Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are Town Offices Going Paperless?

I almost hesitate to put this out there for fear it gets back to someone that some protocol wasn't followed, but it brings up a good point in the fight against paper.  As a genealogist I am constantly sending inquiries to various local historical and genealogical societies as well as town offices asking for information and/or documents. Invariably I am charged a small fee for copying and sending the materials. Of course, when they come to me, I scan this information so I can have it on my computer (where I can find it) and I put the originals in a binder of some sort since I have them (and paid for the hard copies).  I don't need ceritifed copies of birth certificates, or notarized marriage certs.  I just want the document that has the information I am looking for so I can add it to my database or even just note it as a source document.

Recently I emailed a town clerk if it were "possible" to get a marriage certificate of one of my distant relatives and "if so, how much would it cost?"  I did this before heading to work. To my surprise, before I got home I had an email in my inbox with a scanned image of the marriage certificate and no bill.

Are more town offices going the scan and email route when it comes to sending out vital records docs to genealogists? Why not?  It works for me :)


  1. City of Chicago Vital Statistics send you a zip file but they charge between $15 - $17 dollars per certificate. You also cannot see the certificate before you order it so often are not sure it is your relative. Money grab?

  2. Yes. Mileage will vary on this. Most of my ancestors are from small New England towns, so they probably have different attitudes about some of this than a place like Chicago. I HATE paying for anything before I know it's what I'm looking for, so I will usually try to verify as much as I can ahead of time and only order something if I know its the right thing, or I have exhausted all other opportunities. In theory the fees incurred for requests like this aren't for the record itself, but more for the time and energy put into finding what you ask for, and... of course.. because its a way to make money.

  3. This post of yours is very thought provoking! Paperless transactions are cheaper if you think about it. Not only does it help the environment, but you get efficiency in business transactions due to the ease and speed of the digital/electronic medium. Although additional concerns spring up from this growing trend, like transaction security and document confidentiality, these can be easily addressed through employing a proactive stance against data theft. I hope to see the day when most of the businesses around the globe employs paperless transactions, and I think that would be a good day for humanity and mother earth.

    Curtis Pilon @ SpectrumInformation.com

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