Our Newest Associate: Cheryl Brown Abernathy, CG

Cheryl Brown Abernathy

Cheryl Brown Abernathy of Fredericksburg, Ohio, became a Board-certified genealogist on 9 April 2014. She is the owner of The Past Lane where her professional work focuses on Wayne County, Ohio, and nine nearby counties. She does in-depth research, records look-up, and lineage society applications. Living in the north central Ohio region to which her ancestors migrated more than a century ago has given her the skills and experience she uses in her business. She volunteers as chair of the Settlers and Builders of Ohio, one of the lineage societies of the Ohio Genealogical Society.

Cheryl’s top genealogy hero is her grandmother, Mary Belle (Wear) Martin, who developed and nourished her interest in genealogy. In her family genealogy website, in its coverage of Mary Belle, Cheryl provides a great example of melding facts and source citations. Today her friends Donna Gruber and Elissa Scalise Powell give her encouragement.

For Cheryl, preparation for the submission of her BCG portfolio including attending an impressive selection of institute courses:

  • Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University
    • Course Two, Intermediate Genealogy & Historical Studies – 2009
    • Course Four, Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis – 2011
  • Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) at La Roche College
    • Beneath the Home Page, Problem–Solving with Online Repositories – 2012
    • Advanced Land Research: Locating, Analyzing, Mapping – 2013

Her advice to others interested in becoming Board-certified is that they “take all the coursework you can, whether it’s a ProGen study group, IGHR, GRIP, SLIG, Boston University or any of the numerous opportunities available.” Asked if she would do anything differently, Cheryl said that she’d start attending institutes earlier in her career. In five years, she sees herself as still learning, researching, and honing her skills.

Welcome, Cheryl!

Introducing: Eric Siess

Associate Eric Siess of Rancho Palos Verdes is a member of the BCG Class of 2013, having received his Certified GenealogistSM credential last year.

Eric Siess

Eric has 30 years of personal and professional experience in family history research, lecturing and teaching. His lectures throughout Southern California include emigration records, the GPS, German immigration, Civil War genealogy, lineage society applications, the 1940 census, and tips for better genealogy. He has successfully helped many clients find their European ancestors and has determined his own lineage into 17th century Alsace and Sweden.

Eric taught beginning and intermediate Genealogy at the South Bay Adult school for several years and one of his courses, “Solving the Ultimate Puzzle: Family History” was the 2011 LiveWell class for Intellectual Health. He has a Ph.D. in Engineering, is the President of the South Bay Cities Genealogical Society and is a member of NGS, APG and the Ohio Genealogical Society.

Eric’s advice to those considering certification is: “Commit yourself to preparing your portfolio starting now – you have everything to gain and you will grow immensely by doing so. Don’t create time pressure for yourself though, apply for certification when your portfolio is ready (I didn’t say perfect!).”

His genealogical heroes?

Elizabeth Shown Mills, who through her writing, taught me not to fear source citations; Thomas Jones, whose ability to find and communicate the simplest logical essence is inspirational; and the late John T. Humphrey who became an instant hero the first time I heard him speak in Ohio.

And one thing he’s still working on is efficiency. “Maybe some people have it innately,” he notes. “I’m learning those skills from my colleagues.”

His five-year plan includes transitioning from his first career to that of a full-time genealogical researcher and speaker.

We’re pleased to have this opportunity to introduce Eric to the BCG community!

Welcome to New Board-Certified Genealogist Clarise Soper

Clarise Soper

Clarise Soper of Heidelberg, Mississippi, became a Board-certified genealogist on 21 February 2014. She is an expert in Mississippi genealogy and loves working on families from the Civil War era.

A graduate of ProGen 14, Clarise says, “The program is invaluable because of the unbiased, constructive critiques you receive from fellow group members and guidance from the mentor—a Board-certified genealogist.” She recommends ProGen study to those who are thinking about becoming certified. Clarise is giving back to this study organization; she is now the Coordinator for ProGen 22.

