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Massachusetts enacted its first law ensuring that public records remain accessible in 1641. The public good is improved when historians, genealogists, journalists, authors, investigators––all citizens––have access to records produced by our government. Genealogists owe it to themselves to advocate for open public records.
The Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) was founded in 1980 and is the umbrella organization representing Massachusetts genealogists, historical societies, and individuals concerned about records preservation and free and unfettered access to civil records. MGC serves as the records access watchdog and provides a reality check for the Massachusetts legislature regarding access issues. Thanks in large part to efforts by MGC, genealogists are able to access all Massachusetts vital records.
MGC regularly communicates with members about Massachusetts and federal legislative activities concerning records preservation and access in several ways: the MGC Sentinel, our blog; through electronic email bulletins, and through the MGC Newsletter.
Scroll down and click on links to see how MGC helps keep records open and accessible to the public.
These are the ways in which MGC works to keep records open and accessible.
Just click on the links to learn more!
Federal records like the Social Security Administration's Death Master File (SSDA) are in danger of being closed. MGC monitors national legislation and sends a liaison to the Records Preservation and Access Committee.
Who are we? People need open access to records for so many reasons: military repatriation cases, health family histories, probate and inheritance cases, press investigations, legal research, genealogy, guardianships, and historical research, to name but a few. We have a right to access public records!
MGC receives support from both organizations and individuals. See a list of our current organizational members here. Won't you consider lending us your support, too? Our lowest level of support is only $10 per year, and gets you a discount to our Annual Seminar.
The MGC Board of Officers and Directors is run entirely by volunteers. We are always looking for help, and joining our team is a great way to learn about the genealogical community, conference planning, and of course, legislation. The pay is lousy, but the rewards are so satisfyingll! We'd love to show you the ropes. Click here to read more about the responsiblites of each position. You don't need to be an expert we'll train you!
At the National Genealogical Society's Conference in Richmond, Virginia last week, the Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) announced the Genealogists' Declaration of Rights: a statement advocating open access to federal, state, and local public records. The Declaration affirms America’s long history of open public records, which has been threatened the last few years over concerns about identity theft and privacy. RPAC has worked with state and federal legislators as well as local public officials for more than twenty years in support of legislation and regulations that achieve a balance between access and privacy. The Declaration of Rights has been approved by the board of directors of the three sponsoring organizations: The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). To read the full press release click here: Press Release RPAC Declaration of Rights Ver4 (3).
Now is the time to speak up! Genealogists and anyone interested in open access to public records, please sign this petition! Thousands of professional genealogists do research everyday on behalf of clients, government agencies, and attorneys. Of particular note are the many forensic genealogists who assist the Department of Defense in locating next of kin for the repatriation of remains from previous wars; assist county coroners in the identification of unclaimed persons; work with attorneys in locating missing and unknown heirs involving estates, trusts, real estate quiet title actions, oil and gas and mineral rights, and other similar legal transactions; trace and track heritable medical conditions where finding distant cousins can facilitate early treatment and possibly prevent a premature death; research stolen art and artifacts for repatriation; and identify American Indians, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians to determine eligibility for tribal benefits.
Over the next few months, the Declaration will travel to the 34th IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City, Utah, 27 July–1 August 2014 and the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in San Antonio, Texas, 27–30 August 2014. The Declaration will also be available for signature at http://bit.ly/gen-declaration by genealogists not attending one of the conferences. I'm not waiting. I've already signed it, and so can you.