The National Genealogical Society UpFront blog is reporting on another threat to vital records access, which could make it harder for genealogists to learn about their Massachusetts ancestors.
Massachusetts Senate Bill 820 would close the state’s birth and marriage records dated after 1841, the year statewide record keeping began, so only the person named in the record or his parent, guardian or attorney could see it or get a copy.
From the UpFront blog: “The bill’s text eliminates the current section that closes out-of-wedlock births and replaces the entire section with text that closes all births and marriages … the last sentence states, ‘The provisions of this section shall not apply to such records, returns or notices recorded or filed prior to January first, eighteen hundred and forty-one or to such copies thereof.’”
Right now, you can order certified copies of vital records dated 1841 to 1915 from the Massachusetts State Archives—it’s unclear how Senate Bill 820, if passed, might affect that service.
Some post-1841 Massachusetts vital records and indexes are available at sites such as the NewEnglandAncestors.org subscription databases and in the free FamilySearch Record Search pilot, as well as on Family History Library microfilm.
Many states restrict records for up to 100 years—after which the person in the record is likely to be deceased—but closing 169-year-old records seems unnecessary. See the UpFront blog for information on to whom you can address your concerns regarding the legislation.