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MGC's NERGC Panel on Open Records: Citizens Can Make a Difference
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How many deaths before the SSDI gets updated again?
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Keeping Watch Over Massachusetts Public Records

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    2014 Seminar Logo
      Massachusetts Genealogical Council  Annual Meeting and Seminar  Save the date! July 26, 2014   Holiday Inn Conference Center, Mansfield, MA Conveniently located near the intersection of I-95 and I-495   Click here to see the three tracks of talks.   And click here to read all about our speakers!   Enjoy a continental breakfast, and plated luncheon with your choice of chicken or four-cheese lasagna meal with dessert, themed table topics, and more!    Early registration for MGC members at only $60 begins in February.  Non-member early registration: $70. Late registration $80.   Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for vendor news, additional program features and prizes! Check hashtag #MGC2014 for updates.  ...
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    Tuesday, December 17th 12:00-1:30pm Massachusetts State House, Room 442 The Massachusetts State Library, located at the Massachusetts State House, holds a monthly Brown Bag Lunch. The attendees tend to be from the Massachusetts Legislature and other offices in the State House, probably more aides and administrative staff than legislators.  The Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) will present "Learning About Your Family History" at a Brown Bag Lunch on December 17th. MGC was founded in 1980 and is the umbrella organization representing Massachusetts genealogists, historical societies, and individuals concerned about records preservation and free and unfettered access to civil records. MGC serves as the records access watchdog and provides a reality check for the Massachusetts legislature regarding access issues. Thanks in large part to efforts by MGC, Massachusets is one of very few states where the public is still able to access all vital records. MGC President Mary Ellen Grogan says, "We want...
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    You heard it from us first! The Fall issue of the MGC Newsletter is hot off the presses! We have a date and speaker announcment for next year's MGC Annual Meeting and Seminar. You can follow this link to read it: http://bit.ly/TQ2EXa.  If you are a member and require a paper copy, please send an email to info@massgencoucil.com....
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    We Need Your Support Now More Than Ever! In these days of tight budgets, more and more institutions are choosing or being forced to reduce hours of operation, close outright, and even dispose of records to free up valuable storage space. The result is that the public has ever more restricted access to records. Massachusetts, thanks in large part to the efforts of MGC over the past thirty years, has notclosed records, and the law that was first enacted in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1641 to keep our records open and accessible to all citizens remains in effect.  Imagine a World With Closed Records Many states in the nation have chosen to close access to civil records such as birth, marriage and death records to all but proven family members. But how do you prove you are related without providing these same certificates? We need vital records to make any progress whatsoever in...
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    In a happy turn of events, Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced yesterday that the Georgia State Archives will remain open at least through June 20, 2013. It is slated to be transferred to the University System of Georgia after that, so this opens up more questions. This new budgetary commitment allows the archives to remain open under current hours. http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2012-10-18/deal-kemp-keep-georgia’s-archives-open...
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      Please join us at our Panel on Open Records, to be held at 1:45 PM on Saturday, April 18th, in session S-324, at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Citizens can make an impact on our laws and regulations at several points in the legislative process: By working to submit bills that meet our needs and interests. By commenting on those bills as they go through the process of hearings and readings (votes). By continuing to be involved as legislation is implemented through regulation. Our panelists have insight on how citizens stay involved in government activities involving their interests. Please welcome Judy, Helen, and Teresa, all fresh from the trenches of advocating for access. The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, is a genealogist with a law degree. She writes, teaches and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical topics, ranging from using...
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    At the National Genealogical Society's Conference in Richmond, Virginia last week, the Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) announced the Genealogists' Declaration of Rights: a statement advocating open access to federal, state, and local public records. The Declaration affirms America’s long history of open public records, which has been threatened the last few years over concerns about identity theft and privacy. RPAC has worked with state and federal legislators as well as local public officials for more than twenty years in support of legislation and regulations that achieve a balance between access and privacy. The Declaration of Rights has been approved by the board of directors of the three sponsoring organizations: The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). To read the full press release click here: Press Release RPAC Declaration of Rights Ver4 (3). Now is the time to speak...
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      Members of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council board braved the elements in December to present the first of two talks introducing genealogy to State House staffers. By all accounts it was a great success and we are happy to announce the second talk in the series. Please join us! Learning about Family History Tuesday, March 18, 12:00pm – 1:30pm State Library, Massachusetts State House, Room 442 Bring your lunch and listen to Sharon Sergeant, Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt,CG, and Mary Ellen Grogan talk about the resources and techniques used to discover the story of your family. This is a follow-up to the talk on genealogy given on December 11. We will be discussing different aspects of research, but you will be able to follow the talk even if you weren’t able to attend in December. Sharon will be talking about various records and how one set of records will lead to...
