Friday, November 21, 2014

Preserving Right to Access Puclic Records


I recently received this important notice about preserving access to genealogical records and felt it was very important to share with all of you. The message is copied here below:
Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights
We Need Your Support!
Did you know that the Social Security Death Index is no longer accessible until three years after someone’s death?
Did you know that State Vital Records Officers have a Model Act which if passed in your state will close access to birth records for 125 years, marriage records for 100 years, and death records for 75 years?
We need to let Congress and our state legislatures know that genealogists need access to public records and GENEALOGISTS VOTE! You can help by signing the Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights and by asking your societies to encourage their members to sign the Declaration.
We obtained more than a 1,000 signatures at the national genealogical conferences this summer and almost 3,000 signatures online. We need 10,000 signatures before Congress and the state legislatures begin their next legislative sessions in January. We need YOU to sign the Declaration. Take five minutes and sign the Declaration in support of access to public records at http://bit.ly/gen-declaration
Genealogical Societies are encouraged to include articles about the Declaration in its Blog or newsletter, obtain signatures at the monthly meetings, and obtain signatures at local, state and regional conferences. Whenever genealogists are together obtain original signatures of your members or conference participants including the date signed, signature, printed name, and city and state of residence where they vote. Please use the downloadable PDF form at http://bit.ly/gen-declaration to gather this information.
Because we compile signatures by state, a separate page needs to be set up for each state. Please scan each page of signatures and send a copy to Jan Alpert, the RPAC chair, janalpert@aol.com since Jan is responsible for compiling signatures for the respective states. Be sure to include the name of the genealogical society or organization at the top of each signature page. State societies may want to keep the original signatures for use on legislative issues in your state. Upon receipt of scanned signature pages from a society, RPAC will send a “We Signed” sticker for the society website or blog.
A copy of the Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights and signature form can also be found on the RPAC Blog at http://tinyurl.com/obkrygn. Check the Blog regularly for updates on legislation which may impact genealogists’ access to public records.
The Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights is a statement advocating open access to federal, state, and local public records. The Declaration affirms America’s long history of open public records, which has been threatened the last few years over concerns about identity theft and privacy. The Declaration of Rights has been approved by the board of directors of the three sponsoring organizations of the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC): The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). The Declaration will be presented to the appropriate legislative committee chairs or Executive Branch of government together with a specific statement about RPAC’s position on a proposed law or regulation.
The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) is a joint committee of the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) as sponsoring members. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen), and the American Society of Genealogists (ASG) also serve as participating members. RPAC meets monthly to inform and advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to vital records and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices at the federal, state, and occasionally the local level.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Celebrating 45,000 Blog Views Research Review

 In celebrating reaching 45,000 blog views yesterday, in less than five years, I want to share my latest completed project results. This project started in mid-August of this year. See previous blog post, Caught Up in the Research.  In less than three months the extended family comprised 322 people and 99 marriages. While there are additional people and marriages, the project focused on the direct line families. This may seem like a small database of names, but there were 134 documents copied, many others indexed only information, and several online family trees accessed. The concluding thirty-four page report included ten pages of document information.

When we met at a public library, the family was provided two large notebooks, one for each direct family line and a flash drive with digital copies of the report and database. The results of over twelve hours of work produced: 76 US Census records, 9 birth records, 12 marriage records, 15 death certificates, 2 prison pages and a mug shot, 1 passenger list, 3 land records, 15 military records and information on several online family trees. In answering the question of who the grandfather was two records were critical in determining this. The first was the book about the family containing information on the grandfather, his wives and children. The second was the prison record.

The prison record provided the following information (with some withheld for privacy):
Missouri State Archives, Missouri State Penitentiary Index, Prison Register, Register #______, ________________, age 38, born Missouri, work Interior Decorator, 5’6 ¾ ”, length of foot 10”, hair M. Brown, eyes lt. Brown, complexion ruddy, religion Catholic, education 2 yrs. high,
Former Imprisonment - 1 yr. Workhouse St. Louis, Mo. 1937; #42689 P.D. St. Louis, Mo. 1/21/37;  #4194 S.H.P. - Kirkwood, Mo. 10/28/39.
Father blank, mother ___________, address __________. Wght. 163 lbs.
Offense - PG. Forgery 2d; Uttering a bogus check (2 chgs.), county St. Louis City
Sentence - Two years from Mch. 11, 1940 (3x2 Conc.)
Term of Court - Feb. 1940
When Received - Mch. 28, 1940
Expiration of Sentence - Full Time Mch. 10, 1942; Three-Fourths Time Sept. 13, 1941; Merit Time May 16, 1941
Discharged - #53748, Dis. Under Parole by Governor Stark, Sep. 27, 1940
Citizenship Restored 10-7-41

The blanked out information proved that we had the right man.

