Genealogists Declaration of Rights Launched by Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC)

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

The genealogical community has been fighting the problems with governments worldwide- national and state/province/local—which impede access to vital records with the misconception that genealogists may be the cause of identity theft and the issue of privacy.  The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC)  launched a Genealogists Declaration of Rights at the recent National Genealogical Society conference in Richmond Virginia. Over 500 conference attendees signed the Genealogists Declaration of  Rights in books with sign-up pages by individual states.  The intent is to attach the Declaration with the appropriate state pages along with letters on specific access records issues to demonstrate to elected officials and regulators that their constituents care about records access. RPAC is a committee on which IAJGS is a sponsoring member along with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the National Genealogical Society. Other genealogical organizations also participate: American Society of Genealogists (ASG), Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAP-Gen).

All three sponsoring organizations’ Board of Directors—FGS, NGS and IAJGS-- unanimously voted to endorse the Genealogists Declaration of Rights.  To read about this, including an RPAC press release and most importantly a link to digitally sign the Genealogists Declaration of Rights go to the IAJGS website: .   The electronic version of the Declaration is available at

The Declaration will also be available at the IAJGS  34th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City, UT 27 July-1 August  and at the FGS conference in San Antonio, TX 27-30 August.  The” I Signed” sticker depicted on the upper left on the website  posting was given to all those who signed and will also be available at the IAJGS and FGS conferences.

During the NGS Luncheon on May 10 copies of the over 500 signatures on the Genealogists Declaration of Rights was presented to Patricia Potrzebowski, Ph.D., the executive director of the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), the group that developed the Model Vital Records Act which the embargo dates for vital records:125 years for birth, 100 years for marriage and 75 years for death records and requires indices to have similar embargo dates.  Adoption of all or part of the Model Vital Records Act is voluntary by each state.

RPAC debated about making this an international Declaration but with privacy laws varying by country it was decided to go forth for US-only at this time.  The IAJGS Board of Directors is very aware that 1/3 of its members are outside the United States and encourage genealogical societies outside the United States to launch a similar declaration in their countries—in cooperation with other genealogical organizations in their home country.  IAJGS is willing to assist with these outside US launches of similar declarations.

When you visit the IAJGS website to read about the launch of the Declaration you will recognize some of the  “famous” genealogists who signed the Declaration at the NGS conference (L to R) Judy Russell—The Legal Genealogist; Janet Alpert- Chairperson- RPAC; Dick Eastman – Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter; Jan Meisels Allen- Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee and IAJGS representative to RPAC and Crista Cowan—

Please share the information in this posting with others you know who are concerned about records access—by email and in your newsletters and blogs.

In the US the National Public Radio (NPR) had a brief discussion on the recent European Union Court decision to invalidate its Data Protection Directive and the Right to be Forgotten. The Georgetown University Professor Meg Ambrose who was being interviewed cited a recent California law which permits minors to have embarrassing materials removed from their Facebook page. While that law addresses only minors Professor Ambrose believes the conversation of the “right to be forgotten” will be a conversation held in the United States even though the European Union Court decision does not affect what happens in the United States.  To listen to the 5 minute interview on NPR go to: Original url:

*The California law was signed September 2013 and is called w Senate Bill 568, “Privacy Rights for California Minors in a Digital World”.  S.B. 568 includes a provision known as the “Delete Button” or “Eraser” law, which allows minors under 18 to request that companies delete specified information that the requestor had previously posted online  The law becomes effective January 2015.. To read Chapter 336 of the2013 Laws of California see:

Thank you to Jan Alpert, chairperson, Records Preservation and Access Committee for alerting us to the NPR interview.

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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