Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Privacy Restrictions Keeping You From Research?

Yes, Actual book on Amazon.com

In the Name of Privacy
What do census records, voter’s registrations, and court dockets have in common? They all are sources exempt from the Privacy Act that can be referenced when searching for our ancestor’s vital records: birth, marriage, divorce and death.  Oh, and let’s not forget criminal records and professional and business licenses. They too are exempt from the Privacy Act.

In the name of privacy there are many access restrictions imposed by states, but the persistent family researcher may still uncover their ancestor’s vital records. The article Genealogy Research vs. Privacy Restrictions posted by Archives.com on 31 Jan 2012 gives the researcher a few options for ferreting our ancestor’s vital records when the Privacy Act gets in our way.

From State to State
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies of some federal and state repositories are often implemented in such a way that the “Freedom” part is buried in red tape. Privacy Act restrictions vary state to state and are implemented in the most creative ways. Restrictions of seventy five years seem to be favored by many states’ birth certificate access; as is fifty years for withholding death records.

And whereas some state and federal repositories have 50 or 75 year restrictions, others impose a 62 wait (i.e. Veteran’s service records). A few, like the Social Security FOIA now enforces a 100 year from birthdate (regardless of death date) restriction. If your ancestor had a 1912 birthdate, you can receive an unaltered social security documents this year. Later social security applications will be under the scrutiny of the agent who liberally uses a redaction tool to eliminate the useful information the family researcher is seeking.

Yet, privacy act implementations and restrictions should not prevent the family researcher from locating birth, marriage and death records. Plus, know that a few open states do exist. And others, like Pennsylvania, are becoming more genealogy-friendly, where access to birth, marriage divorce and death records is less of an obstacle course.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers  

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting because even 100 years after birth, I couldn't get a grand uncles SS5 application because I couldn't prove his date of death. He was born abt. 1896 and the request was made in 2010.

    Maybe I should try, again. My whole point in requesting it was trying to determine where he might have ended up in life because nobody knows where he settled, when he died, etc.