18 October 2012

New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Portal!

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) queries are often very important to our genealogical research.  Though, we are often challenged on how to best make our request given that every Federal agency, State agency and County agency seem to have their own means of handling such queries.  I don’t know about you and I will do just about everything possible before I start jumping through hoops to make an FOIA query.

Historically, I would make requests and because the responses would come in 6 months or longer afterwards, I’d have to figure out why I had placed the request! And, I'd have to dig through my files for any related paperwork.

Now, making our life a little easier, a few of the Federal Agencies have banded together and created a centralized online site, FOIAonline. This website lets you request information and track your requests from participating agencies. Also, you can search other people's requests without a need to submit your own request. Information you can search varies by agency.

Currently, participating agencies are: The Department of Commerce (except the US Patent and Trademark Office), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of General Counsel of the National Archives and Records Administration, Merit System Protection Board, and Federal Labor Relations Authority.

To learn more about the nitty-gritty of using this site, check out the FOIAonline Public Users Guide.

I do hope that in the future, we find more and more agencies participating.

Have you recently filed an FOIA request via FOIAonline or elsewhere?  How did it work out for you?

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