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Monday, Nov 24, 2014
Lifestyle Stories

Genealogists unite to push ‘Declaration of Rights’


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One of a genealogist’s greatest frustrations is learning that important records about his ancestors have not survived time, floods, fire and neglect.

Equally frustrating is learning that a record does exist but that the government has closed the files to the public.

Now all of the major genealogical entities around the country are uniting to keep open or gain access to records that will solve family mysteries and prove or disprove lore and relationships.

National Genealogical Society President Jordan Jones recently released The Genealogists Declaration of Rights, developed by the Records and Preservation and Access Committee.

The declaration was approved by the boards of directors of the three sponsoring organizations: the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

Also participating on the committee were the Association of Professional Genealogists, the Board for Certification of Genealogists, the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, and the American Society of Genealogists.

The declaration purports that genealogists have the right of genealogical exploration through unfettered access to the records of our government and calls upon government representatives to recognize these rights through four steps:

♦  Preserve the freedom of the American people to access the public records of the government in a timely and orderly manner through appropriate legislation.

♦  Refrain from legislation that would prevent or render extraordinarily difficult access to the public records (principally birth, marriage, and death records collected by state and federal governmental agencies.)

♦  Promote principles that enhance, not diminish, access to records.

♦  Celebrate with genealogists the benefits of exploring, researching, and compiling the histories of our families and, as a result, the history of our exceptional nation.

Introductory remarks to the declaration pointed out that Americans have pursued family heritage research since the beginning of the country and that millions of citizens derive enjoyment from the exploration, consistent with the pursuit of happiness that the country’s founders recognized in the Declaration of Independence.

During the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference held in May in Richmond, genealogists from almost 50 states signed the declaration, which now will travel to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference in July in Salt Lake City and the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in August in San Antonio, Texas. Genealogists not able to attend either of these conferences can sign the declaration online at http://bit .ly/gen-declaration.

This declaration is a milestone in the genealogical community in that it shows a united focus on an issue that has infuriated researchers over the past few years as various governing authorities have sought to close records in the name of stopping identity theft and fraud.

It will be interesting to see how the developers utilize the declaration and whether they can educate and open the minds of authorities who can make a difference in the genealogical community.

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If you are even vaguely considering attending the 2015 National Genealogical Society Conference in St. Charles, Mo., now is the time to book your hotel. Organizers have contracted with nine local hotels to house attendees; two already have sold out for the convention, which will be held May 13 to 15.

Registration for the conference has not yet opened. Sessions will be at the St. Charles Conference Center. The sold-out hotels are the two closest to the center. Although shuttle buses will run among all the official hotels and the conference center, it’s usually more fun and more convenient to be in the hub of things. Check out the details and get hotel links at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/attend/accommodations.

Sharon Tate Moody is a board-certified genealogist. Send your genealogical methodology questions and event announcements to her at stmoody0720@mac.com. She regrets she is unable to assist with personal research and cannot respond to requests for locating or researching individuals. Past Heritage Hunting columns are available online at tbo.com, search words “Sharon Tate Moody.”

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