RPAC 2013 Year-End Report: SSDI Recent-Death Redactions Begin in 90 Days

Report from Barbara J. Mathews, CGSM, BCG’s Representative to the Records Access and Preservation Committee:

A Look at the Year 2013
This year had its highs and lows in the fight to preserve records and to ensure access to them. This year saw accomplishments galore as far as records access and preservation go. Those accomplishments came from the active participation of local genealogists.
  • Genealogists in Texas, and Oregon testified against access restrictions in bills based on the 2011 Model Vital Statistics Act and Regulations. They were successful.
  • Connecticut genealogists testified in legislative hearings against death records closure related to the December 14th event in Newtown. They were successful.
  • BCG advocated for records access in response to questions from the School of Government at the University of North Carolina regarding possible future access restrictions based on the 2011 Model Act and Regulations.
  • Genealogists from throughout the U.S. supported the Georgia Archives, seeing it endure draconian budget and staff cuts, supporting its transfer to the University System, and advocating for a return to a more realistic budget.

I was hindered in providing advocacy for one critical item this year. This was the redaction of recent deaths from the Social Security Death Index. The Senate Finance Committee scheduled a hearing, cancelled it for snow, rescheduled it, and cancelled it again. The Finance Committee Chair released his staff’s notes about what they might put in the bill. The Ranking Member of the Finance Committee (that is, the senior member of the opposition party) released a statement that this was not agreed-upon text. (Both statements appear to have been removed from the Finance Committee page.) One week later, there still had not been a hearing, but the Finance Committee’s text turned up as Section 203 of the Ryan-Murray Budget Conference Committee’s compromise. Section 203 had bypassed committee hearings and public feedback; it lacked committee approval.

In the middle of this process, one person was willing to listen to genealogists. Leah McGrath Goodman, a senior writer for Newsweek magazine, often writes about financial issues. Her article, “The Deathly Flaw Buried Deep in the Budget Bill,” went online the morning of the Senate vote. I and other genealogists tried to put fraudulent use of the SSDI into the context of the total fraudulent returns paid by the IRS. Returns to dead people represent only 1.8% (that’s one point eight percent) of the fraudulent returns to which the IRS annually issues $5 billion in refunds. Our point was that closing the SSDI does not address the bigger issues the IRS has.

The provisions about restrictions to access to the Social Security Death Index will become effective 90 days after the President signs the budget compromise bill. That 90-day period ends in March. The bill provides that a death will not be listed in the SSDI until the end of the calendar year in which the third anniversary occurs. This means that any death during 2014 will first appear in the SSDI on 1 January 2018. At this time, I do not know how that implementation will occur or how retroactive it will be. I will keep you posted as I learn more.

The budget compromise bill states that government agencies and organizations involved in detecting fiscal fraud can have full use of the parent of the SSDI, the Death Master File, during the recent-death redaction period. The Secretary of Commerce must set up a bureau to oversee a certification process and for on-going audits. Fines and possible jail terms were built into the bill for unlawful disclosure of information.

The process of creating this new certification/audit bureaucracy provides genealogists with one last opportunity to participate in the discussion. The Records Access and Preservation Committee has already had an emergency telephone meeting and plans to advocate before the Senate Commerce Committee as the new regulations are developed.

Many Board-certified genealogists work through contract with the Department of Defense’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. You might remember that RPAC, through meetings with the Chair of the House Social Security Subcommittee (himself a former POW) had successfully advocated for inclusion of this DOD project among the entities to be certified for access during the redaction period. Unfortunately, that text was not in the Senate draft used in the budget compromise.

New Board-Certified Genealogist: Darcie M. Hind Posz, Washington, D.C.

Darcie M. Hind Posz

Darcie M. Hind Posz of Washington, D.C. has earned the credential of Certified GenealogistSM.

The newest member of the Class of 2013, Darcie has been a professional genealogist for more than nine years. She is President of the National Capital Area Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists and will be Region 4, Northeast, Board Director for the Association of Professional Genealogists in 2014.

Her research emphases include Chicago and Hawaiian/Polynesian genealogy and urban ancestors. Her writing has appeared in the APG Quarterly, FGS FORUM and NGS Magazine and portions of her research are housed at Columbia University. She is the NGSQ Study Group Coordinator and in the past served as the chair of the Federation of Genealogical Societies Outreach Committee.

She resides in Washington, D.C., and can be reached at darcieposz@hotmail.com.

Darcie’s achievement came on her second attempt at certification and she credits both perseverance and continuing education for her success. Asked if she had advice for those seeking certification, Darcie suggested “elaborate outlines to make sure that all of the criteria stated in the instructions, rubrics and the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) will be met.”

