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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
A Weekly Summary of Events and
Topics of Interest to Online Genealogists
Vol. 7 No. 28 - July 15, 2002
- Massachusetts Public Records Closing Alert
Access to public records threatens to be curtailed in many places.
Massachusetts is the latest state to consider closing access to records that
are vital to genealogists. The following was written
by Sharon Sergeant of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council:
The Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) board held an emergency meeting
this evening [July 12] in Waltham, Massachusetts to review the text of an
alarming, and recently introduced, Massachusetts House of Representatives
bill H5158 (see links below for issues, status and contact information).
The most pressing aspect of H5158, on preliminary review, is that it would
close marriage and death records since 1950, as well as birth records after
1910, to public access -- including their indices!
MGC is recommending that all Massachusetts residents contact their
Representative and that all non-resident Massachusetts researchers contact a
Massachusetts resident to represent their interests - immediately as the
formal sessions close on July 31st -- but impromptu sessions have sometimes
been used to pass such legislation! (see <
http://www.state.ma.us/legis/repdis01.htm> for districts)
The general content of the legislative protest letters should at least cover
the following points, be sincere, personalized and not appear in a form
Dear (Representative Name):
The Birth, Marriage and Death records (Vital Records) of the Commonwealth
have always been open to the public with few specific exceptions. House Bill
5158, currently reported out to the Committee on House Rules, would close
Birth Records after 1910 and Marriage and Death Records since 1950 to public
We ask that you encourage further study of this Bill by the Committee on
House Rules and that you vote AGAINST this bill should it come to floor vote.
H5158 would affect every citizen of the Commonwealth. Among other things it
1) block access to recent death records so that family medical histories
could not be ascertained;
2) increase expenses for persons needing to prove legitimate access to the
3) not affect the risks of identity fraud or theft which does not occur from
personal inspection of the Vital Records.
Again I/we urge you to defeat H5158.
Additional notes on the preliminary review of this bill:
The Massachusetts bill H5158 is purportedly a rewrite of H132 (see <
http://www.state.ma.us/legis/bills/house/h00132.htm>). However, the full text
of H5158 is not yet online and the MGC expects that further line by line
examination of the H5158 printed text (36 pages) will uncover other issues of
In contrast, the MGC has been working on the Senate bill S2302 which may be
reviewed at <http://www.state.ma.us/legis/bills/st02302.htm>.
All recent medical studies point to the statistical and anecdotal importance
of medical information for multiple generations -- and beyond immediate
lineal or lateral descent lines.
The H5158 bill could also remove access to the actual primary source record.
It contains such items as "... Such examination, at the discretion of the
Custodian, may be from an automated database. ..."
The Birth, Marriage and Death records (Vital Records) of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts have always been open to the public with few specific
exceptions (see <http://www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/gl-66-toc.htm>).
However, House Bill 5158, currently reported out to the Committee on House
Rules, would close Birth Records after 1910 and Marriage and Death Records
since 1950 to public access -- as of January 1, 2004 when the inquirer must
be proven to be ONLY the individual in question or the " spouse, children,
parent as named on birth record, legal guardian, sibling, grandparent,
grandchild, executor, authorized legal representative or authorized
genealogist designated by one of the aforementioned persons in writing."
Additionally, removing the indices from the public access will preclude
researchers from even being able to narrow down the likely candidates for
detailed record inspection -- increasing the Catch-22 of having to prove a
second generation or less direct lineal connection to the records in question
-- when that is the question!
The H5158 bill does not provide funds for the expenditures of government
agencies that would have to shoulder the new custodian and administrative
responsibilities for records archiving and access validation and/or refusal
-- such that even what the Custodian considers legitimate access request may
not be administered in a timely fashion if the determination of legitimate
access is not a funded administrative expense.
Identity fraud or theft issue is a claimed goal H5158 bill without regard to
the actual identity fraud methods used and documented by numerous
investigations -- either in the old fashioned "complete fabrication", "trash
scouring" and wallet/home robbery, newspaper obituary targeting and
institutional insider records misuse - or the advent of the Internet and
other electronic transaction interceptions.
Identity fraud thieves are not prone to the methodical, time consuming and
formal task of searching and requesting the Vital Records.
You may monitor the status of this bill and check for the full text release
People who have representatives who are on these committees may find further
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2692
It shall be the duty of the committee on Rules to recommend special orders
for the scheduling and consideration of legislation on the floor of the
House. Said committee shall be authorized to make recommendations and propose
changes in the rules for the purpose of improving and expediting the business
and procedures of the House of Representatives and its committees. <
JOINT COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2120
It shall be the duty of the committee on Government Regulations to consider
all matters concerning public utilities, gambling, the racing industry, the
registration of various trades or professions, the issuance of licenses for
the sale of alcoholic beverages and such other matters as may be referred.
Members appointed to the committee:
Sen. Morrissey of Norfolk and Plymouth,
Sen. Pacheco of First Plymouth and Bristol,
Sen. Joyce of Suffolk and Norfolk,
Sen. Fargo of Fifth Middlesex,
Sen. Baddour of Third Essex,
Sen. Hedlund of Plymouth and Norfolk,
Rep. Bosley of North Adams,
Rep. Ciampa of Somerville,
Rep. Caron of Springfield,
Rep. Candaras of Wilbraham,
Rep. C. A. Murphy of Burlington,
Rep. Festa of Melrose,
Rep. Nangle of Lowell,
Rep. Rivera of Springfield,
Rep. Bradley of Hingham,
Rep. Brown of Wrentham and
Rep. Hill of Ipswich.
The Massachusetts Genealogical Council welcomes all questions from interested
researchers, as well as shared experiences from other jurisdictions dealing
with ill-conceived, reactionary measures to identity fraud, privacy or
records preservation and access issues. Please send your questions and
suggestions to <info(a)massgencouncil.org>.
If you are among the millions who claim early ancestors in Massachusetts -
prior to the proposed 1910/1950 exclusions -- and do not believe you will be
impacted by such a law, please consult with your contemporary cousins and
resident collateral lines. Your family will be affected!
Thank you for your interest and support in this matter.
In a message dated 07/11/2002 2:08:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time, wb(a)wvi.com
> Has any one checked my links on the updates
> I have a lot of the ROLLS links posted there.
I didn't have time the other day to look at this, but it is
great. I just viewed the Cherokee final rolls, and some of the other rolls
and everything is so clear. I have had them all printed out in volumes, but
this makes it so much easier to search. What a job you have done here.
Congraulations on all your very hard work.
I will be posting the link for this site, on my taglines and to about 50
different Rootsweb list that I admin.
I will also post it to my NA boards and many of my NA surname list, that I
THANK YOU, so much !!