Action needed for the Preserving the American Historical Record Act

Congressmen Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Chris Cannon (R-UT) have issued a “dear colleagues” letter to the members of the House of Representatives, inviting them to sign on as original sponsors to the “Preserving the American Historical Record” (PAHR) bill.

PAHR proposed to increase federal support for state and local archival records held by government agencies, historical societies, libraries, and related organizations. This initiative would establish a program of formula-based grants to states for re-grants and statewide services to support preservations and use of historical records. The program, to be administered by the National Archives, will provide a total of $50 million per year nationwide. Each state would receive a portion of these funds for redistribution to organizations within its borders. This program would be in addition to the existing national grants program within the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

How can you help?

Contact your Representative in Congress and urge them to sign on as an original sponsor of PAHR. Write a few sentences telling him or her how PAHR would help his or her constituents — you! (Tell them how vital it is to have records preserved and available to the public.) Also, spread the word about this action alert!

Time is critical. Deadline for action is Saturday, May 10.

Faxing your Representative is the preferred method of communication. The Humanities Advocacy Network maintains a website with all of the contact information for legislators: http://www.humanitiesadvocacy.org/action_ctr.html

Further information about PAHR, including the bill, background information, and the amount of funding for each state can be found at:

http://www.archivists.org/pahr/

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Study of State Laws and Records Access

An Associated Press study of state laws passed in the five years after 9/11 found that more than 1,000 laws regarding access to records were passed. Of these, for every one law that gave greater access there were more than two laws that restricted access.

The article can be found at: http://www.cjog.net/documents/AP_Sunshine_Week_Reports.pdf

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New Jersey Vital Records Bill

New Jersey has introduced legislation pertaining to access to vital records. Bill A326 “establishes guidelines for dissemination of vital records,” and can be found at:

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillView.asp?BillNumber=A326

It keeps the same guidelines for genealogical (non-certified) copies: available 80 years after a birth, 50 years after a marriage, and 40 years after a death.

However, Section 2 states, “Vital records shall not be deemed to be a public or government record pursuant to P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) or P.L.2001, c.404 (C.47:1A-5 et seq.).”

Further, Section 5 states, “A person or entity that uses, transfers, sells, shares or otherwise discloses any information as described in subsection b. of section 3 of this act in a manner that is not authorized under the provisions of this act or any other law shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree and shall thereafter be prohibited from making application to obtain any such information pursuant to this act.” It is unclear what would be the implications would be to genealogists using or sharing vital records.

Bill A326 is sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan M. Quigley (District 32, Bergen and Hudson) and Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (District 35, Bergen and Passaic); it is co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle.

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Vermont Bills Concerning Death Certificates

Vermont House Bill H397 and Senate Bill S319 were recently introduced. Each calls for the redaction of Social Security numbers and causes of death from Vermont death certificates.

Link to H 397: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/legdoc.cfm?URL=/docs/2008/bills/intro/H-397.HTM

Link to S 319: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/legdoc.cfm?URL=/docs/2008/bills/intro/S-319.HTM

H 397 had a second hearing on February 1; S 319 will have its second reading very soon.

Representative Peg Flory, a member of the Vermont Judiciary Committee, has informed RPAC that the intent of the bill is to redact the information from the public copy at the Town Clerks offices, but that the information would be left on the copy at the Department of Health. According to Rep. Flory, “I expect we will be working to rewrite the bill so that it clearly gives access to anyone through the Dept. of Health.”

The Senate has not received the House Bill yet; the Government Operations office explained that they will wait until receipt of the bill to set the hearing date and to see what amendments have been made.

David Rencher, RPAC Chair, sent a letter from RPAC to Representative William J. Lippert, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, explaining RPAC’s position on the importance of keeping the Social Security numbers and the cause of death on the certificates. (Read a copy of the RPAC letter.)

RPAC member Jan Meisels Allen sent a letter from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. (Read a copy of the IAJGS letter.)

RPAC will keep you updated with developments on these bills.

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Draft of NARA Digitizing Plan

From Jenny Heaps at NARA:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is seeking public comment on its draft Plan for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public Access, 2007-2016. This draft plan outlines our planned strategies to digitize and make more accessible the historic holdings from the National Archives of the United States.

The plan can be found at: http://www.archives.gov/comment/digitizing-plan.html

Comments due: November 9, 2007

Send comments to: Vision@nara.gov or by fax to 301-837-0319.

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Council of State Archivists Project

The Council of State Archivists received a two year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to study and analyze the current conditions of preservation of records at the local level and to make recommendations as to the best standards and funding strategies to ensure long term preservation and access to local government records.

RPAC member Jan Alpert served on a user panel.

The recommendations to date can be found at:
http://www.statearchivists.org/lga/index.htm

This is a work in progress; final recommendations should be out soon.

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NARA fee increases to go into effect

From the August 17, 2007 Federal Register:

“NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] is revising its fees for reproduction of records and other materials in the custody of the Archivist of the United States. This rule covers reproduction of Federal records created by other agencies that are in the National Archives of the United States, donated historical materials, Presidential records, Nixon Presidential historical materials, and records filed with the Office of the Federal Register. The fees are being changed to reflect current costs of providing the reproductions. This rule will affect the public and Federal agencies.”

Effective Date: October 1, 2007

The new fees will be:

Passenger arrival lists (NATF Form 81) – $25.00
Federal Census requests (NATF Form 82) – $25.00
Eastern Cherokee applications to the Court of Claims (NATF Form 83) – $25.00
Land entry records (NATF Form 84) – $40.00
Full pension file more than 75 years old (Civil War and after), up to and including 100
pages (NATF Form 85) – $75.00
Full pension file (pre-Civil War) (NATF Form 85) – $50.00
Pension documents packet (selected records) (NATF Form 85) – $25.00
Bounty land warrant application files (NATF Form 85) – $25.00
Military service files more than 75 years old (NATF Form 86) – $25.00

[NOTE: the fee for the full pension more than 75 years old (Civil War and after) ended up being $75, rather than the $125 which NARA had previously proposed. Genealogists working together can get results!]

Photocopy fees will be:

Paper-to-paper copy made by the customer on a NARA self-service copier in the Washington, DC area – $0.25
Paper-to-paper copy made by the customer on a NARA self-service copier outside the Washington, DC, area (regional archives and Presidential libraries) – $0.20
Paper-to-paper copy made by NARA – $0.75
Paper-to-paper copy made by NARA for full Civil War pension files (NATF Form 85) beyond the first 100 pages – $0.65
Microfilm-to-paper copy made by the customer on a NARA self-service copier – $0.50

The full edition of the entry in the Federal Register can be viewed here.

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