The goal is to create an easily accessible digital record and to preserve documents.

An archival company is digitizing Oyster Bay's vital records dating back to 1881 in the first step of an effort town officials said is aimed at safeguarding historic documents.

In November, Seery Systems Group Inc. began creating a virtual record of each birth, death and marriage certificate going back to the late 19th century. 

The goal is to create a virtual record of the documents that is easy to access, avoiding the need to sift through old records, which officials said is inefficient and can lead to damage and disintegration over the course of years.

The town paid the vendor $77,489 to have individual documents scanned for the initial phase of the project, which is nearly complete, said town spokeswoman Marta Kane.

The next phase involves scanning older vital records that were logged by hand in books, according to Kane, who said the town will pay the same company $81,957 for that part of the job.

Rich Seery, the company's owner and president, said he has worked on similar projects elsewhere on Long Island, including on an ongoing project to digitize Glen Cove's birth records going back to 1940. 

Seery and his team bring vital records to the company's Garden City Park location and use a specialized large scanner that archives each page individually and uses software to crop and rotate individual documents. Then the company indexes the documents by criteria such as names and dates of birth.

Seery said the digital vital records will be archived in the town's document management system and the originals will be returned to the town's records room.

Convenience isn't the only reason to digitize records, according to Seery, who said a lack of digital backup could mean history gets permanently lost in the event of a flood or fire. 

Town Clerk Rich LaMarca said the digitization process later could expand to include more historical records and that Oyster Bay's intergovernmental affairs department is looking for grants that could help finance such an initiative.

Some of Oyster Bay's oldest records are stored in a small, tucked-away room in Town Hall known as “The Vault.”

Records there include a thick brown volume with the title “Military Enrollment Book 1862" on its spine.

A few shelves away is a Bible from the mid-1700s with handwritten notes inside from the Townsend family, one of Oyster Bay hamlet's founding families.

The books are part of an extensive trove of old Oyster Bay records that have no digital backup — a problem town officials said has become more pressing as years pass and time takes its toll.

“This stuff needs to be preserved,” LaMarca said during a recent interview inside the records room.

Other old town records are in the basement of the tax receiver's office, according to the Oyster Bay clerk, who said additional records are at the Littauer Estate in Syosset — the location of the town historian's office.

“I'd love to get our arms around all of this stuff, centralize it, categorize it, protect it and share it,” LaMarca said. “These are records I feel the public should have access to.” 

An archival company is digitizing Oyster Bay's vital records dating back to 1881 in the first step of an effort town officials said is aimed at safeguarding historic documents.

In November, Seery Systems Group Inc. began creating a virtual record of each birth, death and marriage certificate going back to the late 19th century. 

The goal is to create a virtual record of the documents that is easy to access, avoiding the need to sift through old records, which officials said is inefficient and can lead to damage and disintegration over the course of years.

The town paid the vendor $77,489 to have individual documents scanned for the initial phase of the project, which is nearly complete, said town spokeswoman Marta Kane.

Preserving history

  • An effort started in November to digitize Oyster Bay's vital records going back to 1881.
  • Seery Systems Group Inc. is the vendor behind the project.
  • The town hopes to digitize other historic records in the future and is seeking grants for such an initiative.

The next phase involves scanning older vital records that were logged by hand in books, according to Kane, who said the town will pay the same company $81,957 for that part of the job.

Rich Seery, the company's owner and president, said he has worked on similar projects elsewhere on Long Island, including on an ongoing project to digitize Glen Cove's birth records going back to 1940. 

Seery and his team bring vital records to the company's Garden City Park location and use a specialized large scanner that archives each page individually and uses software to crop and rotate individual documents. Then the company indexes the documents by criteria such as names and dates of birth.

Seery said the digital vital records will be archived in the town's document management system and the originals will be returned to the town's records room.

Convenience isn't the only reason to digitize records, according to Seery, who said a lack of digital backup could mean history gets permanently lost in the event of a flood or fire. 

Rich Seery, owner and president of Seery Systems Group Inc.,...

Rich Seery, owner and president of Seery Systems Group Inc., in a warehouse at the Garden City Park business amid boxes of client records. The company is working to digitize vital records from the Town of Oyster Bay going back to 1881. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Town Clerk Rich LaMarca said the digitization process later could expand to include more historical records and that Oyster Bay's intergovernmental affairs department is looking for grants that could help finance such an initiative.

Some of Oyster Bay's oldest records are stored in a small, tucked-away room in Town Hall known as “The Vault.”

Records there include a thick brown volume with the title “Military Enrollment Book 1862" on its spine.

A few shelves away is a Bible from the mid-1700s with handwritten notes inside from the Townsend family, one of Oyster Bay hamlet's founding families.

The books are part of an extensive trove of old Oyster Bay records that have no digital backup — a problem town officials said has become more pressing as years pass and time takes its toll.

“This stuff needs to be preserved,” LaMarca said during a recent interview inside the records room.

Other old town records are in the basement of the tax receiver's office, according to the Oyster Bay clerk, who said additional records are at the Littauer Estate in Syosset — the location of the town historian's office.

“I'd love to get our arms around all of this stuff, centralize it, categorize it, protect it and share it,” LaMarca said. “These are records I feel the public should have access to.” 

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