Her genealogical heroes include Elizabeth Shown Mills (“her methodology and studies on multicultural subjects have inspired me for years”), Thomas W. Jones (his new book Mastering Genealogical Proof and teaching style “made understanding and applying the GPS attainable”), and Eugene A. Stratton and Neil D. Thompson (“my lineage heroes”; “Stratton’s comment about DNA in Psychic Roots is what inspires me to do what I do,” while Thompson’s work “feeds the royal lineage junkie within me”).

She hopes, when seeking recertification in five years, to be in the Waipio Valley beginning her dream of a land study done on foot.

Let’s all extend a warm welcome to Darcie!

Genealogy Standards Updated in New Manual

In honor of its fiftieth anniversary, the Board for Certification of Genealogists® (“BCG”) has issued Genealogy Standards, a manual for best practices in research and assembly of accurate family histories. This revision completely updates and reorganizes the original 2000 edition of The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual.

 “Accuracy is fundamental to genealogical research,” writes editor Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, in the introduction. “Without it, a family’s history would be fiction. This manual presents the standards family historians use to obtain valid results. These standards apply to all genealogical research, whether shared privately or published.”

The 83 specific standards cover the process of researching family history and the finished products of the research. Based on the five-part Genealogical Proof Standard, the standards cover:

  • documenting (standards 1–8);
  • researching (standards 9–50), including planning, collecting, and reasoning from evidence;
  • writing (standards 51–73), including proofs, assembly, and special products;
  • teaching and lecturing (standards 74–81); and
  • continuing education (standards 82 & 83).

The 100-page book includes appendices: the genealogist’s code, a description of BCG and its work, a list of sources and resources where examples of work that meets standards are regularly published, a glossary, and an evidence-process map distinguishing the three kinds of sources, information, and evidence.

 “We are delighted to provide this new edition, which is meant for all genealogical researchers and practitioners as a way to recognize sound genealogy,” said BCG president Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL. “We appreciate the many hands that helped bring this new edition to fruition and look forward to its widespread usage in the field.”

SAVE 20%! To place a specially-priced, pre-publication order with delivery in the first part of February 2014, visit http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/index.html. Regularly priced at $14.95, the pre-publication price is $11.95 before January 27, 2014.

Citation: Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards, 50th-anniversary edition. Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry, 2014. 100 pp., paper, ISBN 978-1-63026-018-7, $14.95.

Former BCG Vice President Joy Reisinger, RIP

Free of copyright, posted on Pixabay.com by Karla31 of Mörlenbach, Germany.

Guest post by the Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CGSM

It is my sad duty to report that Joy Reisinger, Certified Genealogist Emeritus, died early Tuesday morning, 10 December 2013, in her hometown of Sparta, Wisconsin. A past trustee and vice president of the Board, Joy also served as conference program co-chair for the NGS conferences at Saint Paul and Milwaukee. For many years, she lectured across the United States and Canada on research methods, and Quebecois resources. She last attended a national conference in 2006 at Chicago.

Among the many tasks on which she served so capably was the legislative lobbying effort that kept Wisconsin’s historic vital records accessible and available to the public at a time when pressure was being exerted to close off the materials from public view. She was invited by then-Governor Tommy Thompson to attend the bill-signing ceremony at the state capitol in Madison. She was the longtime editor and publisher of “Lost in Canada,” a newsletter for Canadian-oriented researchers.

In her service to BCG, Joy was actively involved in the development of the first version of the Board’s policy manual. She also began the lecture series for the Family History Library staff during BCG’s October meetings. Most recently, she was a participant in the genealogical community’s Records Access and Preservation Committee collaborative work. First earning her credential as CGRS No. 442 in 1980, and then as CG No. 410 in 1998, she was elected Emeritus in 2007.

Recent ill-health has kept Joy from full participation in the wider life of our genealogical community, but she has kept herself up-to-date on various events and activities as best she has been able. We met as often as possible, given the physical distance between us, usually for a treat of Culver’s frozen chocolate custard with plenty of Diet Pepsi to wash it down. I last visited her on 30 November at the hospital in Sparta, enjoying the chance to share stories of the most recent Board meeting in Salt Lake City and the celebratory events marking the Board’s semi-centennial.

Joy is survived by her husband of 59 years, Jim; three daughters, Barbara and Martha (Brad) of Sparta; and Mary Angelis of LaCrosse; four grandchildren: Emilie and Samantha McKenzie, Ben Reisinger and James Gennaro; and two great-grandchildren. She is further survived by her siblings June (John) Wulff, Linda Deters (Bob Colby) and Lanny (Linda) Deters; and one sister-in-law, Carol Deters. Along with her parents, Joy was preceded in death by a brother and her youngest daughter, Jane, in September.

Details of the visitation and memorial mass will be forthcoming from the family. Burial will be in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, Sparta. Notes of condolence may be addressed to the family at 1020 Central Avenue, Sparta, Wisconsin 54656.

On a personal note, Joy was indispensible as a mentor in my own certification process, and a trusted friend and ally. I will miss her, and her counsel, tremendously.