Reclaim The Records has released the New Jersey Geographic Birth Index, 1901-1929.
It’s the first-ever online publication of a twentieth century birth index from the Garden State, with the exception of the 1901-1903 birth index which was released a few years ago. The geographic birth index is a list of births that have been separated by county of birth, and sometimes by a major city within the county, not just a purely alphabetical list.
Previously, Reclaim The Records released a similar geographic birth index for New York City, 1880-1917, but it was sometimes difficult to use because it relied on often poorly handwritten index cards. New Jersey’s index is almost entirely typed (although it does include a few names written in).
Based on published New Jersey vital statistics, this collection covers about 1,762,000 births in New Jersey from 1901-1929 which were typed into books, then photographed onto 92 microfilm reels. Each of the reels has a few hundred images. The entire collection is about 493 gigabytes in total.
Reclaim The Records was originally tipped-off about the existence of the geographic birth index microfilms by New Jersey genealogist Melissa Johnson. Archivists at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton made new copies made of the microfilms.
FamilySearch donated the labor to scan all the films, meaning the index images will likely show up on their website sometime in the near future, as well as other genealogy websites. It’s hoped some or all of those organizations and companies will set up a proper indexing project for the images to create a real text-searchable database.
In the meantime, because the items in this index are almost all typed, you can use the magnifying glass on the left side of each of the items to do a “Search Inside” using optical character recognition.
Getting A Birth Certificate Copy
The actual birth certificates contain the parents’ names and more. For most years, 1901-1920, you can order a copy of the birth certificate directly from the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton. They take checks, money orders, and credit cards online.
Birth certificates for the years 1921-1923 must be acquired in person at the New Jersey Archives in Trenton. Birth certificates from 1924 to the present can be ordered from the New Jersey Department of Health. If you’re not a direct family member, you can still get someone’s certification of live birth (rather than a certificate), which is still useful, but which has more limited information and can’t be used for legal or identification purposes.
This new collection also include the New Jersey Delayed Birth Index, also for 1901-1929. This additional birth index is for people whose birth certificates were delayed and issued much later for one reason or another. Often they were from immigrant families who had their babies at home and didn’t register the births in a timely manner, or people who needed a copy of their birth certificate copy for entry into the Armed Forces during the Second World War, but couldn’t find their file. This delayed births index was sometimes printed on old dot matrix print-outs for some parts of the alphabet, but sometimes the index was handwritten. They usually include the mother’s full maiden name.
The delayed birth index is downloadable (in bulk), but are not yet viewable online. You can download the very large zip files of those images for now. They are expected to be available for viewing online in a few days.
Reclaim The Records is a not-for-profit activist group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and journalists who work to identify important genealogical record sets that are not online anywhere and not broadly available to the public. They use state Freedom of Information laws when necessary to force government agencies and archives to hand over copies of these records to the public, which they then digitize and put online for free use. Other organizations and companies are then free to make transcriptions and searchable databases of the images and data.
Since their founding in 2015, they’ve already won the release of tens of millions of records. All records they acquire are uploaded to the Internet Archive, as well as other open data websites. When government agencies fail to respond to requests in a timely manner or are unwilling to comply with the law, they take them to court. They’ve won outright, or won settlements, in several groundbreaking lawsuits in the Supreme Court of New York, such as the release of decades of the New York City marriage license index and database. They have more requests and potential lawsuits pending for other records from other states, and also from the federal government.
For more information about Reclaim The Records, visit their website