23 March 2010

Mass. Records Closed to 1841?

Do you have Massachusetts ancestry? Barbara J. Mathews, CG, President of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council, alerts us to Massachusetts Senate Bill 820, which will close all vital records after 1841. Yes, that is not a typo: 1841.

S820 states that only the person named in a vital record or his parent, guardian, or attorney can look at a record or get a certified copy of a record. This law applies for records all the way back to 1841, that is, to all the birth and marriage records for the last 169 years.

The bill's text eliminates the current section that closes out-of-wedlock births and replaces the entire section with text that closes all births and marriages. Proposed by Patricia D. Jehlen of the Second Middlesex District, the last sentence states, "The provisions of this section shall not apply to such records, returns or notices recorded or filed prior to January first, eighteen hundred and forty-one or to such copies thereof.” You can see the full text at http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st00/st00820.htm

We cannot ignore this bill. Please write to members of the House Ways and Means Committee right away to stop this bill from moving forward. Massachusetts is an open records state and has been so since 1641.

To access a list of the Massachusetts House Ways and Means members, go to http://www.mass.gov/legis/comm/h34.htm. From the committee listing, you can click on the name of any member and go to that member's personal page. Full contact information is on the member's page, including telephone, mail, and email. Put "Against Senate Bill 820" in the subject line of your email. Genealogists, protect your interests!