Records Challenges –Issues and Opportunities in 2021

As the New Year began,  there were three major pending issues of concern to the genealogical community. Recent legislative developments, when combined with the arrival of a new administration, suggest that opportunities could well arise in the near future  for our community to provide valuable input to legislators and decision-makers seeking to address these concerns.

The following short briefing papers present background information and suggested recommendations for addressing these issues.  Copies were provided to appropriate members of the Transition Team for the Biden administration prior to the inauguration. We will update these papers regularly for use in additional settings after 20 January 2021.

Briefing Papers Synopsis

Sale of NARA Facility in Seattle, Washington

Millions of residents in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean area will be deprived access to federal records with the closure of the Seattle Federal Records Center (NARA facility). If this property is sold, the contents of the building should be relocated to another facility in the Seattle area, not 1,200+ miles away making it impossible to transact important, legal work.

RPAC Transition Briefing Paper NARA Seattle Move

Transfer of Historical US Immigration & Naturalization Records from USCIS to the National Archives

The National Archives is the custodian of our country’s most important historical documents, keeping them environmentally safe, secure, and available to the public with indices and finding aids. USCIS historical records (excluding A-files) need to be in the National Archives where they can be properly preserved and processed for use, freeing up the valuable time of USCIS staff for their current duties of providing benefits and services to living immigrants.

RPAC Briefing Paper on USCIS and NARA Funding (Rev. Mar 2021)

Accurate, Complete and Open Records

Having access to current, complete and accurate death information is important for a variety of stakeholders including insurance companies, health care providers, and historical researchers. Authorizing the appropriate federal agency to carry forward and improve upon the Social Security’s Death Master File will help eliminate fraud and misuse of information.

RPAC Transition Briefing Paper on Death Master File

What Can You Do?

(1)  Familiarize yourself with these Briefing Papers.

(2) Familiarize yourself with your Congressional Representatives so you are prepared if we later advise you of a specific call to action.

(3)   Subscribe to this Records Advocate Blog so you will be notified of any new posts.


With special thanks to Linda McCleary for her significant contributions to this post!



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Legal Advisor to Federation of Genealogical Societies; Former Associate Dean, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law; Colonel (retired), JAGC, USA

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