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The Value of Open Public Records
Records and Repositories
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MGC's NERGC Panel on Open Records: Citizens Can Make a Difference
General Legislation
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How many deaths before the SSDI gets updated again?
Legislation Federal
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Bloggers

Barbara Mathews

Barbara serves as the Federal Records Director. She is a Board-certified genealogist who works for the Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America as a Verifying Genealogist and for the Welles Family Association as a Genealogist. Her volunteer service includes a stint as President of MGC. She holds a master’s degree in the management of non-profits from the Florence Heller School at Brandeis University. You can read her own blog, The Demanding Genealogist, at blog.demandinggenealogist.com.

Recent Posts

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      Please join us at our Panel on Open Records, to be held at 1:45 PM on Saturday, April 18th, in session S-324, at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Citizens can make an impact on our laws and regulations at several points in the legislative process: By working to submit bills that meet our needs and interests. By commenting on those bills as they go through the process of hearings and readings (votes). By continuing to be involved as legislation is implemented through regulation. Our panelists have insight on how citizens stay involved in government activities involving their interests. Please welcome Judy, Helen, and Teresa, all fresh from the trenches of advocating for access. The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, is a genealogist with a law degree. She writes, teaches and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical topics, ranging from using...
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      On 26 December 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law the 2013 Ryan-Murray Budget Compromise Bill. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray chaired the joint Senate-House committee that came to the budget agreement. Congress is mandated to pass budgets that balance, which means that every new cost in the budget must be offset by a tax, fee, or savings. Section 203 of the budget bill describes a savings that is an offset to other costs. We discussed the ramifications of Section 203 last December. The National Technical Information Systems (NTIS) is the government division that sells the underlying database that the big genealogy websites put up as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). As a result of the 2013 budget bill, NTIS had to enact two different levels of SSDI access. One level was for genealogists who could no longer access death information until the end of the third calendar...
    Tagged in: SSDI
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    10000vaccinated
    Boston vaccination drive in 1902.[1] The Massachusetts Genealogical Council sent me to Phoenix, Arizona, last summer[2] to attend the national conference of the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, an organization involving the vital statistics registrars in the 50 states, cities of Washington, DC, and New York, NY, and five U.S. territories. I was to learn what concerns registrars, what drives them, and what we could do to support the registrar here in Massachusetts. Little did I know that this would lead me to a Supreme Court case, coercive vaccinations, a founder of NEHGS, and the state vital record database. Only a fraction of the conference attendees were registrars. The majority of attendees were public health statisticians, working for agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, similar agencies in other states and in Arizona’s counties, the Indian Health Service, the Veterans Administration hospitals, the U.S....
  • Posted by on 6 Comments
    5198696196 391bfa2a8c
      The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is the public face of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF), opened to the public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The SSDI is only 60% as large as its parent, the DMF. Different federal agencies have access to one or the other in the course of performing their duties. For example, the IRS has full access to the DMF but Homeland Security and the Justice Department are only permitted to see the reduced SSDI.[1] One of the biggest causes of the difference in size between the two files is the November 2011 redaction from the SSDI by the Social Security Administration of 4.5 million deaths, 2.5 million of them in Florida, a red-hot zone for consumer identity theft.[2] Genealogy websites providing access to the SSDI also redact some information from the file. The subscription websites voluntarily stopped including social...
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    The Civil Records Committee wants you to know about upcoming changes to the information genealogists will be able to access in the Social Security Death Index. These changes are part of the revenue-generating provisions in the bipartisan budget compromise bill that is currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress. The bill passed the House of Representatives last night. It will be heard in the Senate soon. The changes to the SSDI will take place 90 days after the budget bill passes and is signed into law. The revenue-generating provision mandates that any death reported to the Social Security Administration be withheld from the Social Security Death Index until the end of the calendar year following the third anniversary. This means that a death that takes place, let's say, July 4, 2014, will not appear in the SSDI until January 1, 2018. We and others have blogged about the upcoming changes. You...
  • Other entries by Barbara Mathews

Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt

Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt is a Board-certified genealogist specializing in Massachusetts research. She has been taking clients for sixteen years and researches a variety of topics from Mayflower lineages to locating townlands of Irish immigrants. She is a case worker under contract to the US Army on repatriation cases, helping to locate family members of servicemen missing or killed in previous conflicts. She currently serves as a director at Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and editor of the FGS Voice Newsletter, and is past president of MGC. You can read her personal blog at http://pk-pollybog.blogspot.com.

