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.

RPAC Report, January 2014

Courtesy of Microsoft Office.

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

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), I advocate for the concerns of Board-certified genealogists, and participate 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.

Two topics are important this month:

  • at the federal level, ensuring that genealogists are involved as stakeholders in the process of writing regulations regarding access to the Social Security Death Index; and
  • at the local level, ensuring a rapid response to legislative or administrative activity involving records preservation and access.

Advocating as Stakeholders in Death Master File Regulations

At the federal level, the impact of the recent federal budget compromise bill on records access remains everyone’s top priority. The budget bill embargoes recent deaths from the Social Security Death Index until the end of the third calendar year after the event. It was discussed here in my 2013 year-end report.

On behalf of RPAC, Fred Moss submitted written testimony in relationship to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s SSDI closure language. His testimony is linked to the RPAC blog post “Senate Finance Committee — Tax Administration Discussion Drafts,” together with an attachment from Michael Ramage, CGSM, outlining a forensic genealogy definition.[*] The summary at the end of the testimony states:

We offer four main points:

  1. We are anxious to support the effort to implement the provisions of the Bipartisan Budget Act requiring the Department of Commerce to develop a Certification Program governing access to the Death Master File. Genealogists who fit the (a – f ) categories listed on pages 2-3 should be accommodated for quick certification. The genealogical community is a vitally interested stakeholder in this process.
  2. As existing policy regarding public access to the Death Master File is reviewed, we urge that input from professional genealogists be sought. The members of the Records Preservation and Access Committee stand ready to assist in arranging for that input to both the Executive and Legislative branches. We can best be reached at access@fgs.org
  3. Our strongest message is that steps already taken by the IRS and genealogical entities to protect SSNs listed in the SSDI may have already intercepted this particular form of identity theft without waiting for any additional legislation.
  4. The SSNs of living people will remain vulnerable as long as the IRS mandate is to rush payments of tax refunds before information returns can be compared with the submitted return to assure its validity.

RPAC will continue its efforts to participate in the regulatory process of the Department  of Commerce. The group will advocate for access for professional genealogists and those doing compassionate work for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office and for Unclaimed Persons.

Those Board-certified genealogists who consider access to recent deaths to be important to their work can offer their support to RPAC by emailing access@fgs.org. Your stories about how access made a difference in people’s lives will be helpful in articulating this concern to Senators and Representatives.

Monitoring Action at the State Level

We expect the introduction of state legislation based on the unapproved 2011 Model Act and Regulations. State liaisons will play a continuing role in checking for new legislation and in rallying local response. I discussed the history of the Model Acts in my March 2013 report, as follows:

The registration of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces is done on the local level, that is, by 50 states, 5 territories, the City of New York, and Washington, DC. Information contained in those records is shared with U.S. government entities such as the Social Security Administration.

To ensure successful sharing, the U.S. government has made available text that states may elect to use for law as well as for regulations describing how those laws are implemented. States are not required to conform to the Model Act and Regulations. Each state, city, or territory is free to implement laws and regulations for its own needs. Nonetheless, the Model Act can have significant impact. For example, the movement of state vital records offices into state Departments of Public Health was first advised by the 1977 version of the Model Act.

Beginning in 2009, a committee formed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services convened to update the 1992 Model Act. The National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) approved the update by resolution 8 June 2011. NAPHSIS is an association of representatives from the 57 states, cities, and territories. Members of the organization had participated in the drafting of the new Model Act.

Previous iterations of the Model Act have gone through periods of public feedback and revision before approval by the federal agency involved. The 2011 revision has not yet been made available for public review by DHHS (see their note here) and so it is not yet considered final. In the meantime, several state public health departments developed legislation that conformed to the unreviewed version of the Model Act. This past Friday, 1 March 2013, at noon Eastern time, NAPHSIS independently released the 2011 revision of the Model Act on its website. It can be downloaded here.

What does the new version do? It incorporates changes in technology over the twenty years since the 1992 version. It also changes the records closure periods. Please compare these periods to the ones currently in law in the states in which you research. If they differ, it would be wise to work with local genealogy societies to monitor for the introduction of state legislation affecting records closure.

