EU Data Protection Regulation — 7 Oct Meeting of Ministries of Justice

With thanks to Jan Meisels Allen, IAJGS Vice President updating our RPAC post of  2 September 2013

I have previously written about the European Union’s proposed Data Privacy Regulation and the concerns of the genealogical community with the potential for loss of access to records of genealogical value. On October 7 the Ministries for Justice and Home Affairs of the 28 Member States of the European Union met in Luxembourg to further discuss the proposed regulation.  The Ministers were unable to agree on a particular key provision—known as the “one stop shop” principle which resulted in a further postponement of discussion and possible vote until December.  To read the proposed regulation see:

Original url:

The ‘one stop shop” principle, Chapter IV of the draft regulation, would change the current rule that requires multinationals processing personal data established in several EU member countries  to comply with the local requirements of each jurisdiction. The proposal would instead have a supervisory authority of the “main” establishment be in control. The concern by some of the EU countries is that the there is a potential for “forum shopping” going to the jurisdiction offering the lowest level of protection.  While this is not an issue that directly affects genealogists, the fact that the proposed regulation vote has been postponed for the fourth time is of interest to us.  In May 2014 there will be elections and a new European Union Council will be seated, which may affect the decision-making about this proposed regulation.  Once a regulation is adopted by the European Union, then all of the EU member countries are required to comply with the uniform regulation.

To read about the  October 7 meeting see:

Original url:

Jan Meisels Allen

IAJGS Vice President

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Share Button

Records Access on Extreme Genes Radio

Records access has been a significant topic at the major genealogical conferences this year sponsored by RootsTech, the National Genealogical Society, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, the Federation of Genealogical Societies among others.

It was also a topic addressed on an early session of a new offering from longtime Salt Lake City radio personality Scott Fisher who has created a new radio show and website ( which he suggests is “Like a ‘Drudge Report’ for family history news.”  

During my appearance as a guest in August, we discussed ongoing efforts to dismantle the Social Security Death Index and further limit access to vital records.

Fisher’s vision for “Extreme Genes: Family History Radio” is more fully described in a recent newspaper article found at:  

He promises to share amusing and interesting family history stories, a welcome addition to our community’s effort to explain why we do family history and how society benefits from our labors.

Share Button

European Union Proposed Data Protection Regulation — Updated

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) has weighed in on the European Union Proposed Data Protection Regulation with a letter addressed to each of the Ministers of Justice of all of the current 28 European Union member Countries.  With thanks to Jan Meisels Allen, IAJGS Vice President and RPAC member:

IAJGS letter re EU Proposed Data Protection Regulations: EU Data Protection Letter UK-1

Jan addressed this topic at some length during the RPAC Session at the FGS Annual Conference held last month in Fort Wayne.

You may have previously seen the following reports reflecting concern that proposed Draft European Union Data Protection Regulations could adversely impact genealogical access:

More recently, European Archivists have also expressed their concerns that the proposed Data Protection Regulation really means a heavy attack at the future of genealogical and historical research in Europe. The Greece, German, Polish, Norway and Italian associations of archivists have already protested (see the attached link:


In addition to the IAJGS letters to all 28 European Union member countries, RPAC letters were sent to the appropriate representatives of England and Germany similar to the following:

RPAC Letter to Minister Albrecht

Much more to come.



Share Button

RPAC at FGS Ft. Wayne — Updated 15 September

Once again records access issues will be a significant topic at a major genealogical conference.

RPAC Committee, State Liaisons, State Genealogy Society Presidents, and others interested in current threats to vital records, are encouraged to join us for the RPAC Presentation at FGS, Wednesday, 21 August 2013, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. For those attending the FGS Conference next week in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Session W106 is titled “Strategies for Protecting Access to State Vital Records.”    Slides for this presentation [RPACatFGS2013] are found on the Publications Page of this blog:  .  A recording of this session can be ordered from  as Item #21585.  Note– The presenters for this session have chosen to donate any royalties from this recording to the FGS Preserve the Pensions Project to digitize the War of 1812 pension files.

Hear representatives of the Records Preservation and Access Committee discuss:

  • What is RPAC, who participates, and how does RPAC respond to threats against access to vital records?
  • How the draft 2011 Model Vital Statistics Act may extend the time vital records are closed to the public
  • Actions being considered by the European Union which would limit access to vital records in EU countries
  • A review of several bills pending in the US Congress which will limit or close access to the Social Security Death Index
  • Learn how you can help protect access to vital records by visiting and writing your state and federal representatives.

And on Friday the 23rd of August, The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell will offer her insights on the topic of

Roadblocks, Red Lights and Detours: Records Access Issues

Session F-328, Friday 2:00-3:00 PM

In her words:

”  This was supposed to be the Age of the Information Superhighway. Physical access to courthouses and archives, coupled with massive digitization projects and easy availability of Internet access, should have made this a genealogist’s dream: a time when everybody had access to just about any kind of information residing anywhere. It hasn’t worked out quite that way. Even as so many records are becoming so much more accessible as they come online, doors are being slammed shut on so many more — often records that aren’t and won’t be online, now and perhaps ever.”

Join us in Ft. Wayne!.

Share Button

Identity Theft Related Tax Fraud at the IRS — Hearing Friday 2 August — updated

The Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing  in Room 2247 RHOB at 9:00am EDT, Friday the 2nd of August 2013 entitled: “Examining the Skyrocketing Problem of Identity Theft Related Tax Fraud at the IRS.”

To watch the hearing live (and possibly later) we are instructed to go to the committee calendar page at      

I was unable to call up the streaming video at the announced time but am advised that the hearing is in recess and  will be seen upon the completion of a floor vote..  The press release and witness statements have been posted as anticipated.

More to come.

Updated 10 August–  The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) has submitted  the attached  Statement for the Record for this hearing in response to an invitation from the committee.  Final statement SSDI House Oversight Committee Aug 2013

Share Button

2013 State Legislative Accomplishments

With thanks to Jan Alpert, RPAC Chair:

As the legislative year draws to a close in most states, it is a good time to assess its impact on genealogists. RPAC, member organizations, and concerned genealogists wrote letters to appropriate legislators, committee chairs, and governors. We are pleased to report that—when the genealogical community became aware of an issue and responded—we had a favorable impact on legislation. Record closures were averted or remained unchanged in several states.


As we reported in March, a Working Group consisting of state and local vital statistics executives and one lawyer, drafted the 2011 Revision of the Model Vital Statistics Act which extends the closure periods for access to vital records to 125 years after the date of a live birth, 75 years after the date of death, or 100 years after the date of marriage or divorce.  You can read the proposed 2011 Model Act at 


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put the 2011 Revision “on hold” in April 2012. Impatient for its DHHS approval, the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) endorsed the Model act in 2011. Frustrated by the delay in approval at the federal level, several state vital records officials introduced the 2011 Model Act in their state legislatures.

  • Oklahoma was the first state to approve the revised Model Act, which remained unnoticed until early 2013 when the new procedures for accessing vital records were implemented.
  • Washington: RPAC first heard about the 2011 Model Act being introduced at an administrative committee in Washington State early in 2013. Genealogists immediately became involved and the issue never made it out of the committee.
  • Texas: The 2011 Model Act was introduced in the Texas state legislature. The Texas genealogical community testified against the bill and it again died in committee, in part because the vital records officers were unable to present any compelling reasons to extend the closure dates for accessing vital records.
  • Oregon: The 2011 Model Vital Statistics Act was introduced in Oregon. Although other provisions of the bill passed, there was no change to the existing vital records closure periods. In the hearings Mitch Greenlick, chair of the House Health Care Committee, commented about the volume of responses against the Act from genealogists.


After the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, the Town Clerk initiated legislation to close access to death records that have been public and open records since the earliest settlement of the state. Again after testimony by several genealogical organizations and letters from many organizations, including RPAC and the press, the legislation died on the floor. Another bill which passed at the last minute and mostly impacts the press, authorizes police to withhold crime scene photographs and 911 audio recordings where the individual speaking describes the condition of a homicide victim.


California also had a last-minute trailer bill tacked on to the budget, which would have made the delivery of documents by county and town officials optional. We were not quite sure if this bill included documents for which the requestor paid a fee such as copies of vital records and deeds, or whether it applied to requests for copies of administrative meeting minutes.  The press and genealogy organizations, including RPAC, wrote letters objecting to the legislation. As a result the Governor vetoed the bill and a replacement bill was passed and signed without this objectionable provision.


In addition to the above, RPAC also wrote the Governor of Georgia and several of the Georgia Senate and House committee chairs, objecting to the severe cuts to the Georgia Archives budget. As a result of several months of activities by the Georgia Genealogical Society, supported by RPAC, partial funding was restored and the Archives were transferred from the Secretary of State to the Georgia University System.


Action Steps: We expect the 2011 Model Vital Statistics Act to be introduced in many more states in the next legislative sessions. We also need to be alert to the possibility that some of the provisions may be introduced as state regulations.  We encourage the president of each State Genealogical Society and the APG Chapter President to visit with the chairman of the House and/or Senate Health Services Committee in your state before any legislation is introduced. Educate them on the importance of family history and especially family health history that requires timely access to death records.  Genealogists recognize there are many beneficial reasons to update the Model Act, but the provisions extending the closure periods for access to vital records are not necessary and will have a detrimental effect. To date the Model Act proponents have been unable to present any compelling reasons to extend the closure periods limiting access to vital records.


RPAC would appreciate hearing about the results of any legislative visits at Also let RPAC know any way we can help support your efforts.


Share Button

California Records Access Threat– Journalists & Genealogists Respond — Updated

This has been a tumultuous week since we first became aware that the California Legislature intended to consider a proposal that would have made compliance with a California Public Records Act request voluntary, potentially undermining public access to public records..

An RPAC letter to Governor Brown voicing our concerns is attached here:  CA AB 76-1:

IAJGS also sent a letter to the Governor attached here:  IAJGS Veto Request- CA AB 76 Final

This action was originally suggested  as part of the governor’s budget proposal as a vehicle for cutting “tens of millions” of dollars annually from the state budget.  The legal framework applicable in California would require that if a state statute imposes  a mandate upon county and local agencies, the state must reimburse for the cost of compliance.  The intended effect of  making compliance voluntary, would have been to shift costs from the state budget books entirely to the subordinate jurisdictions.

The California Constitutional aspects of this issue were well addressed by The Legal Genealogist (Judy Russell) in her blog entry of 19 June 2013.  .

Journalists and open-government advocates were outraged.  There has been an informative (and, at times entertaining) running commentary in local newspapers as this saga has unfolded.  Typically:





(6)  Dan Walters Daily: Legislative scramble a bit like Laurel & Hardy

With thanks to RPAC Member Jan Meisels Allen for continuing to monitor this developing issue.





Share Button

Georgia Archives — This Feels Like Progress!

With thanks to Elizabeth Olsen, RPAC State Liaison for Georgia for sharing a blog posting from GeorgiaArchivesMatters, a blog by volunteer advocates for the Georgia Archives, mostly from the Georgia Genealogical Society:

June 14, 2013 · 4:45 pm

More Good News From the Archives

At today’s Lunch and Learn program, Georgia Archives Director Christopher Davidson announced that the Archives will be adding staff, increasing hours for part-time employees and, yes, opening to the public for two additional days per week.

Here are the highlights:

  • Hiring three additional professionals
  • Increasing part-time staff hours
  • Opening to the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning July 31. Weekly hours will be Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Increasing conservation and processing activities of the Archives collections

The Archives will report to Steve Wrigley, Executive Vice Chancellor Administration, of the University System of Georgia.

Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who helped make this happen, as well as Gov. Nathan Deal and the members of the Georgia legislature.

Vivian Price Saffold

Share Button

Oregon Update– House & Senate action on HB2093

Genealogists join with funeral directors, State Archivists, Circuit Courts and Council of local Health Officials to change legislative proposal that would have extended  confidentiality periods of vital records.  Chairman questions need for confidentiality of vital records.

Audio of House Health Care Committee Markup [Note Chairman’s remarks at 6:20 of hearing]

0410 Oregon HB2093-4

RPAC Statement to Oregon House Health Care Committee

Oregon state vital records statement final

With thanks to Jan Meisels Allen  for the following narrative:

House Committee Markup On April 10th

I don’t know how many of you listened in to the hearing or accessed the audio only archives—but we won! The hearing was only on the amended version I sent out earlier today —4  and is attached again which keeps the birth records at 100 years, and death, marriage, divorce, annulment and partnership at 50 years.  See Section SECTION 33. ORS 432.121 (7a)  (page 73)   It also removes the restriction on cause of death that is in the existing statute.   See Section SECTION 33. ORS 432.121 (3)  [page 69] in the italicized ( redacted) portion and nothing comparable in the new language (bold)  page 70-71.


The  person presenting the bill was Jennifer Woodward, state registrar for public records and she mentioned that the amended version was a gut and stuff- but 80% of the bill was current statutory language.  She emphasized while the amendments accommodated the funeral directors, state archivist, council of cites and genealogists and emphasized genealogists.  There were two genealogists that testified—they had originally opposed the bill but dropped their opposition to the bill with the amended version. The Chairman said he doesn’t understand the privacy concerns and for another day would like to get down to 0-1 year wait period!  The bill goes straight to the House floor- could be as early as this Friday or next Monday and then to the Senate Health Committee. I spoke with the staff following the hearing and a letter of support to the amended version to the Senate Health Care and Human Services Committee would be worthwhile. Contact information is available at:


If you want to hear the archives go to: scroll down to archives 2013 and then Archives of Committee Meetings from the 2013 Session then House Committee on Health Care with today’s date—you  need to download RealPlayer- its free and there is a link on the site. You can move the time to 37.30 for the bill we are interested in and the full time and testimony and vote ends by 47.1.

Senate Committee Action —  Floor vote pending as of May 10th

Oregon HB 2093A (as amended and passed in the House as we supported it)  was heard in the Oregon Senate Health Care and Human Services Committee on May 9.  Looking at the legislative website it passed 4-0 ( one committee member was excused). It is now waiting to be sent to the floor of the Senate for vote and with no unexpected occurrences it should pass and go to the governor for signature.  The bill as it was passed –no changes from the House is located at: the issue we are interested in is on page 42.



Share Button

RPAC at NGS Las Vegas this week– Wednesday the 8th of May

Records preservation and access issues will be addressed in at least three sessions at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Las Vegas this week.

The APG Luncheon on Wednesday, the 8th of May, will feature Harold Henderson, CG addressing the topic “It’s not just SSDI:  How We Can Advocate for Geanealogy While Still Practicing It” in Ballroom C.

On Wednesday, the 8th of May, Melinde Lutz Burne will suggest that active advocacy is our only recourse in a world where public records document private lives. Her lecture entitled “Advocacy for Record Access” will be held in Ballroom F beginning at 2:30pm Pacific Daylight time.

Later in the afternoon, beginning at 4:00pm Pacific Daylight Time in Pavilion 6, three members of the Records Preservation and Access Committee will lead a discussion entitled “RPAC Strategies in a Changing Environment: Fraud Protection v. Access”. Access to genealogical information is under attack. Featuring Janet A. Alpert (new Chair of RPAC), Jan Meisels Allen (representative from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies), and Frederick E. Moss (legal advisor to FGS) we will survey recent challenges and suggest ways in which individual genealogist can become involved and make a difference.

If you are in Las Vegas, please join us. RPAC members and RPAC State Liaisons have been given instructions which can enable them to participate remotely. Contact if you have any questions.

Share Button