Her genealogical heroes are Marcia Rice, her sister Beverly Rice, and Michael Grant Hait, Jr., CGSM, all of whom pushed her to think more analytically. It was Marcia she met first, in the food line. Clarise remembers lively discussions, nearly debates, with all three at the Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research. Clarise also appreciates the support and coaching she got from Linda Woodward Geiger, CGSM, CGLSM, the Mentor for ProGen 14.

At the current time Clarise mixes both volunteer and paid work in genealogy. If there was one thing she would change, she would find more time for pro bono speaking engagements for the rural genealogical societies in Mississippi.

Clarise’s advice to those considering certification is this:

I probably hold the record for being “on the clock” the longest. I extended each time to keep my personal goal in the forefront while my life centered on being caregiver to my Mother who had Alzheimer’s. That five-year journey taught me patience and perseverance, attributes that helped me complete my portfolio. Don’t give up when life gets in the way of your dream!

 

 

RPAC Report, April 2014: Access Changes to the SSDI – Update 2

Photograph courtesy of Microsoft Office.

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

Implementation of Access Restrictions to the SSDI/DMF

The 2013 Ryan-Murray bipartisan budget compromise was signed by President Obama on 26 December 2013. Section 203 of that bill implemented restrictions on access to the Death Master File. The thinking was that the Social Security Death Index (the SSDI is about 60% of the full DMF) was used by crooks to commit IRS tax fraud. Closing it would lower the amount of fraud, saving the government money. The money value associated with fraud reduction became an offset in the budget deal.

Confusion abounded after the bipartisan budget compromise passed. Although there was a 90-day extension for the development of regulations, one congressman thought that the Commerce Department was violating the law by allowing continued access. Although the bill stated explicitly that the fees for certifying access to recent death information could only cover the expense in implementing it, commentators thought that the fees would make it a “money-raiser.” Other analysts pointed out that tax fraud involving the dead constituted only 1.8% of all tax fraud and that nothing was being done about the other 98.2% of fraud.

Section 203 mandates that deaths are redacted from the SSDI until the end of the third calendar year following the death. The Commerce Department was directed to develop within 90 days a certification process for those people who need to gain access during those first three years. That task was delegated to the National Technical Information Services department — the same department that sells access to the Death Master File.

NTIS held an information meeting 4 March 2014 that was attended by about four dozen entities. The attendees represented the interests of life insurance companies, medical researchers, fallen soldier repatriation efforts, state attorneys general, genealogists, and the financial industry. Oral presentations are archived in two batches (Batch 1 contains prepared presentations, beginning with the one by Fred Moss of RPAC, and Batch 2 continues those presentations using a court reporting system [with many transcription errors] as well as presentations from the floor that answered questions asked by the NTIS staff). Follow-up written testimony was accepted until 18 March 2014 and is also archived.

The NTIS regulations are in Interim Final Rule status. They have been published in the Federal Register. To gain access, a researcher must first apply for certification and then subscribe. BCG associate Dee Dee King, CGSM, was an early NTIS Certified Person and subscriber. She describes her experiences here.

At this time, we expect access to deaths that occurred prior to 26 March 2014 to continue as before. We expect that deaths added to the DMF after the implementation of the new regulations will be restricted. Deaths in 2014 will not be posted to the SSDI until the end of 2017.

Genealogists originally gained access to the Social Security Death Index through the Freedom of Information Act. Section 203 removed FOIA protection but the long-term repercussions of that are still unclear.

Update 1: added more accurate description of differences between Batch 1 and Batch 2, courtesy of Fred Moss.

Update 2: added a link to Dee Dee King’s article on the NTIS certification process.

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), Barbara advocates for the concerns of Board-certified genealogists, and participates in RPAC’s monthly conference call. RPAC is a joint committee organized by the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Each of these three societies has a vote on the committee. Non-voting representatives are sent by several national groups: American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, BCG, and ICAPGen. In addition, non-voting representatives attend from two corporations, Ancestry, and ProQuest. Communication is fostered by an email list, monthly telephone conference calls, and the RPAC blog.