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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mathews

David Rencher of FamilySearch Receives the 2023 Shirley Barnes Records Access Award

May 4, 2023, Springfield, MA – David E. Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch International, was today awarded the 2023 Shirley M. Barnes Record Access Award at the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) luncheon at New England Regional Genealogical Conference 2023.

In his 43-year career at Family Search, David E. Rencher has been instrumental in encouraging collaboration between the NEHGS, FamilySearch, and other genealogical, historical, and governmental bodies to gather and preserve records. David recognizes the value of preserving many different types of record sets and has been able to reach out to gather and preserve them—including unusual records such the oral genealogies of Africa.

Massachusetts has benefitted from FamilySearch’s ongoing partnership with the Massachusetts Archives, making over 40 collections available online for free at FamilySearch —with more being worked on, including the 1926-1930 vital records indexes. Other activities that benefitted from David’s attention were RootsTech, the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions project, the Social Security Death Index, and the National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system. FamilySearch’s surge in online images during the pandemic made it possible for us to research safely from home.

David served as president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and is now a trustee on the board of the National Genealogical Society.

David Rencher’s career and accomplishments embody both the spirit of volunteerism and dedication to records access. There is little doubt that David’s work has significantly impacted genealogists around the world.

At its annual meeting in 2019, the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) established an award to be given yearly in memory of Shirley M. (Armstrong) Barnes. Shirley was committed to advocating for record preservation and access. Her work brought about the 1983 Massachusetts vital records law which mandated the transfer of vital records to the state archives in five-year intervals. The award recognizes people who emulate Shirley's volunteer spirit and whose dedication to records access has made a significant impact for genealogists. The award takes the form of a wooden book clock, a replica of the award MGC gave to Shirley when she retired from the Civil Records Director job after 25 years of service.

MGC is delighted to present the 2023 Shirley M. Barnes Record Access Award to David E. Rencher.


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