  • Birth records closed for 125 years.
  • Marriage and divorce records closed for 100 years.
  • Death records closed for 75 years.

Because the response to local legislation begins with local efforts, RPAC worked in 2013 to strengthen its state liaison apparatus, defined here as:

In each state there is or will be an individual responsible for maintaining liaison and communication between the FGS Records Access and Preservation Committee and the statewide genealogical/historical community with respect to matters concerning the preservation of and access to national, state and local historical records of genealogical and historical interest.

To locate a state liaison, RPAC must determine if there is an umbrella organization within the state, or an overall genealogical society. The committee then works with the President of that society to find the statewide liaison. This person becomes a contact for anyone in the state having a records access concern. The process means better representation, but it also means that it takes time to fill a slot. (Disclosure: I am the state liaison for Massachusetts.)

In December and January, RPAC hosted conference calls that included representatives from twenty states and RPAC leadership. On January 28th, we heard from Teri E. Flack of Texas and Helen Shaw, CGSM, of Maine. In both states, genealogists testified against records closure legislation. The Texans were successful in stopping closure. The Mainers saw modifications to the bill and are now considered stakeholders in the process of writing regulations. Rob Rafford of Connecticut spoke passionately about being proactive in monitoring legislative activity.

Efforts this year led to three states adding a state liaison, for a total of 33+1 represented states. If you live in one of these states, which are now unrepresented, please consider working with your state’s genealogy society to find a person willing to take on the role. Every state needs a person or a committee or a society checking for new legislation, budget changes, and preservation issues. Without attention, changes can happen that will come as a shock to genealogists.

  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

North Carolina is moving quickly to identify a state liaison. A matter of unexpected records destruction got everyone’s attention. The 2011 Model Act provisions are also relevant as the UNC School of Government was investigating records closure last year. My written response on behalf of Board-certified genealogists is available here.

To find the state liaison for your geographic area of concern, consult the RPAC roster here.

________________________
* The genealogy community has not rallied around an industry-wide definition of the term forensic genealogy. A definition focused on financial or legal work is slowly coming to the fore but there are points to be made for a broader definition that includes work involving living people. For example, Attachment A includes two out of three legs of the adoption triad (child, birth parents, adoptive parents). RPAC testimony adds medical and genetic genealogy.

UPDATED: 2 Feb 2014, to show that Nebraska is already represented by a state liaison.

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.

RPAC Report, August 2013

Jan Meisels Allen presenting at IAJGS 2013. Photograph © Barbara Mathews.

Submitted by Barbara Jean Mathews, CG.

The three societies that are voting members of the Records Access and Preservation Committee hold annual conventions. At each convention RPAC presents a session. This year, I attended two meetings and telecommuted to the third. They were:

  • National Genealogical Society convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (reported here in April).
  • Federal of Genealogical Societies (FGS) in Fort Wayne, Indiana (telecommuted).
  • International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) in Boston, Massachusetts.

Both FGS and IAJGS were this month. What a delight it is to make connections with people who care about records preservation and access. It is a great lift to my spirits.

The FGS presentation was made by Janet Alpert and Fred Moss. Jan Meisels Allen presented a slide show remotely from her home in California. The FGS slide presentation by Janet Alpert is available on the RPAC website as a PowerPoint presentation (17M in size) or as a pdf handout with six slides to a page (only 1M in size). The slides cover the main themes seen this year, including the 2011 Model Act, state budget restrictions, bills currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress, and misunderstandings around identity theft and the Social Security Death Index.

Over the summer, RPAC strengthened its coordination with its state liaisons. A liaison is the individual within each state who communicates concerns to and asks for support from RPAC. (Disclosure: I am the state liaison for Massachusetts.) A state toolkit and sample state slide show are available for download from the RPAC Publications site here. In the first eight months of 2013, seven state states have had to actively respond to state legislative actions or budget restrictions. All were successful.

