The Freedom of Information Act or FOIA is a powerful but somewhat controversial tool in liberating documents from the recalcitrant bureaucracy of the United States government and similar laws also help in the various individual states. Reclaim the Records, a 501 (c) (3) organization, is taking the lead in using the various acts to obtain public domain copies of various records that have been locked up by governmental inefficiency and incompetence.
In conjunction with a volunteer, Reclaim the Records has recently obtained copies of the New Jersey Marriage Index, 1901-2016. In their 17th Newsletter, you can read what is essentially a primer on how the process works. You may even be inspired to participate in the process yourself. Here is an explanation of where the newly liberated records can be searched.
Introducing the NEW JERSEY MARRIAGE INDEX, 1901-2016! These records are now totally digital, and totally free — forever! Now you can research anyone who got married in the Garden State right from your home, still in your pajamas.
We’ve posted these images at our favorite online library, the Internet Archive (archive.org). You can skip right to any year you want and flip through all the images, or you can download the records to your hard drive as JPG’s, PDF’s, and/or other formats. Each file is listed year-by-year (or occasionally by a year range), and then the marriages are listed alphabetically by surname.
Just to be clear: these are images of the index, so this isn’t a real text-searchable marriage database just yet. But rest assured that the usual genealogy websites we all know are going to start indexing projects and will make that happen eventually. (Yes, the Internet Archive does run automatic OCR on the text contained in the images, but the recognition quality isn’t that great, so you’re probably better off just reading through the images instead of trying to text-search.)
The FOIA is described as follows in the FOIA.gov website:
Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.
Each state in the United States has its own version of the FOIA. Here is a link to a list giving a link to each of the states. State FOI Resources.