Family tree fees: Costs for genealogy records could go up by 380% with new proposal

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Researching your family tree could soon cost you as much as four times what you would pay right now. The U.S. government is proposing raising the fee for things like citizenship and visa records.

Right now, the fee to get these records is about $130. The federal proposal would jack up the cost nearly 400%.

Linda Koch started genealogy as a hobby in retirement. She says the passion only continued as the learned more about her family’s history, finding roots to the Irish potato famine and even ancestors coming over on the Mayflower.

“Two years ago I was able to go to Ireland and visit some of my ancestral sites there,” said Koch, president of the Albuquerque Genealogical Society. “It was an incredible experience to stand where your ancestors have stood back in the 1800s.”

Sites like Ancestry and 23andMe have become big businesses in recent years. More people want to know where they come from and build their family trees.

Right now, records from the late-1800’s to mid-1900s will cost around $130. However, a newly-proposed fee could soon make it much more expensive.

A proposed fee increase by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would raise that nearly 380%. That’s around $625 for a page of records.

“It puts it out of reach for most people. They probably would not be able to obtain those records,” said Koch, who notes these records are crucial to piecing your past together. “Those are important records. They might tell you where your grandmother lived in Europe or what your grandfather did once he arrived here. Those are stories that can be lost without those records.”

Some genealogists say the plan is highway robbery and don’t believe historical records should be a way for the government to make money. Koch hopes if approved, this won’t deter people from looking into their family’s stories.

“We just hope that people will continue to look for those lost stories in their lives because it’s what binds us together,” said Koch.

Koch also recommends getting in touch with local politicians serving in Washington and sharing any concerns about the fee. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the proposal came up after a recent review. They periodically look over their fees to make sure they’re covering operating costs.

The Albuquerque Main Library’s genealogy lab offers a free program every second Wednesday of the month, as well as free research days on the third Saturday and last Tuesday of the month.

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