The Massachusetts Genealogical Council was established to monitor legislative activity pertaining to genealogical and historical research and to provide educational seminars on genealogy topics. Our legislative monitoring activity looks both at issues within Massachusetts and at issues outside Massachusetts that affect the genealogist. Our Civil Records Co-Directors divide their workload in this way: Massachusetts and Federal. Both sides of the equation promise an interesting year.

All About Massachusetts Legislation

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Advocating for Records Access at the National Level

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Adoptees in Massachusetts and throughout the U.S. are requesting access to their original certificates of birth. Click here to learn more about this topic.

 

 

ABOUT MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATION

bostonstatehouse - small aquaThe Massachusetts State House, located on Beacon Hill in Boston, is the seat of the Massachusetts Legislature. Here, potential bills move through a long series of stages before ever becoming law. When you hear about legislation that threatens public access your first job is to inform yourself about what stage of he process the bill is in. Most bills do not get passed!

There is lots of great information already available on this site and the web about Massachusetts laws and how they are crafted, as well as guides to the State House.

 

First, get familiar with the Massachusetts State House

Directions to the State House

Where to Park Near the State House

Floor Plan of the State House

Photo Tour of the State House

Next, learn about how Massachusetts laws are made and research individual bills

Current Session of the Legislature

How An Idea Becomes Law

How to Draft a Bill

Find My Massachusetts Legislator

Massachusetts General Laws

Massachusetts Session Laws

Massachusetts Bill Search

Tracking of Bills Under Consideration By the Massachusetts Legislature that MGC is Following

ADVOCATING FOR RECORDS ACCESS AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL

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Our commitment is to advocate for your right to access the records of your family history. When archives restrict their hours or increase their access fees, we let government agencies and representatives know what this means to us. When records that were historically open are closed, we relentlessly advocate for access. When the complexity of these issues overwhelms government staffers, we write white papers and timelines to put events into perspective.

We provide resources to help us all to discuss and understand issues that impact records preservation and access. These are some of the things we have put together for you to read or use.

  • Barbara Mathews, Sharon Sergeant, and Melinde Lutz Byrne wrote the “White Paper “Framing a Discussion on Vital Records Access”. This paper made a big impact when it was written in 2009 and still has valid points today.
  • Polly Kimmitt’s Model Letter: Take this letter as an example, then personalize it by adding your own statements about an issue or bill.
  • Barbara Mathews’ explanation of the 2011 Model Act, which, though not actually a law, is being used as a starting point for many states to re-draft and restrict their access policies.
  • Barbara’s Identity Theft, Tax Fraud and the Death Master File Timeline which shows the major events leading up to the restriction of deaths from the Social Security Death Index used by genealogists — has been posted online by the Records Preservation and Access Committee.
  • The US Surgeon General recommends that we all compile a family health history to help our doctors diagnose and treat us. Fill out Polly’s Health Pedigree online, then download it to your computer or print it out. Bring it with you to your next appointment with your primary care provider.

 

2615544645_62559083b1_oWe do not work alone in this endeavor. We coordinate with the national Records Preservation and Access Committee and with other genealogists.

If you are not from Massachusetts, is your state participating in RPAC? Check out RPAC State Liaisons. If not, you can work with RPAC to find the right person to serve as a communicator between your state’s genealogy societies and RPAC. 

In recent years, we have moved quickly to advocate for genealogists in several interesting situations. Here are some examples.

In 2011 and 2012, several Congressional subcommittees held hearings on I.R.S. tax fraud. Denying access to the Social Security Death Index would do nothing to curb identity fraud. The vast majority of fraud cases are perpetrated by individuals who steal credit card and online password information which then gives them access to Social Security numbers as well. Less than 1.8% of federal income tax fraud involves refunds to the dead as shown by TIGTA, the Tax Inspector General of the Treasury Department. No genealogists were ever called as witnesses in the Congressional hearings.

Fingers were being pointed at the big genealogy websites because the social security numbers of the deceased were listed. The websites responded in November 2011 by eliminating social security numbers for those dead fewer than ten years and by placing the SSDI behind a paywall. This, however, did not stop the finger pointing.

We continue to monitor the creations of regulations to implement this law by the National Technical Information Systems group.

We also provide support to fellow genealogists in New England dealing with records access issues.

 

ADOPTEES ASK FOR ORIGINAL CERTIFICATES OF BIRTH

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  • It should have a link to Teresa’s testimony as well as the fact sheet for the Mass. Bills, which should also be linked from the Massachusetts page.
  • It should briefly discuss that this is a national issue in addition to a local issue, then have links to pertinent websites for more information.
  • It would be nice to have a few newspaper articles links, too.