Preserve the Pensions Project

War of 1812 Stedman Gift

FGS has recently announced the largest donation thus far in the Preserve the Pensions Project with a $135,000 gift from the Estate of Jon Stedman of Denton, Texas.

The project to digitize the seven million pages of pension files arising out of the War of 1812, continues a long tradition of coordinated projects initiated by the genealogical community to preserve and improve access to records of value for those who share our passion.

In the thirty-five years since its founding, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (and its member societies), in collaboration with archivists and other records custodians, have invested both time and treasure in projects ranging from the initial Malcolm S. Stern  NARA Gift Fund project to create a microform finding aid to The Cross Index to Selected City Streets and Enumeration Districts, 1910 Census to the immense Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System indexing project.

Never before have we attempted to raise funds from within our community on this scale.  None of our previous projects have come near requiring $3.5 million.

I suggest that as we succeed in achieving this goal, the benefits will go well beyond this particular set of records.  This accomplishment will also enhance our standing in the broader community as a real force to be reckoned with, especially with legislators who might be weighing measures that might limit our access.

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Library of Michigan– Collections To Move to the Archives

DNR Announcement

Threats to our access to records have taken many forms but particularly vexing in recent years have been those threats arising out of the current fiscal crisis.  From every corner of the country we have seen library and archive budgets slashed, hours curtailed, and severe staff reductions.  

The very survival of some of our best resources has been threatened.  In addressing a $2 Billion deficit in the Michigan budget, then Governor Jennifer M. Granholm issued an executive order in July 2009 which abolished the Department of History, Arts and Libraries. There was a proposal that surfaced in the summer of 2009 that would have dismantled the Library of Michigan, scattered the materials gathered over 180 years occupying 27 miles of shelving and turned the building into an interactive museum and a magnet school.

Within the genealogical community, the Library of Michigan has long been recognized as one of the premier state libraries in the country.  Visitors come from all across the country to research at the Library of Michigan.

In collaboration with our colleagues with the Michigan Genealogical Council, the member organizations of the Records Preservation and Access Committee have sought to work with Michigan decision-makers seeking to address this fiscal challenge and preserve the treasure represented by the Library of Michigan collections.  Some of those efforts have been reflected in multiple entries in this RPAC Blog over the last three years and in the web pages of the MGC at www.mimgc.org .  We have strongly encouraged Michigan officials to promote Genealogical Tourism using these resources to as a magnet to attract visitors.

As reorganized, the Library of Michigan fell under the stewardship of the Michigan Department of Education.  The Department of Natural Resources oversees the State Archives housed in the same building as the LOM and is responsible for the promotion of tourism in the state.

We commend the efforts of representatives of both state departments in reaching the arrangements announced above leading to the move of some of the LOM collections to the Michigan Archives where they will continue to be made available to the public. 

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RPAC at NGS–Session for State Liaisons & Concerned Genealogists

The National Genealogical Society annual conference meeting in Cincinnati this week includes a Records Preservation and Access meeting beginning at 3:00pm EDT in Junior Ballroom C of the Duke Energy Center on Thursday the 10th of May to which all interested in these issues are invited.

 

The topic is “How does the genealogical community organize to address threats to the records we need? Critical roles and resources for state liaisons.  Recent successes and setbacks.”

 

During this session we will review an updated model presentation developed by RPAC suitable for use by state liaisons in presentations before local groups, as well as a “toolkit” for confronting legislative threats to our access.  A newly developed toolkit addressing the process by which implementing regulations are developed will be shared. We will also survey recent successes and setbacks.

 

This meeting is open to all those interested in records preservation and access.  State liaisons are particularly urged to attend.  We also plan for remote participation.

 

We are still actively seeking State Liaisons for a number of states and would welcome any recommendations you may have. We will then contact them and see if they are willing to serve.

Contact us at:  access@fgs.org

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SSDI– House Ways & Means Committee Hearing– 8 May 2012

House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany, Jr., MD (R-LA) and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) today announced that the Subcommittees on Oversight and Social Security will hold a hearing on tax fraud involving identity theft. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 A.M.

The topic of the hearing is Identity Theft and Tax Fraud.  The hearing announcement is found at:

http://waysandmeans.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=293590

In view of the limited time available to hear from witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing. A list of invited witnesses will follow.

More to come. . .  please stay tuned.

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SSDI–Statement for the Record–Senate Finance Subcommittee Hearing–20 March 2012

RPAC and its sponsoring organizations (FGS, NGS, IAJGS)  all submitted Statements for the Record supplementing the transcript of the March 20, 2012  hearing of the Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth of the Senate Committee on Finance  entitled “Tax Fraud by Identity Theft, Part 2:  Status, Progress, and Potential Solutions” in response to a committee invitation to do so.

RPAC Statement for Record SFC

FGS Statement for Record SFC

NGS Statement for Record SFC

IAJGS Statement for Record SFC

We will be supplementing this posting with additional  Statements for the Record submitted by other societies and uniquely qualified individuals that come to our attention.

