So Why Lock Up the Birth Records?

It seems that every week we hear of one more situations in which some politician or bureaucrat is trying to restrict access to public domain vital records. Everybody is trying to lock out everyone, including genealogists. Our right to access to public domain birth, marriage, and death information is being threatened constantly under the guise of “preventing identity theft.”


(That’s as strong a word as I will use in this family-oriented publication.)

I am sure that the politicians love the limelight back home when they can brag that they have taken action to “prevent identity theft.” Heck, nobody is in favor of identity theft, right? Therefore, just proclaiming to have taken some token action under the smoke screen of “preventing identity theft” is sure to win a few more votes in the next election.

“Facts? What facts? Don’t bother me with facts, I’ve got a re-election campaign to win.”

A recent article by Identity Guard has provided genealogists with some hard facts. The company claims to be one of the first to establish the identity theft protection industry in a colossal effort to help consumers protect their identities.

Identity Guard‘s findings are based on cold, hard facts, not the rhetoric or conjecture of someone who makes pronouncements not grounded in reality. The facts should serve as pinpricks to any inflated claims of preventing something that never existed.

Here are Identity Guard ‘s report of the Common Ways Thieves Commit Identity Theft:

Mail Theft is when a criminal rifles through your mail looking for cash, checks, pre-approved credit card offers, and personal information.

Phishing is when hackers lure you in to submitting your personal information, including credit card numbers and account log-in information. This is typically done with emails or text messages that are made to look like they’re coming from a trusted source.

Data Breaches are when businesses expose customer information, either through hacking or poor security. Many of these events result in people getting their identities stolen from the information that was exposed during the breach.

Take a close look at the above. Please note the rating for “obtained a record from birth records published by the vital records department.” Do you see it? I don’t.

You can read more on Identity Guard‘s web site at:

The next time someone claims that access to public records needs to be restricted in order to “reduce identity theft,” let’s ask an embarrassing question: “Show me some proof.” Then, in the awkward silence that follows, let’s ask that person to read the facts as proven by Identity Guard and other professionals that deal with identity theft causes and prevention.

Here’s a bit of advice to politicians and bureaucrats: please focus on real issues where there is a demonstrated need. Otherwise, someone may just deflate your balloon.


Really? If most of them wanted to focus on fact-based issues, they would not be politicians!


Couldn’t agree more.
And, yet … There are known instances where individuals have created false identities based on the valid birth certificates of deceased persons. For instance, the kid who played Timmy in the “Lassie” TV series supposedly became a druggie in later life and is reported to have had at least 4 false identities, one even female, that all began with mining birth records and using the “purloined” certificates to get drivers licenses, credit cards, passports, social security numbers and all the other effluvia that constitute and prove identity in this day and age. (I don’t know this from my own researches, but in one of my prior professional incarnations the story was used in training materials.) While this isn’t identity theft as we’ve come to understand it, it might as well be. Is it a threat to you or me or our assets? Probably not, at least not directly, but …
I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.


The irony is that having open databases of addresses, death dates, social security numbers and the like actually prevents identity theft. Open data lets you make sure the person really exists when they sign up for something, and lets you confirm any major commitments via a paper letter in the mail. When birth dates or ID numbers are public information, knowing someone’s birthdate or ID has no value, and you have to use more robust, sensible ways of verifying identity. The Scandinavian countries have open databases and also low rates of identity theft.


Janette Engelbrecht October 20, 2019 at 1:47 am

How do we steal someones identity that has been dead for 50 years + anyway ?
In my eyes, just a way to stop something they dont understand, and think is a threat, no more said..


Thank you, Dick. Totally in agreement with you and proud to be a supporter of Reclaim the Records. These are OUR records, not those of the government.
And in answer to some prior comments, it is surely easier now to steal the identity of a recently dead person (find an obit from a funeral home or newspaper) than it was before the SSDI went dark, no?
Question for others: what would happen if we were all to pen a note to our State representatives? Would they take notice?


Virginia Majewski, President, WA State Gen. Soc. October 22, 2019 at 4:11 am

I have been working this issue for the past year. Went to the hearings in Olympia, wrote Reps and Senators, collaborated with FGS and others. We did get some improvements to what was originally proposed. I did ask “the question”, the answer was they need to better conform with federal guidelines on preventing ID theft. These guidelines were not based on facts or studies. The new law has already been passed through the House and Senate and signed by the Govenor. So order all the records you can before Jan 1, 2020 when the rules change and cost goes up!


It’s another way to collect money and they can say “sorry, you can’t have it” easily


The banks should not send a credit card based on a telephone call. They should use certified mail, restricted delivery and the carrier has to check your ID. Greedy banksters don’t like that idea because it would slow down business if people must make a trip to the post office, and many working persons are busy when the post office is open.


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