02 April 2015

RPAC Records Access Threat Alert Issued for Kansas

The Records Preservation and Access Committee issued a records access threat alert regarding Kansas Marriage Certificates.

Below this introductory information is that blog post in its entirety.  It includes links to various letters of concern from RPAC, IAJCS, and KCGS as well as details about the threat. The public may comment on the proposed rule change and the deadline for submitting those comments to the Kansas Supreme Court is April 12, 2015.

Although this post is about a possible change by the Kansas Supreme Court to redact important information contained in marriage records, other state genealogical societies need to be watching for new bills which could restrict access to vital records in their state since most state legislatures are now in session. However, changes to records access can come anytime from any branch of state government including executive, legislative, or judicial.

The Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies, Inc. contacted RPAC as soon as they became aware of the proposed rule. By providing background information, RPAC helped KCGS prepare a written response and respond quickly. KCGS includes approximately 60 local genealogical societies across Kansas to whom they have communicated the proposed rule change and KCGS's letter to the Supreme Court.

The RPAC mission is to advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to historical records of genealogical value in whatever media they are recorded, on means to affect legislation, and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices.

The genealogical community works together through The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), a joint committee which today includes The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) as voting members. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), and the American Society of Genealogists (ASG) also serve as participating members. RPAC also includes participation from a few of the commercial providers of genealogical information including FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, and ProQuest. RPAC meets monthly or more often if required by current events, to advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to vital records, and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices. 

If you become aware of a threat to records access or preservation in your community, do contact RPAC, access@fgs.org.

Kansas Supreme Court Rule would redact Marriage Certificates

With thanks to Jan Alpert and Jan Meisels Allen

The Judicial Administration in Labette County, Kansas recently began redacting some of the marriage information when responding to a request for copy of a marriage certificate. They were challenged as to their authority for making the redactions. It appears that as a result the challenge, the Judicial Administration in Labette County petitioned the Kansas Supreme Court to make the change to Rule 106. The Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies (KCGS) has pointed out that in proposing the change to Rule 106, the court is taking on a legislative function by trying to amend the Kansas Open Records Act. KCGS contacted RPAC for permission to use some of the information we have written on other record access issues. RPAC then worked with KCGS in coordinating our statements to the Court.

Attached is a letter recently sent by the Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies, Inc. to the Kansas Supreme Court. Public comments may be addressed to Publiccomments@kscourts.org until April 12, 2015. Genealogists are encouraged to write.

KCGS letter is here KCGSSupremeCourtResponse.

Genealogists is other states need to be aware that most state legislatures are now in session and legislation or administrative rules could be introduced which restrict access to vital records in your state. If you are facing new legislation contact RPAC at access@fgs.org for assistance in coordinating the participation and response from both the state and national genealogical organizations.

 Editor's Note: Thanks to Jan Alpert (former NGS President) for keeping NGS posted on this issue

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