available through the Italian Genealogy Group’s website or the Family History Center. These marriage records were kept by the New York City Clerk’s Office, not the Health Department. And they are not the two-page certificates. Instead, they are a three-page document set, consisting of (1) the application of the couple wishing to get married, (2) the affidavit from the couple stating that they are legally allowed to get married, and (3) the marriage license granted to the couple so that they could go get married at a date in the near future. Therefore, the dates of the documents listed in this index were usually several weeks before the marriage; the date is not the same date that the wedding took place.

These records are a three page form filled out by the couple prior to their marriage which included many more details then what is provided on the marriage record itself:

The document contains the witnesses’ addresses; the regular marriage certificate does not. This is useful information, as witnesses to a marriage may have been family members.

The document usually lists a more specific town of birth for both the bride and the groom; the regular marriage certificate often just lists the country of birth. Being able to narrow down a place of birth to more than just “Italy” or “Russia” is, of course, incredibly helpful.

The document lists both the bride and groom’s father’s and mother’s country of birth; the regular marriage certificate does not.

The document lists the names of any former spouses of the bride or groom, living or dead; the regular marriage certificate does not.

The document lists, if the bride or groom is divorced, when and where divorce or divorces were granted; the regular marriage certificate does not.

The document lists the bride’s occupation; the regular marriage certificate does not. Sometimes the actual employer name and address is given for both parties in the marriage, too; again, the marriage certificate does not.

And perhaps most importantly, this document usually has three different sets of handwriting in it! This certainly helps researchers who have had to deal with records that were semi-illegible or perhaps had “creative” spellings of names and places. ((“Records Request #1 (Pilot Project)” Reclaim the Records (Accessed 14 Apr 2016 : https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/records-request/1/).

You can read about the pursuant legal battle by Reclaim The Records but spoiler alert, We Won! That’s right, we… the public… the ones who owned the records in the first place… Won!

These records have started to be placed online at Internet Archive and each microfilm can be accessed directly by the following links:

Bronx

Brooklyn

Manhattan

Queens

 

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Reclaim The Records is a not-for-profit activist group that uses state Freedom of Information laws to obtain copies of genealogical and archival data sets from government agencies, state libraries, and municipal archives. They then make the data available to the public for free, without any copyrights, usage restrictions, or paywalls. You can learn more about them and sign up for their free e-mail newsletter on their website at https://www.ReclaimTheRecords.org/ or follow them on Twitter at @ReclaimTheRecs.
2.Freedom of Information Law(), the office refused to release the microfilm for a different set of marriage records, the index to New York City Marriage Applications, Affidavits, and Licenses. These records are not the same as the ones available through the Italian Genealogy Group’s website or the Family History Center. These marriage records were kept by the New York City Clerk’s Office, not the Health Department. And they are not the two-page certificates. Instead, they are a three-page document set, consisting of (1) the application of the couple wishing to get married, (2) the affidavit from the couple stating that they are legally allowed to get married, and (3) the marriage license granted to the couple so that they could go get married at a date in the near future. Therefore, the dates of the documents listed in this index were usually several weeks before the marriage; the date is not the same date that the wedding took place.

These records are a three page form filled out by the couple prior to their marriage which included many more details then what is provided on the marriage record itself:

The document contains the witnesses’ addresses; the regular marriage certificate does not. This is useful information, as witnesses to a marriage may have been family members.

The document usually lists a more specific town of birth for both the bride and the groom; the regular marriage certificate often just lists the country of birth. Being able to narrow down a place of birth to more than just “Italy” or “Russia” is, of course, incredibly helpful.

The document lists both the bride and groom’s father’s and mother’s country of birth; the regular marriage certificate does not.

The document lists the names of any former spouses of the bride or groom, living or dead; the regular marriage certificate does not.

The document lists, if the bride or groom is divorced, when and where divorce or divorces were granted; the regular marriage certificate does not.

The document lists the bride’s occupation; the regular marriage certificate does not. Sometimes the actual employer name and address is given for both parties in the marriage, too; again, the marriage certificate does not.

And perhaps most importantly, this document usually has three different sets of handwriting in it! This certainly helps researchers who have had to deal with records that were semi-illegible or perhaps had “creative” spellings of names and places. ((“Records Request #1 (Pilot Project)” Reclaim the Records (Accessed 14 Apr 2016 : https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/records-request/1/).

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1 Comment

  1. Reclaim The Records

    Thanks for writing up this blog post, and thanks for following our fight to release public records back to the public! Stay tuned for some more news in the next few weeks and months. We have a lot of new state Freedom of Information Law records requests in the works, and one new lawsuit is currently pending in New York, with a court date scheduled for May 2016. We hope you’ll join us in our activism to bring these records back to the people and put them online for free use. 🙂

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