There are so many other records and stories that can be added to the notebooks, along with photographs. This is like the never ending story of basically southern families. Within the stories are murders, slavery, migration, immigration, land purchases, probate records and so much more.  The findagrave.com pictures of gravesites were not copied, but should be added to the records.

The family will decide what direction to take from here. For me it is time to take a break. Sometimes taking a break is the most important part, because then one can truly feel the work of serendipity in the process.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween Haunts in Courthouses

There is probably not a more scary, intimidating or spooky place than a county courthouse. In the past sixteen months my experiences in these repositories of government records have proven very rewarding after I got over the initial feelings of intimidation. What is it that draws up these feelings within us? Is it the security search before entering, the forgetting to leave our camera in the car, the long lines just to talk to someone, or the people who linger there waiting for hearings?

The first step for me in facing my fears is to call the courthouse directly and ask to be directed to whoever is in charge of the records that I am seeking. For the most part the clerks are very friendly and willing to look for the desired information if the details for doing so are available. Depending on their time for doing the work, they may call you back, ask you to send an email or ask for you to call after they have enough time for doing the lookup. Some want you to send money before they proceed, but they can direct you to the proper form for doing so and where to send the money. Email communication works very well and allows for keeping a record of the correspondence. They most likely will not be able to send the record as an attachment, but occasionally they do. To my utter amazement one sent a copy of the will within a half hour.

The online indexing of county records enables for much faster location of such records. By using copy and paste of this information in the email ensures they see just what you are seeing. One clerk was very curious as to where the information was found and this was also freely shared. By the responses to my inquiries it would seem that they do not receive many such phone calls or emails. Sometimes the list of phone calls to be made sits on my desk until there is free time during their business hours for an adult like conversation. If they are busy, just ask when is a better time to call.

For one client we were looking for a marriage and a divorce record in Pennsylvania, which does not have an index of such records. After calling four courthouses finally the last clerk was able to find the needed records. Then they required an order form and check be sent for processing the request for the divorce decree. There are more records in the divorce file, but they did not seem very willing to pursue making copies. This may require hiring a local person to retrieve the needed records. Recently after finding the index for Oregon divorce records listed in the Multnomah County Library online catalog, a trip to the library was necessary. This was followed by a trip to the courthouse, where two complete divorce files were accessed and printed by the clerks in the records room. Going in prepared with the complete information for the records being sought certainly shortened the process.

Records offices are not always in the courthouse and there may be different types of record offices depending on the records being sought. Calling ahead is great in determining just where you need to go. They are very happy to connect you, but I suggest getting the phone number before this is done in case you are cut off. When ordering a record it is very important to emphasize that what is needed is a physical copy of the original and not a newly typed version of the old record. And if you are asking for copies of a file, stress that you want all the pages. It does help to ask for a page count before the file is printed as some can be hundreds of pages long and the cost per page will vary by locality.

Our local courthouse is really an intriguing place to visit. It was built in 1937 and has weathered many a storm. The parking can be a challenge, but the downtown area of Oregon City is very inviting. Doing Jury Duty is probably the main reason many of us ever visit. Having armed guards at the doors and the security checks are safety features that ensure a secure visit. Unless traveling for a vacation most other courthouses are contacted by phone and email. Having cell phones and the Internet surely limit the costs of contact from previous times when we paid long distance phone charges and postage for letters that we prayed would be answered.

So, for this Happy Halloween plan for some haunts in the future at some courthouses or other govenment record repositories. There are gold mines buried within those records. Just treat the staff nice and they will most likely be glad to assist you in your search. Trick or Treat, which are you after?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Caught Up In the Research

Do you ever get on a roll in doing family history research and you can hardly make yourself stop long enough to take a breath, or eat, or sleep? That has been me the past couple of weeks, but Sunday night was the most challenging yet. So here is a walkthrough of what happened in the research for a client project.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Putting Off Writing Blog Posts

Sometimes one does not feel like writing or things get in the way of getting the words to flow in writing a post. Lately I have been doing a lot of reading, more as a distraction from dealing with my mother's probate and the selling of her home. Even though we are working with a potential buyer and have had several offers, my anxiety is running rather high. Over the weekend I spent about three hours re-doing the power point presentation for this week's class.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Eightieth Birthday Mom!

While you may not be here to help us celebrate, today we honor your dedication and courage in being our mother, grandmother and great grandmother. With four children, twelve grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren you have an impressive group of heirs who inherit so much more than material things. Thank you for all the hours you spent encouraging us in our endeavors and guiding us in our life choices.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Genealogy Reading Update

Five months ago my post on Genealogy Reading listed a collection of magazines and other publications that were waiting to be read. There were one hundred overall and today there are twenty-one publications left to read. The feeling of almost completing this task is wonderful.