RPAC strongly urges that state genealogists visit their U.S. Senators and Representatives. Their suggestion is that the president of the statewide genealogical society and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists schedule a meeting with the Congressional member or their staff. RPAC’s talking points brief is available from as a Microsoft Word DOCX (or as a pdf), APG’s talking points are covered on their Advocacy Committee’s website here.

Members Jan Meisels Allen and Kenneth Ryesky, Esq., of the Public Records Access Monitoring Committee (PRAMC) of IAJGS together with RPAC chair Janet Alpert presented the session in Boston. The PowerPoint slide is available from the IAJGS site here and the handout is here.

 

 

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.

 

RPAC Report, April and May 2013

© 2013 by the National Genealogical Society, Inc. Used by permission of the National Genealogical Society and the photographer, Scott Stewart.

Report from Barbara Mathews, CGSM, BCG’s RPAC Representative:

The Records Preservation and Access Committee had a busy two months since my last report. The committee has been actively engaged at both the federal and state levels responding to pressure on our ability to access records. Currently at the federal level, RPAC is dealing with Senate and House subcommittee hearings on bills to restrict access to the SSDI. In addition, several states have seen legislation to stringently restrict vital records access. Those states have reported their efforts to RPAC and in some cases asked for support.

RPAC’s telephone conference calls in early April and early May focused on state-level pressures to close vital records. RPAC issued letters of support to state legislative committees in both Oregon and Connecticut. Jan Alpert also took over the responsibilities of RPAC Chair from David Rencher, AG, CG.

At the National Genealogical Society’s 2013 conference, Jan Alpert, Jan Meisels Allen, and Fred Moss presented “RPAC Strategies in a Changing Environment: Fraud Protection v. Access.” The group presented a clear picture of the pressures currently faced by those seeking records access. As the photo above shows, there were empty seats. Not all genealogists recognize the need to work for records preservation and access. The few who do are willing to work hard to ensure access for all.

You can download the PowerPoint slides from this presentation by clicking on “RPAC NGS 2013 Las Vegas.” Jan Meisels Allen put together a PowerPoint slide show to explain how to monitor your own state’s legislative activity — just click on “Toolkit for State Liaisons–Jan Meisels Allen.” In addition, Jan Alpert updated the RPAC brochure; a printable copy is available here.

Federal Legislative Activity.

On Tuesday, 16 April 2013, the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee had a hearing titled “Tax Fraud and Tax ID Theft: Moving Forward with Solutions.” The committee is chaired by Max Baucus (D-MT); Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is the ranking member. Written statements and added oral testimony showed that the IRS has made real progress in intercepting and investigating and prosecuting fraudulent returns. To view the full video of the hearing and statements by Baucus, Hatch, and the four witnesses go to the hearing website here.

On the whole, RPAC considered the hearing to be a step forward in federal understanding of the real issues involved in tax fraud. This includes the fact that the SSDI is used to prevent fraud rather than to instigate it. The blog posting, available here, describes the reasons for optimism as “[T]he IRS should eventually be able to statistically confirm that that vulnerability targeting the deceased has been closed.”

RPAC submitted written testimony that they support short-term (2 or 3 year) closure only if the following three categories are considered for access:

  • Persons working with coroners, medical examiners, DOD
  • Persons doing work on missing heirs, probate, mineral rights
  • Persons supporting medical work

Jan Alpert reminded us that the last week in May is a scheduled recess for both houses of the U.S. Congress. She said that would be an excellent time to approach people in their local offices. Consider getting a small group of people together, including the president of the statewide genealogical society, a member of APG, and an accredited or Board-certified genealogist. Schedule a meeting with your legislator and convey the message that we care about access to the SSDI.

Local Concerns

The unapproved 2011 Model Act and Regulations discussed in the March RPAC report: , have led to the introduction of legislation in many states. Several states are coping with closure legislation this Spring.

  • Texas
  • Oregon
  • Connecticut

The Texas legislature is considering a bill that introduces the long records closure periods of the unapproved 2011 Model Act and Regulations. Members of the Texas genealogy community advocated for access in legislative hearings. See the report of the Texas State Genealogy Society here.

