ALERT: MA Registries Seek to Remove Requirement to Keep Original Records

I received an email from the Norfolk Registry of Deeds dated 29 May 2015 stating that Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell recently testified in favor of removing original records from the registry.

“Under the proposed legislation, the requirement to house original registered land transaction documents would be removed resulting in registries not having to look for additional building space.”

“House Bill 1493 has the unanimous endorsement of the Massachusetts Registers and Assistant Registers of Deeds Association which represents all 21 of the Registry of Deeds recording districts. In addition, the legislation has been co-sponsored by 51 state legislators across the Commonwealth.”

…”there also appears to be no visible opposition to the bill.” 

Historians and genealogists need to be concerned about this bill and need to be engaged in the process of review.

My concerns:

  1. Not all digitized deeds are readable. Currently our only recourse is to photocopy from the original books. If the originals are taken away, there is no way to access a legible form of the records.This is particularly true of modern 20th and 21st century deeds that were scanned incorrectly.
  2. A quality control system needs to be put into place to ensure that digitized records are legible.
  3. If records are microfilmed, as stated in the press release, then the  public needs to notified of a system to access those records in situations where illegibility occurs (perhaps through a large data entity such as FamilySearch or and not limited to the restrictive use in “the event of a catastrophe.” This is particularly critical for modern deeds if there is no hard copy backup.
  4. Many technology experts have predicted a future technological black out from our time period.   We could witness a 21st century destruction of records similar to the loss of Newport, Rhode Island records during the the Revolutionary War. 
  5. Records of historical nature should be defined and excluded from the pending bill. For instance, records from 1899 and earlier should be maintained in their original format.

The full press release is available here.

Please let your voices be heard and let the legislators know the concerns of historical and genealogical researchers.

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