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Did you know

    • you cannot obtain a death record in Oklahoma during the seventy-five years after a death unless you are the subject of the record, i.e., the deceased;[1]
    • entries are no longer added to the Social Security Death Index until three years after the death occurs;[2]
    • state vital records officers have a Model Act which, if passed in your state, will close access to birth record for 125 years, marriage records for 100 years, and death records for seventy-five years?[3]

Without records we have no research.

We are advising congress and our state legislatures that we need access to public records and that we vote. BCG is a participating member in the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC).[4]  RPAC has crafted the Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights, a petition showing support for loosening recent restrictions on the SSDI and other public records. The goal is 10,000 signatures by the end of 2015, and we’re 90% there.

You can help! Sign the Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights. Ask your societies to urge members to sign. The petition can be signed online. A link is also available on SpringBoard‘s Genealogists’ Declaration page. RPAC Chair Jan Alpert reports that petitions will be available to sign at the November 1st Genealogy Roadshow event at HistoryMiami Museum and November 7th at Ancestry Day in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It takes just a few minutes to read the declaration out loud at your local society meeting or seminar. Pass around a few signature pages (Word doc or PDF), and folks will willingly sign, knowing what the petition is all about. We must all make our voices heard on this critical matter.

We’re 90% there. You care, right? Join in the final push!

[1] 63 Okla.Stat. § 1-323.
[2] 42 U.S.C. §1306c.
[3] §26(c), “Model State Vital Statistics Act and … Regulations,” NAPHSIS (http://www.naphsis.org/Documents/FinalMODELLAWSeptember72011.pdf).
[4] Sponsoring members of RPAC include the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Other participating members, in addition to BCG, are the Association of Professional Genealogists, the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, the American Society of Genealogists, ProQuest, and Ancestry.com.

The Road to Better SSDI Access Goes Through All Fifty States

A stretch of road between California and Nevada, photograph by Dan Thorburn, used under Creative Commons license, https://www.flickr.com/photos/danthorburn/7558581290 .

Do you remember how with one stroke of a pen on 26 December 2013 genealogists lost access to recent deaths in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)?

Nearly a year ago, the President signed into law the 2013 federal budget compromise bill. It included Section 203, which removed Freedom of Information Act protection from the SSDI and eliminated deaths from public record until the end of the third calendar year after they occur, effective 28 March 2014. As an example, deaths that occur between 28 March and 31 December 2014 will first appear in the SSDI on 1 January 2018. Closing the SSDI’s most recent records hides that critical single element, the Social Security number, but it also hides names, dates, and locations—information which could remain open and is used and needed by genealogists.

As the new session of the U.S. Congress begins in January, the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) plans to ask that only the Social Security number be omitted from recent death entries and that other information be returned to the SSDI. RPAC plans to show Congress that genealogists care by gathering signatures on a petition. Signatures are needed because Congress responds to numbers. The goal is to reach at least 10,000 signatures before approaching senators this coming year. In 2014 the petition traveled to the NGS, FGS, and IAJGS conferences, as well as the Southern California Jamboree, resulting in the collection of 4,000 signatures. We have six weeks to collect 6,000 more signatures!

Now is the time to take this petition to the fifty states. RPAC needs your help!

RPAC asks that you, in each of your home states, gather signatures on this petition. If you are an officer in a state society, take this petition to your board and to meetings. If you are a society member, ask your society to support this effort. If you attend genealogy roundtables at your local library, bring this petition along.

  • Once you get signatures, scan the signed pages and email the images to Jan Alpert, RPAC’s chair; her email is listed at the bottom of the page.

Please help by printing out this paperwork and bringing our case to the genealogists who don’t travel to national conferences, to genealogists in all fifty states.  We have six weeks. Let’s top 10,000 signatures! Let’s get Congress to listen to our concerns!

You can read more about this on RPAC’s own blog, “Genealogists Declaration of Rights—We Need Your Support!”

 

 by Barbara Mathews, CG, FASG

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), Barbara Mathews 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.