15 April 2016

FOIA Mapper -- FREE tool to facilitate making FOIA requests

Earlier this week we posted New York City marriage Records Indexes 1908-1929 online & FREE to access which was about the eventual success of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) type request for access to records by Reclaim the Records.

Last month there was a new tool released to actually help you figure out about doing FOIA requests and it is discussed in What should you FOIA? There’s a new tool to help you figure that out.

Years of FOIA requests taught Galka that there was no easy way to determine which organization had the information he wanted. What format was the information stored in? What language should he use to ensure his request actually got fulfilled? Over time, he realized there were ways, including requesting FOIA logs, to get a sense of the hidden landscape.

"There exists an enormous body of information sitting out there, not documented," he said. "So in theory, everyone has access to it, but practically speaking, it's hard."

As a result, Galka launched FOIA Mapper, described by him ...

I have learned a few ways of identifying these hidden record systems.
In some cases, information about these record systems can be inferred from online documents (for example: public RFP documents, Federal Register notices). In other cases, information about record systems can itself be obtained via FOIA (for example: database relational schema, lists of FOIA requests made by other people).

FOIA Mapper compiles this information into a centralized catalog of government records, searchable by topic.

It seems like it would have applicability to genealogists and our research with regard to federal government agencies.

I haven’t yet played around with it much and if you have, what do you think?

Will it benefit family historians and if so, how?

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