George G. Morgan’s ‘Along Those Lines ‘ Column – Update and an Important Article

I’ve been very busy the past few days, and didn’t realize that when Ancestry.com updated their site and moved a lot of their daily/weekly news and columns into their Family History Circle blog, that one of the changes they made – they dropped George G. Morgan’s ‘Along Those Lines’ column, one of the better written columns on their site.

Have no fear, he has started his own blog at ahaseminars.livejournal.com.

You can still read his older columns (they go back almost eight years) at Ancestry.com.

He has a very important column this week, and normally I don’t like to do large excerpts, but this was very interesting, at least the circumstances surrounding it. Once you read it, one might conclude that it’s a good thing that he’s writting his column on a site he controls:

This week in “Along Those Lines …”, I want to discuss an issue that has bothered me for the past five years but which I have been unable to voice in previous columns in the “Ancestry Daily News” and on the Ancestry.com Web site. It is the closure of access to public records. Ancestry was reluctant to print a column I wrote on this topic two years ago, and I actually received a call from their legal department. I was informed that California had ‘requested’ that Ancestry.com remove the California Death Index from its database collection or that the state would seek to take legal action to force its removal. I could easily understand that Ancestry.com and its parent company, MyFamily.com, Inc., didn’t want to throw fuel on that particular fire and I readily acquiesced. However, this is the time for another look at what is happening, especially since we are in yet another major mid-term election year in the U.S.

One Response to “George G. Morgan’s ‘Along Those Lines ‘ Column – Update and an Important Article”

  1. George G Morgan says:

    Hello!

    Thank you for mentioning the fact that my “Along Those Lines …” column has been posted now at my companys Web site, http://ahaseminars.com. It’s nice to get the word out.

    I think, however, that you misconstrued the meaning of the information I was trying to communicate in the article you’ve cited here. The focus of the article was the portray the often ill-conceived intentions of our politicians to protect us from ourselves by censoring records by limiting or completely closing access.

    In the scenario I described about Ancestry that you quoted, that was very clearly a situation in which California had taken a stance that they wanted to prevent access to records which they had already provided to Ancestry.com for inclusion in their databases. Just to clarify, the legal department was at that time renegotiating with the State of California on the issue and didn’t want to publish a column at their site that might derail the negotiations. (After all, an index is only a pointer to the original document’s date and location, and not the actual document.) As it turned out, I was happy to pass on the publication of that column to try to assist Ancestry’s negotiations. The result was a positive outcome, with the index in question being allowed to remain online.

    Any of us in the genealogy world who watches the news reports closely and/or follows the legislative activities at the national, state, and local level knows that there are politicians who will adopt a stand — especially in an election year — that makes it appear that they are supportive of one cause or another in order to draw votes. Since 9/11. an easy target stance on public safety, anti-terrorism, protection of privacy, and deterrence of identity theft is a very, very popular position. Closing access to public records seems to many of them to be an easy way to accomplish this when, in fact, what they are doing is undermining the Freedom of Information Act and violating their constituents’ right to access public information. I have watched these well-intentioned (hopefully) political actions stymy or deadlock our genealogical research for the past 4-1/2 years, and am very distressed. As for me, I continue to order copies of documents as quickly as I can, but I’m getting lots more resistance and refusals that I ever saw before.

    I stated in my blog that over the past five years, I’ve been unable to voice this issue. That was merely because negotiations are always taking place between MyFamily.com, Inc., and Ancestry.com to acquire new database content from governments at all levels in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and elsewhere. Understanding the delicacy of such negotiations sometimes, it is something that, once I understood the situation, I would never want to speak out about or to undermine at the Ancestry.com site. The team I work with at Ancestry.com has always allowed me freedom to write and share ideas with readers without any censorship, and I know that the company is committed to the highest-quality publications, both print and electronic.

    I’ll continue to write for Ancestry.com in the new Ancestry Weekly Journal and elsewhere with no qualms whatsoever. They are a great bunch of folks and have become part of my own extended family. I hope they will be for you.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my opinions.

    George

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