Monday, June 19, 2006

Massachusetts Threatens to Close Recent VRs

The Massachusetts Genealogical Council alerts us to the threat by the State legislature to close Massachusetts Vital Records and Indexes (birth since 1915, Marriages and Deaths since 1955) in an announcement here.

This is a major threat to genealogy researchers in Massachusetts. Hopefully, an education campaign can be executed in order to find a compromise solution between privacy rights and open records access.

The suggested constituent letter includes this argument against the bill:

The study of family history has strong educational and patriotic components. In addition, the US Surgeon General has launched a nationwide campaign to promote family medical history, which must include collateral bloodlines in order to provide doctors with the information needed in preventative, diagnostic, and treatment medicine. Historical records must be used to augment the advancements in DNA. Those records must begin with the present generation and move back through each preceding generation.

One "middle ground" between privacy rights and open access is to restrict some data (such as Social Security Numbers) and to limit "official" certificates to the person and/or close relatives (e.g., parents, siblings, children, heirs). Unofficial certificates, with an appropriate statement concerning "not to be used for official purposes," could still be provided to those not entitled to "official" certificates. This is what California, and several other states, have done in recent years.

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