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Remarks to media on a new genealogy tool provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services

By:
Date:
Location: Phoenix, AZ

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
10:00 a.m.
Governor's 8th Floor Conference Room

Today I am pleased to debut an innovative new Web site that puts a powerful new tool into the hands of genealogy buffs around the world, enabling them to save time and money when researching family roots.

Thanks to a partnership between the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Arizona State Library and Archives, and the Mesa Family History Library, the health department has introduced a Web site that allows the public free and instant access to more than 400,000 images of original Arizona birth and death certificates that state law has made public record.

By law, birth certificates become public after 75 years, and death certificates become public after 50 years. So those tracing family roots now may search by name for Arizona birth certificates between 1887 and 1928, and Arizona death certificates between 1878 and 1953.

The website address is genealogy.az.gov - there is no "www" in the address. Before this website was available, accessing records was cumbersome and costly, requiring manual searches by Vital Records staff, a $3 fee per request, and a two- to three-week wait to receive them.

Now, the access is instantaneous and free. This powerful new tool provides professional genealogists and casual family tree researchers alike a new connection to Arizona's past.

DHS staff created this site internally, minimizing its expense. About $25,000 worth of computer equipment was paid for by funding previously provided by the Legislature to modernize the storage of Arizona's 6 million vital records. Savings to the health department will be ongoing, because this website will save staff from doing thousands of manual searches.

Since it was brought online last month, it has been enormously popular among the test audiences, as hard-core researchers have tested the limits of the system to help the department work out any bugs in the system. Word has spread rapidly within the genealogy community. With very little publicity before today, the site has already attracted thousands of visitors. Just last week, users viewed more than 21,000 documents on this site.

I would like to thank the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Arizona State Library and Archives, and the Mesa Family History Library for their work on this powerful tool for genealogists everywhere. I would especially like to thank volunteers from the Mesa Family History Library, who spent thousands of hours indexing hundreds of thousands of records.

Before I take questions on this or other topics, I would like to introduce Department of Health Services Director Cathy Eden, to briefly describe the impact of the website on her department, and walk us through a brief demonstration.

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