RPAC Report, June and July 2013

Courtesy of Microsoft Office.

Report from Barbara Mathews, CGSM

The Records Access and Preservation Committee is tracking activities at both the federal and state level regarding records access. On all fronts, RPAC has good news to report.

At the State Level

Genealogists in a handful of states have been alert to the introduction of legislation that could restrict vital records access — legislation based on the 2011 Model Act and Regulations (for more on the Model Act, see my previous report).

  • Genealogists in the Texas Genealogical Society uncovered HB 3252. They sent alerts about the bill to every other genealogical society in the state of Texas. Members wrote to legislators and genealogists testified before the House Public Health Committee. The bill has died in committee.
  • Genealogists in Washington discovered legislation in committee. Their quick action meant that the restrictive legislation stalled in that committee.
  • Genealogists in Oregon testified before a legislative committee. They opposed longer restrictions for the release of vital records, as did archivists and other interest groups. Their efforts were successful, resulting in amendment 4 to HB 2093.
  • Genealogists in Connecticut found strong allies to assist in responding to bills to close death records for 100 years — records that have been open for 350 years. These bills were instigated out of concern for the feelings of the survivors and families of Newtown, Connecticut, following the December 14th shootings there. Newspaper reporters and publishers, the Freedom of Information Commission, and State Medical Examiner all spoke out against the closure bills. The committee hearing was covered by the Hartford Courant. RPAC and others wrote to the House Speaker asking that these extreme bills be tabled. This effort was successful. At the last minute, an amendment to an unrelated bill closed 911 tapes and crime scene photos. The New York Times published an editorial against the disturbing backroom process. The process, however, did result in a situation that settled the concerns of the Newtown families without changing 350 years of state policy.

While the Georgia State Archives was under the management of the Secretary of State, the archives saw massive layoffs and  access restrictions. Legislators moved the management of the archives over the University of Georgia System. The chancellor there advocated for better funding and things are improving. RPAC sent letters to members of state legislative committees in support of funding improvements and the management changes. See the blog posting for the Georgia State Archives, titled “More Good News from the Georgia State Archives.”

I was wearing my hat as a Civil Records Co-Director for the Massachusetts Genealogical Council when I attended the annual convention of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), an organization of state public health vital statistics offices. At the convention I was able to learn about the complexities of the jobs held by vital statistics registrars. In addition to their responsibilities for civil registration, the registrars are a part of the state public health efforts to produce the birth and death information used by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. If I get a chance to blog about the concerns of state vital records registrars, I will post the links as follow-up comments to this post.

At the Federal Level

RPAC continues to monitor Capitol Hill legislation restricting access to the Social Security Death Index, which is the public version of the Death Master File. The bills introduced earlier this year are still under consideration by committees in the U.S. House and the Senate. Those bills were listed in one of my previous reports which you can see here.

It appears that all is poised to move forward this fall on Capitol Hill. RPAC expects legislation to be introduced in the U.S. Senate and committee hearings to take place in both the House and the Senate. In the meantime, Fred Moss of RPAC went to Washington, DC, to make the case that closure of the SSDI is now unnecessary. The misuse of the social security numbers of dead people is no longer an issue because genealogical websites voluntarily redacted numbers and because the IRS now monitors better.

During the Summer Recess (the month of August), our Congressmen and Senators will be back in their home states. RPAC sees this as a wonderful opportunity for genealogists to express their concerns to their House and Senate members. The step suggested by RPAC is that the president of each state’s umbrella or statewide genealogical society, together with a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, schedule meetings with each member of the state’s federal delegation or their staff. In those meetings, they can discuss the concerns of genealogists. RPAC provides SSDI-Talking-Points-2013 for this discussion.

The Advocacy Committee of the Association of Professional Genealogists is monitoring records access issues. They have posted a list of recommended actions in regard to these bills before the U.S. Congress. You can read their recommendations here.

Please get in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns about records preservation or records access.

 

Have You Heard of Dual- and Cross-Credentialing?

Hundreds of people have one of two genealogical credentials. Within this group of credentialed people, there are two smaller groups with impressive achievements.

  • There are the dual-credentialed people who hold both levels of credential from BCG: Certified GenealogistSM and Certified Genealogical LecturerSM. Search the BCG roster for the credential CGLSM. They total 16.
  • Then there are the cross-credentialed people who hold both types of credentials: AG® from the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPgen) and CGSM from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). Search the BCG roster for the credential AG®. They total 13.

Jim Ison, AG®, CGSM, spoke to the ICAPgen conference in 2009 about how important credentials were to a working genealogist. This is the message that a credential gives your potential clients:

  • It shows a commitment to your field.
  • It demonstrates expertise beyond the norm.
  • It demonstrates adherence to approved standards
  • It shows that your skills and knowledge were independently verified.
  • It provides for an increased level of trust due to the Codes of Ethics.

In addition, Jim shared two graphics developed for this lecture. They are based on a study of the membership of the Association of Professional Genealogists in 2009 so the details may vary this year. They show that having a credential makes the professional genealogist stand out from the thousands of other genealogists working in the field.

© 2009 by Jim Ison. Shared with permission.

There were only thirteen cross-credentialed genealogists in 2009. The commitment to qualifying for a credential also involves a commitment to renewing each credential every five years. Both tasks take experience, hard work, and the courage to be measured against standards.

© 2009 by Jim Ison. Shared with permission.

If you want to understand more about either credential, consider attending Course 5 at the 2014 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. For information, see our blog posting “Credentialing: Accreditation, Certification, or Both?” Online registration begins 1 June 2013 at 9:00 AM Mountain time and many courses fill within minutes.

 

Updated 3 June 2013 to correct number of course.

 

Debbie Parker Wayne now a Board-certified genealogical lecturer

Debbie Parker Wayne received the Certified GenealogistSM credential in 2010 and the Certified Genealogical LecturerSM credential in 2013. Debbie is a full-time genealogist experienced in using laws and DNA analysis, as well as more traditional techniques, for genealogical research. She previously worked in the computer industry doing support, training, programming, and Web design. Those skills are especially useful when analyzing a client’s DNA test results, but also help when doing traditional research in this technical age.

When she first attended the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) in 2003, Debbie knew she wanted to do professional-level research, but hadn’t yet decided whether she wanted to become certified or start a research business. Experiences on that trip, her first exposure to the world of professional genealogists, the techniques learned in Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course, and discussions with credentialed genealogists convinced Debbie to work towards this goal. She started with pro bono clients and accepted paying clients as her knowledge increased due to self-study, institutes, and conference sessions.

Debbie’s business includes research clients, DNA clients, speaking engagements, and writing projects. She won two writing awards in 2012 for articles that were based on research done for her BCG portfolio. She was invited to present “Forensic Techniques for Genetic Genealogy” at the Forensic Genealogy Institute (FGI). In 2013 she will be presenting sessions at the NGS and FGS conferences, “Genetic Genealogy for Clients” at IGHR’s Genealogy as a Profession course, and continuing her presentations for FGI and local societies.

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