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Keeping Watch Over Massachusetts Public Records
Records Access a Key Topic at FGS 2012
The issue of records access will be front and center at the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2012 Conference in Birmingham, Alabama next week. For the first time, MGC will have a table at a national conference, and we hope to spread the word about our activities as watchdogs over public records. Our display will be in the Society Showcase section of the exhibit hall and attendees will find answers to many questions plus information on how to get more involved. It can be confusing to those not accustomed to the legislative process, but we aim to demystify! If you are in Birmingham, please stop by our table, pick up our newsletter and think about joining our society!
On the Tuesday night before every FGS conference, the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) traditionally holds their APG Roundtable. This year it is Records Access: The Art of Advocacy. MGC is thrilled to welcome APG to the advocacy realm. The roundable will feature a panel discussion and some instructive yet fun role playing to help us all envision how to react when we get news of threats to access. Come and learn what happens as a bill moves through the legislature. When is the best time to write a letter, and where is the best place to send it? Are there dos and don'ts to testifying before a committee? What can you do when a clerk refuses to let you see a document you know you have a right to access? Find the answers to these questions and more at the APG Roundtable.
The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) will be presenting sessions on Wednesday, Society Day. At the "RPAC Update Session", Fred Moss will moderate a panel of RPAC members including Chair David E. Rencher where they will "provide training for RPAC State Liaisons and share materials developed for their use." They will review recent interventions by RPAC and the lessons learned from case studies. MGC President Polly Kimmitt will stand in for Massachusetts State Liaison Mary Ellen Grogan. Stay tuned for a report on RPAC's efforts.
Finally, David E. Rencher, Chair of RPAC, will speak at the FGS luncheon on "Record Access in a Post-9/11 World," where he will describe what genealogical societies and groups can do to combat the threat of having public records removed or redacted.
All in all this conference proves to be filled with opportunites to learn (and teach others) about why we need to be involved. It doesn't have to be difficult. I'm looking forward to meeting new colleagues and hearing creative ideas about the subject.