Massachusetts Genealogical Council

Massachusetts Records

We Advocate for You

Each Year We Track Legislation

BILLS

As each two-year legislative session begins, representatives and senators submit bills. Even if a bill was considered in the previous session, it has to be re-submitted to be considered again. For each session, we track down which bills might impact us.

HEARINGS

We develop fact sheets on important bills. We check in weekly to see if a bill will be discussed at a committee hearing. When hearings take place, we submit testimony about the concerns of genealogists.

 

ALERTS

 

We let you know what is going on. If your help is needed, we send out alerts.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

MGC is willing to provide workshops about how a bill becomes a law. The workshop focuses on the times that are most effective for citizens to discuss upcoming bills with legislators.

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2021-2022: The 192nd General Court

Now that the two-year 192nd Legislative Session is off and running, MGC has identified legislation that might have an impact on genealogists.

ORIGINAL CERTIFICATES OF BIRTH FOR ADOPTEES

For adoptees doing genealogical research, life is complicated. They have the certificate of birth showing their adoptive parents as their parents. However, if they do genetic genealogy, they have no certificate of birth on which to base their relationships. Gaining access to the information on their original (pre-adoption) certificate of birth will lend accuracy and speed to their process.

During Deval Patrick’s term of office as governor, he signed into law an act to permit some Massachusetts adoptees to obtain a copy of their original certificate of birth. This copy does not bear an indicia and couldn’t be used as identification, but it does contain the information a researcher needs. That act, however, left a donut hole you could drive a truck through. Adoptees born between 17 July 1974, and 1 January 2008, were not permitted access except by court order.

For this session, two submitted bills have lots of support from other legislators, both called “An Act Granting Equal Access to Original Certificates of Birth to All Persons Born in Massachusetts.” This is the fifth legislative session that bills of this name have been submitted. There is widespread support and many co-sponsors. Both bills have been discussed at the May 20, 2021 hearing of the Joint Committee on Public Health. Sen. Anne. M. Gobi submitted S 1440 which now has nine other senators supporting it. Rep. Sean Garbally and Rep. Kate Hogan submitted H 2294 which now has 33 other representatives supporting it. With such strong, bipartisan support, adoptees in the donut hole might be successful in gaining the same access rights as other adoptees in Massachusetts.

There are several rights groups involved in a nationwide effort to open Original Certificates of Birth. A group called Bastard Nation has a Massachusetts information page http://bastards.org/states-mass/.

The Department of Public Health has a list of eligibility requirements https://www.mass.gov/service-details/check-eligibility-to-get-a-pre-adoption-birth-record, and application forms and instructions https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-a-pre-adoption-birth-record for people who are already able to obtain their original certificates of birth.

Visit the Adoptee Rights Law Center to see the current status for Mass. adoptees.

OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS AND MARRIAGES

Since the 1930s, adults and children born out-of-wedlock have been stigmatized by the way their birth and marriage records are handled by town and city clerks and the vital statistics registry. They are closed records in an open records state. MGC initiated efforts to end this stigmatization several legislative sessions ago. In the 192nd session, we see that the efforts have gained steam.

Rep. Michael J. Moran introduced bill H 3207, “An Act relative to restricted vital records.” It has been referred to the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee.