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Organizing and speaking out

The pins started showing up at the National Genealogical Society conference in Richmond last week.

voteIn red, white and blue, they read simply:

Genealogists VOTE.

Yes, we do.

We vote at the ballot box like all Americans in our local, state and national elections.

We vote with our research dollars when we ask for copies of documents critical to our family’s history.

We vote with our feet when we choose a repository where we’ll do physical research into those documents.

And it’s time to remind those we vote for just what we stand for when it comes to records access.

And, to that end, the the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) — a joint committee led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, with participation by the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Board for Certification of Genealogists — launched an initiative at the NGS conference: a genealogical declaration of rights.

RPAC set up a booth in the exhibit hall and asked every attendee to sign the Declaration. Genealogists from almost ever state signed the Declaration there, and it will be going on the road to the 34th IAJGS conference in Salt Lake City 27 July–1 August 2014 and the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in San Antonio 27–30 August 2014.

For those not attending one of these conferences, the Declaration is online in a Google Docs format and can be signed electronically there.

Take a minute to read it, please. Then add your name to that of The Legal Genealogist and thousands of others as we remind our elected officials that, yes, indeed, Genealogists VOTE. And if they want us to vote for them, well, …

Declaration of the Rights of Genealogists

WHEREAS, Americans have pursued the research of their family heritage since the beginning of our country; and

WHEREAS, millions of Americans derive enjoyment from genealogical exploration, consistent with the pursuit of happiness recognized by the founders of our country in our Declaration of Independence; and

WHEREAS, Americans derive substantial emotional benefit from genealogical exploration into their heritage; and

WHEREAS, many Americans derive financial benefit from the practice of professional genealogy and have performed such throughout this nation’s history; and

WHEREAS, genealogists make meaningful contributions to the fields of forensic genealogy, identification of kinships, determining the facts in legal cases such as probate court, cases involving tribal and other relationships; and

WHEREAS, thousands of historical and genealogical societies, libraries, museums, and other institutions and associations have been established throughout our land to assist all Americans in the pursuit of their family heritage; and

WHEREAS, genealogy adds substantially to the ethnic, cultural, and racial richness of which our country is composed; and

WHEREAS, the American people have recognized that the right to open government and unfettered access to the records of our government are rights which find expression in the constitutions and legislation of our federal and state governments and which enrich the lives of all Americans; and

WHEREAS, genealogists have been at the forefront of efforts to protect and preserve the precious records and documents of our genealogical and historical heritage; and

WHEREAS, genealogists, no less than other Americans, are vitally concerned for personal privacy and safety from untoward acts that diminish our freedom; and

WHEREAS, most records, including vital records, have, for all of our nation’s history, been substantially open to access,


That we, the undersigned genealogists, in pursuance of our individual and collective rights as Americans, do hereby


That genealogists possess the right to the pursuit of genealogical exploration through unfettered access to the records of our government; and

WE CALL upon our governmental representatives to recognize our rights by;

PRESERVING the freedom of the American people to access the public records of our government in a timely and orderly manner through appropriate legislation; and

REFRAINING from legislation which would prevent or render extraordinarily difficult access to the public records, principally birth, marriage, and death records collected by our state and federal governmental agencies; and

PROMOTING those principles that enhance, not diminish, our freedom of access to records; and

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

Once again, you can join in by electronically signing the Declaration online. The link is here.

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