Oregon genealogists worked with other interested parties to eliminate restrictive closure clauses in HB 2093 during hearings April 10th before the Oregon House’s Health Care Committee and  May 9th before Oregon Senate’s Healthcare and Human Services Committee. The RPAC blog posting about the process is very informative.

Connecticut’s General Assembly considered bills generated out of concern for the tragedy in Newtown on December 14th. The gun control legislation instigated by that tragedy already passed. The town clerk of Newtown, however, has induced local legislators to introduce legislation to close death records. Currently all death and marriage records are open. Two new laws were reported out of committee favorably and await votes in the General Assembly’s House. The state medical examiner spoke passionately about the need to keep death records of children open; see the Hartford Courant coverage here. RPAC submitted a letter asking for this legislation to be reconsidered.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about records access or preservation.

Using Established Patterns (and Records Access) to Find Answers

Established Patterns

The Editors’ Corner points out that the December 2012 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly has a theme, Six Degrees of Separation. Editors Melinde Lutz Byrne, CGSM, and Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CGSM, CGLSM, discuss using established patterns and networks to find not only relationships but also records. Burned courthouse? Remember that attorneys using that courthouse also kept records. Lost vital records books? Remember that midwives, ministers, and gravestone carvers also kept records.

The last issue of the 100th volume is rounded out by contributions from other Board-certified genealogists:

  • Michael Hait, CGSM, “In the Shadow of Rebellions: Maryland Ridgelys in Slavery and Freedom”
  • George Findlen, Ph.D., CGSM, “Resolving Duplicate Roman Catholic Parish Register Entries: French Canadian Examples”
  • Allen R. Peterson, CGSM, “Living on the Edge: A Hyde Family of Cheshire and Derbyshire, England”
  • James W. Petty, AG, CGSM, “Black Slavery Emancipation Research in the Northern States”

Michael blogged about the genesis of his article, which tied as a winner of the 2011 NGS Family History Writing Contest. Read his story here.[1] His co-winner was F. Warren Bittner, CGSM, “Without Land, Occupation, Rights, or Marriage Privilege: The Büttner Family from Bavaria to New York,” published in the previous NGSQ issue.

Records Access

Melinde and Tom remind us that records — including workarounds for missing records — are only part of problem resolution. Access to those records is also critical.

Identifying active nexuses is not enough to complete the workaround. The archivist, descendant, institution, or government that preserves records is the final component. Without repositories in every sense, activities that greater nexuses chronicle might as well never have happened.[2]

Budget issues regarding the Georgia Archives and high-tech solutions to accessibility at the National Archives were highlighted in social media this week.

  • The Records Access and Preservation Committee reminds us that the Georgia Archives is a budget line item and attention from genealogists is still needed on this issue. RPAC wrote directly to Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia about the need to preserve the historical record.[3]
  • David Ferreiro, Archivist of the United States, was interviewed about NARA’s evolving use of digitization. The post and a sequence of short videos can be found here.
  • Pamela Wright, NARA’s Chief Information Officer, appeared at the 2013 Summit: Advancing Citizen Engagement, which was part of Social Media Week 2013. A blog posting NARA’s use of social media to create better records access is available here.

[1] Michael Hait, “Writing the Ridgeleys,” Planting the Seeds, posted 17 Feb 2013; http://michaelhait.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/writing-ridgelys/: viewed 22 Feb 2013.

[2] Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones, “Editor’s Corner: Six Degrees of Separation,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (Dec 2012): 243.

[3] Fred Moss, “Georgia Archives — RPAC Letter to Gov. Deal,” Records Preservation and Access Committee, posted 3 Feb 2013; http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2013/02/03/georgia-archives-rpac-letter-to-governor-deal/ : viewed 22 Feb 2013. The letter to Gov. Deal, signed by Janet Alpert, the RPAC chair, can be viewed at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/GeorgiaArchives-28-Jan-2013.pdf .