Recent Posts

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    At the National Genealogical Society's Conference in Richmond, Virginia last week, the Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) announced the Genealogists' Declaration of Rights: a statement advocating open access to federal, state, and local public records. The Declaration affirms America’s long history of open public records, which has been threatened the last few years over concerns about identity theft and privacy. RPAC has worked with state and federal legislators as well as local public officials for more than twenty years in support of legislation and regulations that achieve a balance between access and privacy. The Declaration of Rights has been approved by the board of directors of the three sponsoring organizations: The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). To read the full press release click here: Press Release RPAC Declaration of Rights Ver4 (3). Now is the time to speak...
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      Members of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council board braved the elements in December to present the first of two talks introducing genealogy to State House staffers. By all accounts it was a great success and we are happy to announce the second talk in the series. Please join us! Learning about Family History Tuesday, March 18, 12:00pm – 1:30pm State Library, Massachusetts State House, Room 442 Bring your lunch and listen to Sharon Sergeant, Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt,CG, and Mary Ellen Grogan talk about the resources and techniques used to discover the story of your family. This is a follow-up to the talk on genealogy given on December 11. We will be discussing different aspects of research, but you will be able to follow the talk even if you weren’t able to attend in December. Sharon will be talking about various records and how one set of records will lead to...
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    2014 Seminar Logo
      Massachusetts Genealogical Council  Annual Meeting and Seminar  Save the date! July 26, 2014   Holiday Inn Conference Center, Mansfield, MA Conveniently located near the intersection of I-95 and I-495   Click here to see the three tracks of talks.   And click here to read all about our speakers!   Enjoy a continental breakfast, and plated luncheon with your choice of chicken or four-cheese lasagna meal with dessert, themed table topics, and more!    Early registration for MGC members at only $60 begins in February.  Non-member early registration: $70. Late registration $80.   Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for vendor news, additional program features and prizes! Check hashtag #MGC2014 for updates.  ...
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    Tuesday, December 17th 12:00-1:30pm Massachusetts State House, Room 442 The Massachusetts State Library, located at the Massachusetts State House, holds a monthly Brown Bag Lunch. The attendees tend to be from the Massachusetts Legislature and other offices in the State House, probably more aides and administrative staff than legislators.  The Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) will present "Learning About Your Family History" at a Brown Bag Lunch on December 17th. MGC was founded in 1980 and is the umbrella organization representing Massachusetts genealogists, historical societies, and individuals concerned about records preservation and free and unfettered access to civil records. MGC serves as the records access watchdog and provides a reality check for the Massachusetts legislature regarding access issues. Thanks in large part to efforts by MGC, Massachusets is one of very few states where the public is still able to access all vital records. MGC President Mary Ellen Grogan says, "We want...
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    healthpedigree
    When you visit your doctor do you have to fill out a lengthy family health history questionnaire? Physicians use these to diagnose and treat us because it helps them assess our risk factors for certain diseases. You can blow your doctor away by completing a family health pedigree and bringing it to your next appointment! But what if you don't know your family members' exact cause of death or ages at death? Sometimes this information does not get passed down in families because it is too sad, or just too long ago. And frequently you'll hear a cause of death as "old age" or "broken heart." So what can you do if you want more exact details? If you are lucky enough to live in Massachusetts you can pay a visit to the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics at Columbia Point in Dorchester, right off Route 93. Massachusetts death records up...
  • Other entries by Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt

Sharon Sergeant

Sharon Sergeant is a forensic genealogist and created the Problem Solving Techniques and Technology module for Genealogical Research Program at Boston University's Center for Professional Education. Her project specialties include research for non-fiction, memoir and biography publications, international tracing and property settlements, provenance of artifact collections, large migration group patterns (US, Ireland, Canada, France, England, Scotland, Italy, Germany), occupational group trends (mariner, mail and stagecoach, railroad, printers and authors), records access advisory, multi-media technology, team building, educational programs and event planning. Sharon is the 2013-17 MGC Vice President, a member of MGC's Civil Records Committee, past Program Director and Secretary of MGC.

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