Monday, February 20, 2006

Information Is Power

Our public records are under attack. If you aren't involved in genealogy research, you might not know or care about this. However, you should. These are YOUR public records "they" are trying to keep you and other citizens from viewing and using, while reserving to themselves the right to look at ANY records they want to -- now, without even a warrant.

The following article is from Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright 2006 by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at

Information Is Power

Terry Allen has written an article about the current state of affairs when it comes to looking at public records. The U.S. Government's Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 will bar genealogists and many others from looking at birth and death certificates for 70 to 100 years. The proposed regulations are now causing widespread concern among state officials.

[emphasis added by me.] The regulations impact far more than genealogists. In much of the country, these records have long been invaluable tools for activists, lawyers, and reporters to uncover patterns of illness and pollution that officials miss or ignore.

Activists in Colorado already know what it is like when states bar access to vital records. For years, they fought the Cotter Corporation, claiming that its uranium mining operations were killing residents and workers. Unwilling to rely on the health department, which they claimed had a "cozy" relationship with the polluters, the activists tried to access death records, only to be told that it was illegal in this closed-record state. An editorial in Colorado’s Longmont Daily Times-Call lamented, "If there’s a situation that makes the case for why death certificates should be available to the public, it is th[is] Superfund area."

Some state officials around the country are questioning whether the new federal regulations themselves illegally tread on states’ rights.

You can read Terry Allen's interesting article at

My thanks to Paula Hinkel for telling me about the article.

Do you have comments, questions or corrections to this article? If so, please post your words at

Feel free to pass this along if the copyright notice goes along with it.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. - Henry David Thoreau


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