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    FGS 2013 Pres. Citation to MGC-smaller
    Every year, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) holds a large national genealogical conference. The highlight of the conference for MGC this year was being awarded a Presidential Citation from D. Joshua Taylor, President of FGS, in recognition of our outstanding work in ensuring records access for genealogists! When our FGS delegate was called to the front of the huge hall to accept the award in front of all of her peers she was quite tickled and very proud. More than 1,500 genealogists gathered this year in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to learn, share, network and stock up on reading material! FGS members include genealogical societies, libraries, family societies, archives and companies, and all share the goal of studying the history of families. Regular ol' genealogists attended the conference in abundance and were not disappointed. MGC had a presence in the Exhibit Hall in the area known as Society Showcase, a small, village-like...
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      Jan Meisels Allen discusses PRAMC activities.Photograph by Barbara Mathews.   Early in August Boston had the honor of hosting the annual convention of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. The Park Plaza was abuzz for a full week of presentations, an exhibit hall, and cultural events. Many MGC officers and members attended. I was there on Monday for a presentation of IAJGS's Public Records Access and Monitoring Committee (PRAMC) given in conjuction with the Records Access and Preservation Committee here in the U.S.. Jan Meisels Allan, Kenneth Ryesky, and Janet Alpert presented the well-attended Monday session. There was a lot of material to cover. PRAMC looks at records access issues internationally. The European Union is considering a General Data Protection Plan. Among the types of data considered for protection are the materials that genealogists commonly access. People would be required to opt-in to having their information accessed in the...
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    10000vaccinated
    Boston vaccination drive in 1902.[1] The Massachusetts Genealogical Council sent me to Phoenix, Arizona, last summer[2] to attend the national conference of the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, an organization involving the vital statistics registrars in the 50 states, cities of Washington, DC, and New York, NY, and five U.S. territories. I was to learn what concerns registrars, what drives them, and what we could do to support the registrar here in Massachusetts. Little did I know that this would lead me to a Supreme Court case, coercive vaccinations, a founder of NEHGS, and the state vital record database. Only a fraction of the conference attendees were registrars. The majority of attendees were public health statisticians, working for agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, similar agencies in other states and in Arizona’s counties, the Indian Health Service, the Veterans Administration hospitals, the U.S....
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    healthpedigree
    When you visit your doctor do you have to fill out a lengthy family health history questionnaire? Physicians use these to diagnose and treat us because it helps them assess our risk factors for certain diseases. You can blow your doctor away by completing a family health pedigree and bringing it to your next appointment! But what if you don't know your family members' exact cause of death or ages at death? Sometimes this information does not get passed down in families because it is too sad, or just too long ago. And frequently you'll hear a cause of death as "old age" or "broken heart." So what can you do if you want more exact details? If you are lucky enough to live in Massachusetts you can pay a visit to the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics at Columbia Point in Dorchester, right off Route 93. Massachusetts death records up...
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      On April 16, 2013, tweetmyjobs.com published a help wanted notice for a Registrar of Vital Records and Statistics Administrator VIII for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was a day shift job with a salary range from $48,478.04 to $118,278.12 per year at a facility at 150 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester. Yes, the job at the top of the Department of Vital Records and Statistics was vacant. Early in June our previous registrar, Stan Nyberg, was awarded a lifetime membership in the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems to recognize his retirement. Quoting from the posting, here are the job requirements: 1. Seven - ten years of managerial experience, at least three - five years of which is in health care administration, public health, public administration or business operations.2. Masters or doctoral level education in a relevant discipline, i.e., Public Health, Public Administration, Health Care Administration or Business...
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    MGC Civil Records Co-Director Mary Ellen Grogan is our watchdog for bills in the Massachusetts legislature on Beacon Hill. She summarizes the situation here. The Massachusetts Genealogical Council monitors legislative and administrative activities of governmental agencies which affect genealogists and family history researchers. We sponsor and support legislation designed to expand the resources and accessibility of research services; and, where appropriate, we oppose laws and regulations which limit or close access to records. In the last ten years, significant efforts have been made on both state and federal levels to close records that have been traditionally used by genealogists. The impetus behind these efforts is not completely clear, but arguments center on issues of privacy. In most cases, closure of records to genealogists is not the result of actual legislation but of local regulations and the interpretation of these issues by records custodians. HIPAA, the Patriot Act, and identity theft have...
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    MGC supports legislation designed to expand the resources and accessibility of materials used in historical research, but it is much more frequent to encounter legislation that blocks public access, hence we often find ourselves in battle mode. It is always a pleasure to be able to support rather than oppose a bill, for so many reasons. First, it is just a more positive activity. Much more importantly, we become allies in the legislative process, rather than foes. And isn't it preferable to work with legislators than against them? If we are supporters then our influence seems much more natural, we come across as the experts we are, and we gather respect rather than disdain. So it is with great delight that MGC announces support of Massachusetts House Bill 3043 - An Act Relative to Records Open to Public Inspection. Our Massachusetts Civil Records Director, Mary Ellen Grogan, constantly monitors bills proposed at the...
