Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

IAJGS Conference: Genealogy Under Fire: Government Actions Impede Access to Records YOU Need

Who can pass up an invitation to hear about denying genealogical access to genealogical documents. Here are some of the issues:

  • Right to be forgotten
  • Access denied
  • Denial due to budgetary cuts
  • Change in access laws 
  • etc.
The panel for this session is Jan Meisels Allen, Vice President, IAJGS and Chairperson, IAJGS PRAMC, Janet Alpert, Chairperson, Records Preservation and Access Committee, Teven Laxer, Retired SEIU Senior Labor Relations Representative, Member, IAJGS PRAMC. 

IAJGS has published hundreds of alerts on their Public Records Access Monitoring Committee (PRAMC) and the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC).

The first issue discussed is the European Union, "Right to be forgotten" and the "Right to be erased." IAJGS focuses on the "Right to be remembered." These are important issues for genealogists that go to the heart of the need for record preservation. Although they are couched in terms of privacy issues, they are essentially efforts to re-write current history. In addition, there are significant efforts around the world to extend the time that must pass before access is granted to vital records, particularly birth records. One aspect of this issue is the not too distant and still active controversy over the U.S. Social Security Death Index. 

From my perspective, some of the cumulative issues discussed are in the category of "nothing new," but some of the issues are extremely disturbing. Discussion and links to the issues are available on the IAJGS website. The RPAC is also involved in adopting a Genealogists' Bill of Rights that will be available at the IAJGS conference for individuals to sign. It will also be available on an online signature gathering website. This would accompany letters specific to genealogical access issues in the United States. It is anticipated that other countries will develop similar bills of rights following their countries’ privacy rules. For more information see Genealogists Declaration of Rights Launched by Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) also see

They discuss the Model State Vital Statistics Act. Some of these laws are being enacted imposing 125 year embargo on birth and 75 years on death records, such as the law passed by Oklahoma. There are a lot of issues here an it looks like my list of potential blog post topics is expanding rapidly.

The main question to ask when there is a governmental effort to limit access to records of any kind is who benefits from the new limitation or blocked access? Seldom are these limitations really designed to protect individual rights and access even when the arguments in favor of the restrictions seem to indicate that the individual's rights are being protected. 

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