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MGC provides innovative education for genealogists, and authoritative advocacy for records access.

Introducing MGC

Since 1980, the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) has served as the umbrella organization for Massachusetts genealogists, historical societies, and individuals concerned about records preservation and free and unfettered access to civil records. 


Thanks in large part to efforts by MGC, genealogists are able to access Massachusetts vital records easily. MGC serves as a records access watchdog advising the Massachusetts legislature regarding access issues. Our work includes:

  • Monitoring legislative and administrative activities of governmental agencies that affect genealogists;

  • Sponsoring legislation and programs designed to expand the resources and accessibility of services;

  • Promoting the growth, education, and exchange of ideas among persons and organizations interested in the pursuit of genealogy; and

  • Providing educational activities to advance genealogy.

Massachusetts enacted its first law ensuring that public records remain accessible in 1639. 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, their colleagues, and their communities to advocate for open public records.

MGC regularly communicates about Massachusetts and federal legislative activities concerning records preservation and access in several ways: the MGC Sentinel, our blog; electronic email bulletins, educational seminars, and the MGC Newsletter.



An Evening with

Jenifer Kahn Bakkala

Writing a Compelling Family History


Monday, September 30, 2024, at 7:00 PM ET via Zoom 

This presentation is free but registration is required.

Co-sponsorsAfro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, New England Chapter (AAHGS-NE), Essex Society of Genealogists (ESOG), Falmouth Genealogical Society (FGS), Friends of Irish Research (FIR), Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB), Massachusetts Society of Genealogists (MSOG), New Bedford Historical Society (NBHS), New England Chapter-Association of Professional Genealogists (NEAPG), The Irish Ancestral Research Society (TIARA), Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society (WMGS)

What's Important to Us

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We have two board members committed to monitoring legislative activity and government regulations.


When necessary we let legislators know about the concerns of genealogists. Shirley Barnes, our early Civil Records Director, was instrumental in getting a law passed in the 1980s that moved vital records to the archives on a regular basis.

It's a complex world out there, with both state and federal records being important for genealogists.


The people on the board of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council are volunteers who work hard on your behalf, monitoring legislative activities and producing quality genealogy seminars. This section of our website provides more information about our organization as a whole and about our volunteer opportunities.

MGC does not stand alone in its effort to monitor government activities impacting genealogists and historians. It stands in a national community of groups participating in efforts to monitor legislation, to preserve records, and to open records access.


One of the biggest changes seen in genealogy over the past two decades is the emphasis genealogists now put on getting a good genealogical education--and on updating that education every year. We are eager to provide a fun learning experience with topnotch speakers on a myriad of important topics.

In even-numbered years, the MGC Seminar provides multiple tracks of presentations. We are now expanding our educational efforts throughout the year. Learn more on our Education page.


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.


Our Member Organizations

If you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu.

An ancient saying recently quoted by the Senior Senator from Massachusetts


The Shirley M. Barnes Records Access Award

Annually the Massachusetts Genealogical Council gives out an award to someone who has made a significant sweat equity contribution to records access for genealogists. 

Most Recent Posts

Why Do We Have a Sun Shining on Deed Books As Our Logo?

Several of the records genealogists use are open to us through Sunshine Laws. These include property records, probate records, tax records, poll records, military service records, public cemetery records, and town meeting records. Many a genealogist has broken a brick wall using these types of records.


Sunshine laws are laws that require government agencies and bodies to allow the public to attend their meetings and have access to their records. Sunshine laws are enacted at the state level and vary by state.[1]


One type of record we use — the vital record — is not a public record. Vital records are among types of records prevented from disclosure by other laws which also vary from state to state. In most states, records not specifically deemed through law to be private are open records.

We not only watch for legislation that might change vital records access. We look for legislation or regulations that might impact genealogists in other ways, such as making record copies more expensive, or limiting the times during which research is permitted, or extending embargo periods.

[1] “Sunshine Laws Law and Legal Definition,” ( | viewed 12 June 2019).

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