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    After two days of sponsored activities, Saturday gives MGC officers and directors a chance to spend time in the exhibit hall booth and to attend lectures. The exhibit hall is open 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. MGC is in booth 101. As you walk in the main entrance, we are in the first aisle of booths. The booth is filled with take-aways. Don't miss information about our upcoming Annual Meeting and Seminar on July 20th in Worcester. The seminar features the dynamic speaker Judy Russell, CG, CGL. Friday needs a bit of recapping. Laura Prescott did a fantastic job as our luncheon speaker yesterday. She delighted us with stories of records access from Massachusetts and from throughout the U.S. She gave us many ideas for approaching the "gatekeepers" of repositories and government offices. She closed by rallying us to work for access and preservation. MGC also hosted a Special Interest Group...
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    Lunch, sponsored by MGC, features Laura Prescott Laura's lunch topic is "Jousting with the Gatekeepers."  Lunch requires pre-registration. If I don't run, soon, I'll be late myself... Special Interest Group: "Records Access Denied?" Tonight NERGC features the Special Interest Groups, or SIGs. They are designed to be information get-togetheres around interesting topics. They start at 7:00 and end at 9:00. (The end time of 10 is a typo in today's program.) Our SIG will be on the 12th floor of the conference hotel, in the Governor's Suite. We will have a wonderful nighttime view of Manchester and surrounding towns. Come by just for the view if you want. Our informal program plan is to have a mini-workshop. We'll have our laptops there. Tell us what state your are from and we'll figure out how to use the internet to find out if your legislature is considering bills that might limit your...
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    Nora Galvin is the president and government relations liaison of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council, and president of the Connecticut Ancestry Society. Nora serves as a great example today, showing us how genealogists can speak up on behalf of keeping access to public records free. Today she is presenting a statement to the Connecticut General Assembly's Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections regarding proposed House Bill 5421. I am grateful to Nora for giving me permission to publish her address here.   My name is Nora Galvin. I am a professional genealogist and president of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council, Inc. I make my living by researching the history of Connecticut families in the state's rich record collections.   Three organizations have asked me to represent them here today: the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council, Connecticut Ancestry Society and the Connecticut Society of Genealogists. I unofficially represent the other 13 genealogy societies that are also incorporated...
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    Genealogical societies in Oklahoma and Georgia are asking for our support now. If you are concerned about records access in these states, please consider supporting the efforts of genealogists in them to keep records available. In Oklahoma, a law enacted in 2011 limited access to all vital records to those people named in them. The regulations caught up to the law recently with serious repercussions, particularly for death records. If you have been denied a death record from Oklahoma in the last two years, please send a description of your experience to this email address: news@okgensoc.org. In Georgia, there continues to be serious concern about the ability of the Georgia State Archives to remain open to researchers. Right now the state legislature is considering two bills. One would move management of the archives from the Secretary of State’s office to the University of Georgia System. The other, put forward by the...
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    Thanks to Judy Russell and the Legal Genealogist blog we are aware of yet another threat to public records, this time in Washington State. It seems that the Washington State Department of Health has sent a request to the 4-member State Records Committee to close access to births more recent than 125 years, and marriages and deaths more recent than 50 years. Obviously another knee-jerk, uninformed reaction to credit fraud, but we need to do what we can to lend our support. Note that this is not going to the Washington State Legislature or any court, just to this small committee of appointed, not elected, members, as Judy points out. You can ready Judy's blog post here: http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2012/11/08/washington-public-records-threatened/. ...
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    We are soliciting your input. Have you ever been denied records by any state simply because you are not a resident of that state? It recently came to our attention here at the Massachusetts Genealogical Council that some states have their own Freedom of Information Acts, but that these are designed to restrict records access. With this restriction in place, a hypothetical situation would be that a reporter for the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune or the Boston Globe would be unable to access the records. What is true for reporters is true also for genealogists and historians. Delaware law Chapter 100, Section 10003 (a), restricts access to any citizen of the State: All public records shall be open to inspection and copying by any citizen of the State during regular business hours by the custodian of the records for the appropriate public body. Virginia also restricts records access...
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    Threats to public access are cropping up all over the country. The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. has published the following letter, which is of utmost  importance for anyone who wants to access the archives in New York City.  Please read this and then visit http://www.nycarchivists.org/doris_petition  to see the petition. At the behest of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the New York City Council has proposed legislation that would eliminate the autonomy of New York City's Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS), the agency that is responsible for the records and archival documents produced by past and present City governments. The proposed legislation (Int. 486-2011) would place the currently independent agency within the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). If passed, this legislation would significantly downgrade the authority of DORIS within City government and potentially put at risk its ability to preserve, protect and make accessible the intellectual legacy of one of the world's greatest cities. A full position...
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