Legislature passes limits on vital records access

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist
Posted April 11, 2010, at 9:17 p.m.

LD 1781, the bill to restrict the release of Maine birth, marriage and death records for 100 years — except to the person named, spouse, direct descendant, agent or attorney — was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John E. Baldacci on April 2.

It will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

Before being passed, the bill was amended with: “Custodians of certificates and records of birth, marriage and death may permit inspection of records by, and issue non-certified copies to, researchers engaged in genealogical research who hold researcher identification cards, as specified by rule adopted by the department.”

I haven’t seen the rule yet, but here’s what I think the new law will amount to.

The state wants us to have a “researcher identification card,” which you can obtain at the Maine State Archives in Augusta, next door to the State House. The archives has required these for years.

You get the card by filling out a form in the archives research room and showing the staff a photo ID, then they will make up your card. It’s good for one year, then you need to fill out the form again.

You have to do this in person in Augusta, but you can copy off the form and fill it in before you get there. The form is available on the archives Web site at www.maine.gov/sos/arc.

I would think that at some point, those who provide vital records might also accept documentation that you are a certified genealogist, for example, but those kinds of details may take a while to work out.

You also can obtain information on someone else’s records if you have a notarized letter from them.

The Maine State Archives is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except when the state is observing a holiday or a shutdown day.

The new law will not affect these records:

· The Social Security Death Index, which covers the United States from the 1960s to the present, online free at http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com.

· The U.S. Census records for 1920 and 1930. Those records for Maine are free to look at on microfilm at Maine State Archives and at the University of Maine. The records give name, age and state of birth for every person in the United States, plus place of birth for each person’s parents.

· Newspaper obituaries, some of which are available online. See the past six years of Bangor Daily News obituaries at www.bangordailynews.com. Click on Obituaries, then on Obituary Archives.

· Transcribed records on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at www.familysearch.org. These records vary. Keep in mind they have been copied from originals or microfilm. They include births and marriages for many Maine towns before 1892, for example, and the 1880 Census for the whole country. Some records indicate that they were submitted by a church member, and because we don’t know how thorough a researcher any individual was — it’s good to find additional documentation for those.

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I was pleased to read that NBC has renewed “Who Do You Think You Are?” for next season.

It was very powerful to see actor Matthew Broderick trace his grandfather James Joseph Broderick to France, where he served as a medic in World War I and earned a Purple Heart.

Next they traced Broderick’s ancestry to Robert Martindale, who was in the Battle of Gettysburg and later was killed in a battle outside Atlanta.

Broderick had played Robert Gould Shaw in the Civil War movie “Glory,” so he was fascinated to find he had a Civil War ancestor.

Martindale turned out to be one of four still-unidentified Union soldiers buried in the cemetery near Atlanta, so officials there were thrilled to have information that enabled them to put a name on one of the numbered graves.

With DNA testing, exciting new doors have opened as tools to discovering one’s roots. The recent PBS series “Faces of America” found surprising connections among well-known people, such as an ancestor shared by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria.

Staff at the Bangor Public Library would like to remind you that it is the place to start climbing your family tree. Advice and archival material are available, and area newspapers going back to 1836 may help you hit the jackpot in your ancestral search.

Family histories and town histories for New England are available in the Bangor Room on the third floor. Microfilm of newspapers and local census records are next door in the microfilm room.

Call the Bangor Library History Room at 947-8336, ext. 103, for more information. The Bangor Room is staffed weekdays, with handouts available to help researchers get started.

Another session of Genealogy for Kids Day, GEN4KIDS, will be held 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday, April 23, in the children’s Story Room at Bangor Public Library. The event is for children ages 8-14.

A library employee will provide a guided tour of Bangor Room to see what is available, how to use the microfilm and the card catalog. Learn to start a family tree and preserve memories today for the future. A pedigree chart and form, “Good Questions For Family Interviews,” will be given out.

Elizabeth Stevens, Pete McClarie and John Nelligan will provide assistance. Register at the Children’s Desk or call 947-8337, ext. 110. Refreshments will be served.

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Learn how to get started on tracing your family tree with “Genealogy 101,” a presentation by Dale Mower during the next meeting of Moosehead Roots at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 24, at the Center for Moosehead History, formerly the Community House, in Greenville.

Mower is the president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Topics will include information about family interviews; organizational forms; information to capture; vital records and other informational sources, including census records and published genealogies; land deeds and organizing.

No fee is charged, but donations will help with expenses. For more information, call Betty Ryder at 695-2287.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to familyti@bangordailynews.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/04/11/living/legislature-passes-limits-on-vital-records-access/ printed on July 30, 2014