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I am forwarding this from the APG list. Please read this so that you are
informed about the issues of closing public records in the name of identity
theft, privacy, terrorism, financial ruin or what else might grab the fears
of the public. It's worth the few minutes it takes to read. Most likely all
the states are struggling with the same sort of issures. - Terry Davis
Today Dick Eastman's Newsletter provided a pointer to an article by the
Burlington Free Press reporter Adam Silverman
"Vermont Clerks Prepare for Restrictions on Vital Records Access"
As you will note below, in a note to the reporter, I recently testified
at a Massachusetts legislative hearing where several misinformed folks
also believed that the federal government could regulate what is
constitutionally a state perogative.
I wrote to Mr Silverman (see below) and he responded that he would like
to be alerted to any actions that the genealogical comunity takes or any
updates on this issue. Mr Silverman would like to continue writing about
this issue. Mr Silverman can be contacted at
The regulations for US Public Law 108-458 "Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act" are due out in a few weeks for a 90 day
review. It's time to do your homework in your own state.
Folks who live in any state should alert their local genealogical
societies, as well as contact your state and federal congressmen and
Senators about this issue.
PS An ironic twist to this situation is the goal of matching birth and
death records by providing grants to accomplish this!
Note to Burlington Free Press reporter Adam Silverman
I am a researcher of Vermont records, and a member of the board of
directors of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (an umbrella
organization for genealogical and historical societies chartered as a
watchdog for records access protection), and also a member of the
Association of Professional Genealogists, an international organization.
The US Public Law 108-458 "Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention
Act" was passed in December 2004, based upon a Senate bill S.2845, not
the Draconian House of Representatives bill HR.10 - which did have many
police state types of measures.
However, what could not be passed as law cannot be used in an end run in
the regulatory process. Regulations can only be done within the context
of the law that passed. If regulators think otherwise, then the court
system will have to address the issue. The checks and balances in our
Federal structure are there for a reason.
Vital records are a states' rights issue in the US. Factions of the
Federal government have been trying to get states to implement a "model
law" for vital records for more than 25 years, under the guise of
whatever is the hot-button of the times. We are in danger of revisiting
the McCarthy years - treating everybody as suspects and destroying the
system of checks and balances that has stood the test of time.
Identity theft is a financial threat, not a terorist threat. Agencies of
the Federal government have repeatedly found that identity theft and
privacy problems do not result from the adminstration of vital records.
Instead, there are mounting database, internet and electronic credit
card security breaches to augment the tried and true everyday methods
and lapses by the credit card industry, an unscrupulous family member,
friend, store clerk or waiter or plain old trash pickers, burgulars and
Every state has dealt with the issues according to their own
constitutions, and prior legislative history, in their own way
throughout the decades.
Every state handles illegitimate births, still births and adoption
Illegitimate births now number in the double digit percentages nationwide.
Adoptee rights groups have created recent changes in attitudes that have
been reflected in some state law changes.
Marriage laws have been changed to include same sex marriages in many
However, some federal minds continue to chip away at these states rights
at every opportunity, promulgating completely different ideas about what
the enacted Federal laws or funding aids to the states actually mean.
Last month, I testified at a Massachusetts legislative hearing about
this issue. A number of Massachusetts records closing laws have been
proposed for decades. Now the story line by Massachusetts proponents of
records closing laws is that they are simply getting ready for what the
Federal government would require.
It's a sad day when your own state legislators don't know where the line
is between states' rights or the how and why of the Federal system design.
Vermont has apparently been given the same kind of pitch by the Federal
evangelists of this decades old effort.
The Federal government has the right to regulate the format of
certificates that Federal agencies will accept for passports, visas,
military, Social Security, or other Federally regulated purposes.
The Federal government has the right to require vital records statistics
for the many activities that are the responsibility of the Federal
But only states have the right to determine whom to issue birth,
marriage and death certificates to, or who has access to the records,
just as each state determines laws and licenses for other normal everday
activities of the citizenry.
My personal background includes a secret security clearance, military
and commercial network systems security and performance analysis,
nuclear power plant records, legal and travel systems development. I do
take real issues of concern seriously. There is a time and place for
Standardized certificates to prevent fraudulent use is one thing.
Arbitrary retrictions to the records information is another. Requiring
unecessary security measures that burden the majority, and don't address
the real problem is a waste of time and money.
If Vermont towns can't publish the summary of their vital records as
they have for more than a century, then perhaps there is also an
everyday impact on newspapers. Will your readers be able to read the
engagement and wedding notices, or obituaries. Will your advertisers
with family event products and services continue to place ads?
Will the US Surgeon General have to retract his call to us all to do
family medical health histories? Family medical issues must be studied
over many generations and through collateral lines, not just immediate
families. How will we find this information unless we have access to the
leaves in the vital records trees to find a person (living or not) for
whom we also have to find the legal repsentative or guardian?
There is also an impact on libraries and archives, services and others
who already have vital records that now are proposed to be closed. Will
there be SWAT teams with search warrants to ferret them out and great
book burnings or computer disk erasing events? Will I be prosecuted
because I shared a cousin's birth certificate with another family
I propose a different route. Consult with a nation of experts, the
millions of experienced family history researchers who know how to
determine whether one person of record is the same as another person of
record, where the errors occur and how to avoid serious forensic mistakes.
The town and city clerks of Vermont will not be left to fend for
themselves in this matter. The Vermont genealogical research community
spans the nation. The Vermont tourist trade benefits every year when
researchers visit to get back to their roots, and access the records.
I think you will be hearing from many others.
==== APG Mailing List ====
The Association of Professional Genealogists
I'm hoping to find the dates of death and cemeteries for a couple that were likely buried in Tama Co. They have relatives buried in both Crystal Cemetery in Gladbrook and Buckingham Cemetery in Traer. I haven't located the burials on either Ancestry or the Iowa WPA records.
They are Peter M. Lundberg born 1839, died between 1920-1930, and his wife Nannie Lundberg who was born in 1829 and died between 1900-1910.
Thanks for any help.
Shirley in Tucson