Reclaim The Records: Using Freedom of Information Laws for Genealogy

Reclaim The Records: Using Freedom of Information Laws for Genealogy

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by Brooke Ganz

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Reclaim The Records: Using Freedom of Information Laws for Genealogy


Tired of being told by archives, libraries, and government agencies that the genealogical records you want are "unavailable"? We were too, so we figured out how to do something about it.  We're Reclaim The Records, a new not-for-profit activist group of more than 5,300 genealogists, researchers, historians, and journalists. We use Freedom of Information laws – and sometimes even lawsuits – to obtain copies of previously inaccessible archival record sets, which we then put online for free public use.


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Presenter: Brooke Ganz

Brooke Schreier Ganz is the founder and president of Reclaim The Records, and the first genealogist to successfully sue a government archive for the return of records to the public. A computer programmer, she is also the creator of LeafSeek, a free open source records management platform and multi-lingual search engine that won second place in the 2012 RootsTech Developer Challenge.
Her work has helped non-profit organizations like the Israel Genealogical Research Association (IGRA) and Gesher Galicia publish over 1.5 million unique genealogical records online for free use. She also designed and built one of the first public API’s for records sharing between non-profit genealogical organizations.
Her personal genealogical interests include Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, and New York City — the last of which was (surprisingly) the most difficult one from which to get basic genealogical records or even just the finding aids! This frustration led to her founding Reclaim The Records as a personal project in January 2015, and transitioning it to a non-profit organization in 2017.
Brooke is also a long-time volunteer for ArchiveTeam, an online preservationist group that pre-emptively crawls at-risk websites to save copies of the data for the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Brooke Ganz