I just read on the Genealogue that the Massachusetts legislature is considering legislation to severely restrict access to vital records in Massachusetts. Three bills are being considered, H-3642, H-3643, and H-3644.
The most concerning of these is H-3643 which proposes to restrict all birth records and indexes after 1915 and all marriage and death records and indexes after 1955. The Massachusetts Genealogical Council is urging concerned citizens to write, e-mail, and call Massachusetts legislators to recommend a vote against these bills.
Public access to vital records has been guaranteed in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties since 1641 (see item #48 in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties), but may soon be revoked if these bills pass. These bills are being pushed for passage in the next two weeks.
Genealogists have both a legitimate reason to access vital records and also a legitimate need to access vital records. Vital records are some of the best original sources of primary information available and restriction of access to these records threatens both the quality of genealogical research and the ability to conduct genealogical research at all.
Since public access to vital records is being threatened more and more by legislators seeking to prevent identity theft, the time has come to educate public officials about the value of genealogical research to families seeking to understand their heritage and to the general public seeking to preserve the history of their communities and the nation.
This is a call to arms. Or in the case of genealogists, perhaps this is a more a call to the computer. Take a few minutes to write. Even one e-mail message can make a difference by planting a new idea in the mind of someone with the political power to make a change. And don’t forget to mention your children, your grandchildren, and your nieces and nephews in your message. After all, the action we take today affects them, too.