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Keeping Watch Over Massachusetts Public Records

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The Value of Open Public Records Sponsored by the Massachusetts Genealogical Council and the Boston Public Library 6-7:30 pm Monday November 9, 2015 Commonwealth Salon, Boston Public Library, Copley Square The program is free, registration is not required. Attendees are encouraged to express their opinions and concerns in this open forum for discussion. Sharon Sergeant, MGC Vice President, will moderate a multidisciplinary panel of experts and attendees to discuss how open public records benefit our society and citizens in practical applications today. Massachusetts was an early adopter of open public records:From the Body of Liberties, Approved by the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court in 1639 and published in 1641. We will discuss how open public records benefit our society and citizens, ensuring that all laws and regulations are followed to protect civil rights, inheritance and property rights, historical and medical research advancement, records preservation and access as well as the repatriation...
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Jan Meisels Allen, IAJGS Vice President and Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee keeps MGC up-to-date on legislative developments. Here is a summary of her latest announcement. State vital records laws that redact or restrict information can stymie genealogists.  A recent example is Virginia's law allowing only Virginia residents the right to access public records. According to the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) there are eight states that have or have had similar provisions: Arkansas, Georgia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania,  Tennessee,  and Virginia.  See: Several groups and individuals are taking this provision to the U.S. Supreme Court. One person from Rhode Island and another from California are challenging the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provision on access for only Virginia citizens. Two Federal appellate courts have each ruled differently, which is why it is being appealed to the Supreme Court. A decision by the Supreme Court whether it will...
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