Sunshine Week and access to public information

There is no topic of more importance to genealogists:

15 MARCH 2016

It’s Sunshine Week — Is the Sun Shining Brightly on an “Open Government” near you?

Sunshine Week is “the annual nationwide celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community.”

As genealogists and family historians access to public records and “freedom of information” are critical to our success in documenting the lives of interest to us. Since many of the records that interest us are created by government entities, open government is invaluable.

Unfortunately, open access is often sought, as it should be, about malfeasance by those responsible for managing programs or providing services.  One can also use open access though to learn about more mundane.

And, threats to records access continue.  In the most recent IAJGS Public Records Access Alert – (US) Sunshine Week and the Right to Know – Worldwide, Jan Meisels Allen shares…

… This is a good time to look what is happening with the “right to be forgotten” and the tension between the USFreedom of Speech and the European Union’s right to privacy—which is being emulated in other countries.  How will the US First Amendment fare with the new requirements being imposed on information technology?

Whether it is the myriad of court cases and EU rulings against Google and Facebook, the impending EU Data Privacy Regulations or the newly proposed Privacy Shield replacing the Safe Harbor regarding data flow from Europe to theUnited States, the “right to know” is being challenged …

A reminder that access to information is not a given and that access we have now may disappear in the future, which is reinforced by “Sunshine Week: Session included attempts to roll back access” as recently reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA.)

Rejoice in the public information and records that you do have access to and also help ensure that such access continues into the future.


Editor’s Note: Related posts– National Freedom of Information Coalition (2012) & Should photographing public records be FREE? (2014) & NARA Open Government Plan (2014)


copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370.


Morrow-Micheal Ports to speak at Lunch & Learn, 8 April,

Morrow, GA, March 16, 2016– Michael Ports will speak at the Georgia Archives on Friday, April 8, 2016. The free program, part of the Lunch and Learn series, starts at 12:00 p.m.

In his presentation, Mr. Ports will provide basic background information on the population of free persons of color in Georgia and the state laws governing their registration, guardianship, and manumission.

An 1818 statute of the Georgia legislature required all free persons of color to register with the inferior court of their county of residence. According to the statute, county clerks were required to record each freed man or woman by name, age, place of birth, residence, year of arrival in Georgia, and occupation. Specific examples, from most of the 22 counties with surviving registers, illustrate the wide variety of information recorded by the various court clerks.  And finally, Sylvia, a free woman of color, is followed from manumission, through the extant registers, court minutes, and probate records of Jefferson County.

Please join us and learn about these records, which contain vital identifying information for African American Georgians long before the Civil War or the watershed 1870 U.S. Census.

Reservations are not required to attend. Bring your lunch!!

For more information, please contact Jill Sweetapple at 678.364.3731 or email at