Have you signed the Genealogist’s Declaration of Rights?
Fellow CSGA member, Jan Meisels Allen, who wears many hats in the genealogical community (1), has written a letter to California societies urging all California genealogists to sign. But as individuals you can also sign and get your friends to sign as well. As Jan states:
“Genealogists are having increased difficulty with access to records that are needed for our research—due to misinformation that our access could and has led to identity theft—that is wrong. What causes identity theft is computer hacking into government, commercial, financial and health care businesses where the “bad guys” appropriate personal information and misuse it. (Recently released California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s second annual report on identity theft indicated 18.5 million Californians were involved in data breaches in 2013. Retailers, banks, health care providers and other organizations reported 167 different breaches in the state during 2013. That is six times more than the 2.5 million accounts hacked in 131 breaches in 2012, and represents nearly half of the state’s 38 million residents. The problem to be solved is how to stop hacking of secure data NOT limiting access to already public data.
“RPAC believes that it is essential to let our elected officials—federal and state—know that their constituents are deeply interested in access to vital records. One of the RPAC state liaisons, Bob Rafford from Connecticut, developed the idea of the Genealogists’ Declaration or Rights and presented it to RPAC and all three sponsoring organizations approved the Declaration. At each of the FGS, IAJGS and NGS national conferences in 2014 there were RPAC information tables where we asked conference attendees to sign the declaration. We currently have approximately 4,000 signatures and to make an impact we really need about 20,000.
“Both the California Legislature and the US Congress start again in January and the earlier we can get the necessary number of signatures to make an impact the better prepared we will be to address any proposed legislation and or regulations in 2015 ….. There is also an electronic version where people can sign …. They must be US citizens to sign.”
Records Preservation and Access Committee
GENEALOGISTS’ DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
WHEREAS, Americans have pursued the research of their family heritage since the beginning of our country; and
WHEREAS, millions of Americans derive enjoyment from genealogical exploration, consistent with the pursuit of happiness recognized by the founders of our country in our Declaration of Independence; and
WHEREAS, Americans derive substantial emotional benefit from genealogical exploration into their heritage; and
WHEREAS, many Americans derive financial benefit from the practice of professional genealogy and have performed such throughout this nation’s history; and
WHEREAS, genealogists make meaningful contributions to the fields of forensic genealogy, identification of kinships, determining the facts in legal cases such as probate court, cases involving tribal and other relationships; and
WHEREAS, thousands of genealogical and historical societies, libraries, museums, and other institutions and associations have been established throughout our land to assist all Americans in the pursuit of their family heritage; and
WHEREAS, genealogy adds substantially to the ethnic, cultural, and racial richness of which our country is composed; and
WHEREAS, the American people have recognized that the right to open government and unfettered access to the records of our government are rights which find expression in the constitutions and legislation of our federal and state governments and which enrich the lives of all Americans; and
WHEREAS, genealogists have been at the forefront of efforts to protect and preserve the precious records and documents of our genealogical and historical heritage; and
WHEREAS, genealogists, no less than other Americans, are vitally concerned for personal privacy and safety from untoward acts that diminish our freedom; and
WHEREAS, most records, including vital records, have, for all of our nation’s history, been substantially open to access,
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT KNOWN
That we, the undersigned genealogists, in pursuance of our individual and collective rights as Americans, do hereby
That genealogists possess the right to the pursuit of genealogical exploration through unfettered access to the records of our government; and
WE CALL upon our governmental representatives to recognize our rights by;
PRESERVING the freedom of the American people to access the public records of our government in a timely and orderly manner through appropriate legislation; and
REFRAINING from legislation which would prevent or render extraordinarily difficult access to the public records, principally birth, marriage, and death records collected by our state and federal governmental agencies; and
PROMOTING those principles that enhance, not diminish, our freedom of access to records; and
CELEBRATING with genealogists the valuable benefits of exploring, researching, and compiling the histories of our families, and as a result, the history of our exceptional nation.
(1)Chairperson, International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Public Records Access Monitoring Committee; IAJGS Sponsoring Member to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC)*; President, Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV)