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Val, the Historical Researcher…and Activist?

July 15, 2008

Well, no, but today I did do my part for the genealogy and research community of Pennsylvania, by writing to the governor and two area legislators, regarding the system in place in the state’s vital records department.

Most genealogists probably know all of the rigamarole which must be put up with in order to get one’s hands on a simple vital record in Pennsylvania, such as a death certificate. The vital records division requires that you provide them with so much information just for them to do the search, that a lot of researchers realize: “Why, if I knew that, I wouldn’t be looking for this record!” Further, you have to be a direct relation to be “eligible” to request the record in the first place. As regular readers of this blog may know, I am not related to any of the families I’m researching–I simply have a profound interest in their past. They were well-known, influential and respected in this area, back in the day, and I am committed to understanding the truth of their story. Simple, right? Yet, the vital records regulations (which are there in the interest of privacy, supposedly), keep such records as death certificates, post-1906, off-limits to me and many another researcher like myself. But consider this: What is the harm, when we are talking about records nearly and over a hundred years old? No information about living individuals there, most likely. The vital records division simply designed their regulations with no consideration at all of historians, genealogists, researchers, and the like. It’s inefficient, to say the least.

So, today I sent out copies of my letter to Pennsylvania politicians, stating my reasons for disagreement with the system. There is a Pennsylvania General Assembly bill which will be voted on soon to change the regulations of the vital records division. To learn more about the issue, visit this site on the subject.

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