Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Update on Maine Law Regarding Access to Vital Records

Earlier this year I reported on the legislative debate and enactment on Maine Chapter 601 LD 1781 which effects everyone, including genealogists in accessing vital records less than 100 years old. Until this bill was enacted into law, Maine was one of a few "open access states" which permitted anyone to obtain a vital record without waiting for a specific time period.

The law became effective July 12 and the new rules are now posted to the Maine Division of Public Health Systems Office of Vital Data, Research and Vital Statistics:
http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/phs/odrvs/vital-records/new-law.html

The requirement for a researcher card is part of the law as is the $50 annual fee.
The genealogical research application may be found at:
http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/phs/odrvs/vital-records/index.shtml
by scrolling down the page under Program Activities.

The application states..."In order to receive a Maine CDC issued researcher card, an applicant must be a member of an established genealogical society, provide positive proof of identity, and submit the required fee ($50) along with this application."

Regarding proof of being a member of an established genealogical society, as of this posting there is no stated requirement as to how to comply with providing such proof (not all genealogical societies provide membership cards, and the unanswered question is whether a letter from a genealogical society on letterhead will suffice). I have been in touch with several Maine genealogists who represent the genealogical community on the law-mandated work group. While they provided a list of genealogy societies to the Division of Public Health which were basically state-wide organizations, and some ethnic-based genealogical societies as well as the
Association of Professional Genealogists definition of a genealogist, they have not heard anything further. I have recommended they also submit the list of IAJGS member societies as found on the IAJGS website.

The state has issued directions to the local town registrars to request photo ID, proof of relationship to the person whose record is requested, and (for those not related) the state issued ID in order to get a copy of at vital record. The same rules hold for getting vital records from the state. Those doing research for someone else need a notarized authorization from the person to access vital records.This was posted to this forum on July 6.

The state registrar, Don Lemieux, has recently retired and it is not yet known when a replacement will be appointed/elected ( I am not certain if this is an appointed or elected position). As with many states, budget deficit issues prevail which may delay any appointment. The Task Force has not met since early June and until a replacement for state registrar is
made, the Task Force may not meet until that occurs.

When more is known about proof of being a member of an established genealogical society it will be posted to this forum. At this time I have no further information. You may wish to contact the Division of Public Health Systems Office of Vital Data and Vital Statistics. You can find their
contact information on the url listed above.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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