Press Release: Massachusetts Genealogical Council presents the Barnes Award to Brooke Schreier Ganz

“Massachusetts Genealogical Council Presents the First Annual Shirley M. Barnes Records Access Award to Brooke Schreier Ganz, Founder and President of Reclaim the Records”

(MANCHESTER, NH) At the opening luncheon of the New England Regional Genealogical Conference, the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) awarded its first annual Shirley M. Barnes Records Access Award to Brooke Schreier Ganz, Founder, and President of Reclaim the Records. The award is an engraved book clock, a replica of the award presented to Shirley Barnes July 14, 2007, upon her retirement as Civil Records Director of MGC.

WHO IS BROOKE SCHREIER GANZ? Brooke is a friendly, outspoken mother of two residing in California. A computer programmer, she developed an open source records management software and is a lifetime volunteer with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Researching 95% of her ancestors who resided in New York City, proved difficult from California. Brooke promptly understood that public records should be accessible to all; especially to those whose taxes paid for them. Drawing from the success of her personal record access and publishing project, she founded the non-profit Reclaim the Records which utilizes the Freedom of Information Laws and Acts to reclaim public records, making them accessible for free, to all genealogists.

WHO WAS SHIRLEY M. BARNES? A little slip of a woman, frequently donning an inviting smile, and a big “Save Massachusetts Records” button, Shirley M. Barnes was committed to advocating for record preservation and access. Weekly she rode the commuter rail from Concord to Boston to walk the statehouse, visiting with legislators. Her work brought about the 1983 Massachusetts vital records law which mandated the transfer of vital records to the state archives in five-year intervals. After 25 years of dedicated service as MGC’s Civil Records Director, Shirley tirelessly stayed on the board, mentoring her successors, until recently, attending meetings became a physical challenge.

Shirley passed away on August 24, 2018, at the age of 95, only eight months after her husband. She is survived by two children and a genealogy community that she had served for decades. (Her obituary may be accessed here.) Shirley’s efforts served to establish a model for other New England states to follow in protecting access to public records for research.

RECORDS ACCESS AWARD: The Massachusetts Genealogical Council, at the annual meeting on February 17, 2019, established an annual award to be given in memory of Shirley M. (Armstrong) Barnes at a luncheon, held in odd years at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and in even years at the MGC Annual Seminar. The award will recognize people who emulate Shirley’s volunteer spirit and whose dedication to records access has made a significant impact for genealogists. See for more information.

MASSACHUSETTS GENEALOGICAL COUNCIL: The Massachusetts Genealogical Council is an umbrella organization of Massachusetts genealogical and historical societies and libraries. We provide educational seminars and conferences to the members of those organizations. We also monitor legislative and administrative activity that might impact genealogists and historians.


These two women, nearly two generations apart from each other, are models for us all: intelligent people fully engaged in the civic sphere. Brava! and thank you for for sharing.


Nancy B Alexander April 4, 2019 at 12:28 pm

BROOKE SCHREIER GANZ – a fabulous speaker. My local genealogical society had Brooke as our speaker recently. Her stories and results of pressing for these records, including lawsuits, are outstanding. We need to support her in as many ways as possible.


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