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From the Green Valley News, Sunday 30 March 2008, page B7

Genealogy Today, by Betty Malesky

Genealogists Push for Open Records

A movement underway in many states across the country threatens to restrict access to vital records to the subject of the record or their direct descendant, ostensibly to hamper identity theft. No case of identity theft via such records has been proved, and indeed most identity theft is by a friend, relative or someone else with access to the victimís credit card.

As a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists I want to share a statement issued March 21 in Westminster, Colorado by Kathleen W. Hinckley, cg, the Executive Director of the organization. If you become aware of legislative action proposed in your state to restrict records access, please consider contacting your legislators urging them to consider the ramifications of such an act. Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." The text of Ms. Hinckleyís statement follows:

The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) contends that there is no proof that open records significantly contribute to ID theft or terrorism. In a position paper that outlines the case for open public records, APG asserts that open records are rarely used by identification thieves and maintains that the benefit of open access to records far outweighs any potential abuse.

APG has joined forces with other genealogical organizations including the National Genealogical Society (NGS), The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) in endorsing the position paper and calling on legislators to keep records open.

"Public records allow genealogists and other professionals such as medical researchers, journalists, historians and academic researchers to do their jobs," explains APG President, Jake Gehring. He urges that "concerned citizens tell their representatives that they want to keep public records open."

A group of professional genealogists within APG formed the Keeping Genealogical Records Open Workgroup (KGROW) in 2007 and prepared the position paper. Melinde Lutz Sanborn, fasg (Fellow, American Society of Genealogists) and member of the committee, says, "Open records and transparency in government are the best protections we have against twenty-first century fraud."

The KGROW committee recommends in their paper that "lawmakers respond to the ID theft problem, not try to prevent a nonexistent problem" Further, they encourage "private companies and government improve their protection of personal data." The Case for Open Public Records position paper is available on the APG website at

The Association of Professional Genealogists is an independent organization whose worldwide members number over 1,800. The groupís principal purpose is to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work: from the amateur genealogist wishing to turn knowledge and skill into a vocation, to the experienced professional seeking to exchange ideas with colleagues and to upgrade the profession as a whole.

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