Wednesday, August 29, 2012

FGS Day Zero (Tuesday August 28): Save The Records!

If you sit down at a table near the Federation of Genealogical Societies registration booth in the Birmingham convention center, eventually everyone in the (genealogy) world will come by. In the course of the day I learned about certain early Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, probate records that are stored inaccessibly somewhere in "the mines" (presumably old coal mines), and about lumber companies in Mississippi tearing up whole cemeteries without a peep from cowed legislators.

Which pretty well set the stage for the Association of Professional Genealogists' usual Tuesday-night pre-conference roundtable on access to records and the "art of advocacy." Organized by Diane Gravel (New England) and chaired by Thomas MacEntee (Illinois), four knowledgeable panelists discussed how genealogists can deal with rampant misinformation about open records and then go on to advocate for:
(1) the preservation of records,
(2) open access to them, and
(3) adequate funding for the repositories that manage and maintain them.

Panelists were Alvie Davidson, CG (sm) (Florida), Teri Flack (Texas), Polly Kimmitt, CG (sm) (Massachusetts) and Kelvin L. Meyers (Texas).

The panelists took turns answering pre-set questions from the chair. Teri added a note of cheer in telling the tale of a Texas Court Records Task Force that led to a great improvement in record preservation and openness in the state (not spearheaded by genealogists but by judges, if I remember right). The panelists agreed that in the year 2017 genealogists will still be fighting over these three records issues -- and if we aren't, the results will be not be good. APG will be doing more work along these lines -- meaning ultimately that its members will be.

And in doing so we'll need to make friends and alliances with other groups that have similar interests, and find ways to dramatize their importance. Librarians have "Banned Books Week." What could we do to put "No Records Week" in the headlines? A visual representation of the 55 million Texas records unprocessed and unidentified for lack of funding? A story of a family of siblings reunited because Illinois recently opened its adoption records? Your idea here . . .

Harold Henderson, "FGS Day Zero (Tuesday August 28): Save the Records!," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 29 August 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Salt mines, actually :-)