Provisions of LD 258 explained

LD 258 is the bill to amend Public Law 601 which last year closed Maine’s vital records for 100 years. It was sponsored by Representative Deborah Sanderson (R, Chelsea). A public hearing on the bill was held on Wednesday, March 2, with the committee work session being held the next day, Thursday, March 3. Testifying at the public hearing in favor of the bill were Helen Shaw, CG, Pam Eagleson, CG, Melinde Sanborn, CG, Anne Thomas (Honorary State Regent, DAR), Peggy O’Kane (reference librarian for the Maine State Library), and several others. Testifying against the bill were Elana Jellison (rule making coordinator for the Maine DHHS, and Dr. Stephen Sears (Maine DHHS). Testifying neither for or against was Kathy Montejo, town clerk for Lewiston and board member of the Maine Genealogical Society.

So, what does LD 258 do to vital records access?

OPEN RECORDS

1. It is now in statute that all vital records before 1892 are open to anyone without restriction. Anyone can buy an informational copy or an official copy on town letterhead. NOTE: Towns may impose their own rules covering access to vital records to include specific days or hours of availability, forms that must be filled out, and personal identification to be provided. However, having state statute saying these early vital records are public records should help immensely.

Note that the exact wording of the law for the following records states that they are open after XX years from the date of the event. The years listed below are a simplification. These records may be accessed at the Vital Records Unit in Augusta or at the applicable municipal office.

2. All birth certificates between 1892 and 1936 are open to anyone without restriction. That upper year will shift as time goes on; the closure period is 75 years. Anyone can buy a non-certified copy. Only people listed in Paragraph 5 can buy a certified copy.

3. All marriage certificates, registrations of domestic partnerships, and certificates for fetal deaths between 1892 and 1961 are open to anyone without restriction. That upper year will shift as time goes on; the closure period is 50 years. Anyone can buy a non-certified copy. Only people listed in Paragraph 5 can buy a certified copy.

4. All deaths certificates between 1892 and 1986 are open to anyone without restriction. That upper year will shift as time goes on; the closure period is 25 years. Anyone can buy a non-certified copy. Only people listed in Paragraph 5 can buy a certified copy.

CLOSED RECORDS


5. Access to birth certificates less than 75 years old. You need to be a family member listed in Paragraph 5 or have a CDC/ODRVS researcher card to look at these records. Only people listed in Paragraph 5 can buy a certified (or non-certified) copy. People with a CDC/ODRVS researcher card can buy a non-certified copy.

6. Access to marriage certificates, registrations of domestic partnerships, or fetal death certificates less than 50 years old. You need to be a family member listed in Paragraph 5 or have a CDC/ODRVS researcher card to look at these records. Only those listed in Paragraph 5 can buy a certified (or non-certified) copy. People with a CDC/ODRVS researcher card can only buy a non-certified copy.

7. Access to death certificates less than 25 years old. You need to be in a family member listed in Paragraph 5 or have a CDC/ODRVS researcher card to look at these records. Only those listed in Paragraph 5 can buy a certified (or non-certified) copy. People with a CDC/ODVRS researcher card can only buy a non-certified copy.

All family members (as listed in Paragraph 5 of the law) must provide documentation of their identity and their relationship to the persons whose vital records are being accessed.

Rules for genealogists (paid or not) who are acting as an agent for a family member listed in Paragraph 5 are still being written and may change. We know so far these genealogists must have a CDC/ODRVS researcher card and that they may buy certified copies of vital records for the client. Also, the client must provide a notarized letter of authorization for the genealogist and documentation of their identity and relationship to the persons whose vital records are being accessed.

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