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Keeping Watch Over Massachusetts Public Records

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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: 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: ...
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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  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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