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Banned Genealogy Records? Open Thread Thursday

ALA Freadom 2013

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

Here in the United States, this is Banned Books Week which is sponsored by the American Library Association. The goal is to raise awareness of books that are banned in schools, libraries and other venues due to their content.

What if censorship of this type made its way to records frequently used by genealogists and family historians? Or is this already occurring through restrictions to access such as pending legislation governing use of and access to the Social Security Death Index? Have you considered what would happen if entire record sets were removed from the shelves or from online sites? Or something worse, similar to “book burning?” Shudder.

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.

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From my perspective, as genealogists we have already been forced to navigate our way in a world filled with banned records. It isn’t often that the ban makes the news nor is there a week dedicated to raising awareness of banned records (but there should be . . .). Why not? Well, I think it is how censorship and restriction to access takes place for any material . . . little by little, step by step. Most don’t notice until it is too late.

There are various ways in which we see restrictive access take place:

  • Broad legislation on a federal, state and local level with an unreasonable and ill-informed concern for privacy. Often such laws are meant as a “quick fix” and to convince voters that their legislators are actually doing something.
  • The actions of a gatekeeper such as a county clerk who attempts to circumvent local laws guaranteeing access with his or own set of “rules.”
  • Inconsistent and burdensome pricing and policies set by a librarian or archivist or court clerk to make access “difficult” in the hopes of deterring researchers.

I strongly recommend following the Records Preservation and Access Committee site and also getting involved on a local level when it comes to records access. Also research the access laws and rules prior to visiting a repository and make sure you have a copy with you.

Not only can you help guarantee your own access to records for genealogical research, but help insure that future generations will have the same or better access.


This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

Disclosure:  Please see Disclosure Statements for more information on my material connection with genealogy vendors and organizations.

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee