PEKIN — State lawmakers may soon make it easier for family members and researchers to look at military discharge papers.
The move comes as an offshoot of Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman's research into local Medal of Honor winners from the Civil War.
The recorder of deeds section of that office maintains discharge papers for veterans in the county, but state law, Ackerman found, only allows the release of those papers to the veteran or a direct descendant — a son or daughter.
No one else, including grandchildren, can access them.
So, much as the official record-keepers in the recorder's office "cherish" the documents — including nearly 1,000 Civil War-era discharge papers with what he says is impressive penmanship — "they're still being stuck in a closet and not being utilized," Ackerman said.
Pending legislation he asked state Sen. Chuck Weaver and state Rep. Tim Butler to sponsor has passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting a House floor vote.
It would allow the records to be viewed by anyone in the public — minus personal information like Social Security numbers for newer veterans — at the same time as other federal documents are released. Ackerman said that would be 62 years after being filed.
"This is a genealogist's treasure trove," he said.
The recorder's office is also likely to loan out some of those record books to the Tazewell County Museum for display and research if the measure passes and is signed into law, Ackerman said.