Tuesday, June 30, 2009

California Assembly Bill AB130 - IAJGS Letter

I discussed the California Assembly Bill AB130 concerning access to California vital records and vital records indexes in a post last week.

Jan Meisels Allen has written a letter on the letterhead of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies that she forwarded to me and has given me permission to reprint. Here is Jan's letter:


June 28, 2009

California Senate Appropriations Committee
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: AB 130 Oppose Unless Amended

Dear California Senate Appropriations Chairperson Kehoe, Vice Chairman Cox, and Committee Members Corbett, Denham, Hancock, Leno, Oropeza, Price, Runner, Walters, Wolk, Wyland and Yee:

On behalf of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), I am writing due to concern we have regarding the provisions of AB 130 which would extend the limitations of access to comprehensive indices and vital records to marriages. The bill is being heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 23.

We in the genealogical community are concerned about its impact as currently drafted. The genealogical community is supportive of the intent to protect the residents of California from improper usage of their personal information, and protect them from identity theft, however, we are very concerned of further limiting access to the comprehensive indices and public records that AB 130 proposes.. It has been rarely documented that people’s identity are violated by access to vital records but rather the violations occur due to computer breeches from government and private enterprises—many of these computer breeches have been well documented in the press.

Genealogy is not only a hobby of millions of people— it assists in tracing family medical problems that are passed on from generation to generation. Information included in marriage records is critical to reconstructing families and tracing genetically inherited attributes in current family members. To assure the family is correctly identified, the mother’s maiden name is essential. Not including the mother’s maiden names in the proposed non-comprehensive marriage indices would hamper such research, as it may make it virtually impossible to determine which marriage is the correct record. For example, a marriage between John Black and Mary Smith, both common names; the only way to identify the correct marriage for family medical history research would be to have the mothers’ maiden names included in the index so the researcher could order the correct informational copy of the marriage record. As genealogists and family historians, we want to assure continued access to needed information that should be included in the non-comprehensive indices so that the correct vital records—birth, marriage and death records may be obtained.

The IAJGS is the umbrella organization of 73 genealogical societies worldwide (of which 5 are located in California) whose approximately 10,000 members are actively researching their Jewish roots. We want to continue to allow our members the maximum access to these vital records.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully submitted,


Jan Meisels Allen

Jan Meisels Allen, Director
International Association of Jewish
Genealogical Societies and
Chairperson, Public Records Access
and Monitoring Committee
Reply address: [redacted]

[Jan's email is jan(at)IAJGS.org]

I really appreciate Jan's efforts to read the proposed legislation and make cogent and reasoned comments on it.

Jan seems to think that this bill will pass both houses of the California legislature easily, and thinks that the only way to stop it may be a veto by Governor Schwarzenegger. However, vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses, so it may be put into law.

California genealogy societies need to contact their representatives in order to influence their vote. If other persons or societies draft and send letters concerning this bill, I will be happy to publish them as a way to spread the word. Jan's letter is one vehicle to do it. If you want a copy of Jan's letter to send to your representative, I'm sure that Jan would be happy to provide you with a PDF of it.

The best advice I've heard is to get your California vital records certificates now!

UPDATED 7/2: Jan Meisels Allen provided the corrected letter, dated 2 July, that modifies the third paragraph above. Thank you, Jan!


Untangled Family Roots said...

We all should be concerned about this rather we are a member of a genealogical society in California or not. I to have great, grand and parents who were born, married and died in California even though I no longer live there or am a member of any society there. As a fellow genealogist this is a scarry happening, and California is not the only state to discuss or inact similar bills.

Those that stand behind this bill live in fear and have no concept of the impact it will bring on the genealogical society as a whole. It's sad!

D. C. Russell said...

I wish that one of the major genealogical organizations (and not the useless RPAC or whatever it is called) would start an online register of anti-genealogy elected officials and publicize it widely during every election season.