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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mathews

Rich Venezia Wins 2020 Shirley Barnes Records Access Award

(VIRTUAL: April 4, 2020) At the opening of the bi-annual Virtual Conference "Origins and Destinations," the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) awarded its second annual Shirley M. Barnes Records Access Award to Rich Venezia, Founder, of Records Not Revenue. The award is an engraved book clock, a replica of the award presented to Shirley Barnes July 14, 2007, upon her retirement as Civil Records Director of MGC.

WHO IS RICH VENEZIA? Rich is a Pittsburgh based expert of twentieth-century immigration records in the genealogical field. Rich spearheaded a public campaign, Records Not Revenue, to leverage the power of social media to persuade U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to withdraw fee hikes before the window for public comment closes. Through his efforts, the agency received over 39,000 public comments detailing the adverse consequences not only from genealogists but to other government organizations. No date has been set for the new fees to take effect.

WHO WAS SHIRLEY M. BARNES? A little slip of a woman, frequently donning an inviting smile, and a big "Save Massachusetts Records" button, Shirley M. Barnes was committed to advocating for record preservation and access. Weekly she rode the commuter rail from Concord to Boston to walk the statehouse, visiting with legislators. 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. After 25 years of dedicated service as MGC's Civil Records Director, Shirley tirelessly stayed on the board, mentoring her successors, until recently, attending meetings became a physical challenge.

Shirley passed away on August 24, 2018, at the age of 95, only eight months after her husband. She is survived by two children and a genealogy community that she had served for decades. (Her obituary may be accessed here.) Shirley's efforts served to establish a model for other New England states to follow in protecting access to public records for research.

THE SHIRLEY M. BARNES RECORDS ACCESS AWARD: The Massachusetts Genealogical Council, at the annual meeting on February 17, 2019, established an annual award to be given in memory of Shirley M. (Armstrong) Barnes at a luncheon, held in odd years at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and in even years at the MGC Annual Seminar. The award will recognize people who emulate Shirley's volunteer spirit and whose dedication to records access has made a significant impact for genealogists. See for more information.

MASSACHUSETTS GENEALOGICAL COUNCIL: The Massachusetts Genealogical Council is an umbrella organization of Massachusetts genealogical and historical societies and libraries. We provide educational seminars and conferences to the members of those organizations. We also monitor legislative and administrative activity that might impact genealogists and historians.


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