White Paper on Open Access to Public Records: A Genealogical Persepective

The genealogical community, represented by the FGS/NGS Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) which includes the (Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) have worked for well over a year developing a white paper to be used to address open access to records. The paper is entitled: Open Access to Public Records: A Genealogical Perspective. The IAJGS Board has endorsed the paper as is noted on page 2 of the document. IAJGS's Public Records Access Monitoring Committee worked on the paper throughout the past year providing input into the development of the paper. The IAJGS serves on the RPAC addressing the issues of access to records. You may access the paper by going to the IAJGS website (http://www.iajgs.org/). Under Public Records Access, go to the newspaper boy icon in the middle of the home page and click where it says "White Paper: Open Access to Public Records". This will take you to the link on the RPAC website. Once on the RPAC site please click where it says to click, (the name of the document) and the document may be downloaded or printed. It is in a pdf format and the reader will need Adobe Reader to access it. Adobe Reader may be downloaded at no cost by going to: http://www.adobe.com/

The competing issues of concern over the proliferation of personal information now made available and secondly, the need to legitimately identify a country’s citizens through official records that support that claim, presents a significant challenge for local, state and federal lawmakers as they strive to ensure national security, combat terrorism and respond to the privacy needs of their electorate. The genealogical community is in complete support of lawmakers protecting sensitive information from misuse by those perpetrating crimes of identity theft or other illicit activities.

The RPAC is leading the genealogical community to openly share perspectives on these vital issues and add their support to fostering education between lawmakers and genealogists. The committee believes that open communication between the nation’s genealogists and lawmakers can strike a reasonable balance between the public’s right to know while maintaining the lawmaker’s responsibility to its constituents.

This document is a project by the RPAC to provide information to lawmakers and those called to implement legislation about the genealogical community’s perspective of open access to records. The document is seen as a "living" document and will be updated periodically as needed.

Jan Meisels Allen
Director, IAJGS and Chairperson,
Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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