Kenneth H. Ryesky Comments for Record SFC

We have all been outraged by reports of identity thieves filing fraudulent tax refund claims using the SSNs of recently deceased infants & adults.  Our strongest message is that the means to stop this particular form of identity theft exists now, without waiting for any additional legislation.

       As existing policy regarding public access to the Death Master File is reviewed, we urge that input from actual 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 continue to work with members and staff of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee and other interested legislators as they consider legislative responses to the outrageous conduct of identity thieves filing fraudulent tax return claiming refunds and credits utilizing the SSNs of recently deceased infants and adults.

 The outcome is far from certain.  Please stay tuned.  We may need to call for community action at various stages in the ongoing legislative process.

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SSDI Update–RPAC recomendation

On behalf of RPAC we thank all of the readers of the RPAC blog and most especially our state liaisons for helping carry the message of how important continued access to the SSDI is to the genealogical community.

 

As you are aware both the US House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security and the US Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth held hearings in February and March which addressed access by the public to the Death Master File also known commercially as the Social Security Death Index. The genealogical community was not invited to testify at either hearing, but the genealogical community, namely, FGS, IAJGS, NGS and RPAC along with others submitted written statements for the record to the House Subcommittee and this week each of us are submitting written statements for the record to the Senate Subcommittee. We have been in contact with staff of both subcommittees before each hearing and continue to be in touch with both staffs following the hearings….the issue is very much alive on our agendas.

 

Genealogists have proven to be effective negotiators as exemplified most recently with the successes in both Pennsylvania and Virginia where the local genealogical community with support from outside their respective states were successful in obtaining new laws with the public gaining greater access to vital records. Recently, the RPAC leadership discussed what is most realistic considering the differences between the House and Senate versions of legislation—no access or access two years including year of death. Compromise has to be considered, what is best for the overall genealogical community is to have reasonable access, and those professional genealogists who are forensic genealogists, heir researchers, and family medical history researchers should be given immediate access.

 

After listening to Congressional staff and discussion with others in the genealogical community, RPAC leaders’ statements for the record submitted to the Senate Subcommittee will state that:

 

While we advocate all genealogists should have immediate access to the SSDI, we would support the two year delay in access as proposed in S 1534-and if necessary the third year that National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson advocated during her oral testimony during the March 20th hearing. This support is with the caveat that certain genealogists are to be eligible for certification for immediate access. These genealogists include: forensic genealogists, heir researchers, and those researching individual genetically inherited diseases.

 

 

We recognize that some of you may not agree with this position, but our collective and unified position is this is what is best in light of increased identity theft and legislators trying to address prevention on behalf of their constituents in an election year—even though genealogists are not the cause of identity theft.

 

 Judy Russell in her March 20th The Legal Genealogist Blog said, and we concur:

The big difference between last month’s House hearing and today’s Senate hearing is that, if we had to, most of us in the genealogical community could live with the bill that’s being considered today. Senate Bill 1534,2 sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s much much better for genealogists as a whole than the bill introduced on the House side by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.).3

Nelson’s bill really focuses on identity theft and fraudulent tax filings by people who steal the Social Security numbers of others and would only delay disclosure of death information reported to the SSDI.4 Johnson’s bill would take the SSDI away from the public forever.5 If we have no choice but an either-or, this one is a no-brainer.”

Otto Von Bismark said, never watch laws or sausage being made, and this is one of those times.  We hope that you will send in your statement to the Senate Subcommittee—they will accept it snail mail only ( no e-mails nor faxes) and the deadline is April 3.  Please send your statements for the record to:

Senate Committee on Finance
Attn. Editorial and Document Section
Rm. SD-219
Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6200

The required format is: A typewritten, single-spaced statement, not exceeding 10 pages in length. Title and date of the hearing, and the full name and address of the individual or organization must appear on the first page of the statement. Statements must be received no later than two weeks following the conclusion of the hearing.

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SSDI–Senate Finance Committee Hearing– 20 March

The Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Growth of  the United States Senate Committee on Finance has announced a hearing for Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT entitled “Tax Fraud by Identity Theft, Part 2: Status, Progress, and Potential Solutions.

The link announcing the hearing and listing witnesses scheduled to appear is found at:

http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=8c908260-5056-a032-525c-4f663b8d35f8

From this landing page the hearing can be viewed live at the scheduled time or after several days will be available for subsequent viewing.

This Subcommittee is chaired by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) as the ranking member.   Senator Nelson is the author of Senate Bill S 1534, one of four identity theft bills before the Congress and possibly impacting access to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).   That bill as introduced September 8, 2011 can be viewed at:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s1534is/pdf/BILLS-112s1534is.pdf

This same Subcommittee held a hearing addressing these issues on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 entitled “The Spread of Tax Fraud by Identity Theft:  A Threat to Taxpayers, A Drain on the Public Treasury.”  Those proceedings can be viewed and prepared statements downloaded from:http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=32a4f2cc-5056-a032-5258-8967bf140b37

We understand that there may be opportunity for the submission of additional materials for the record after the hearing.  We will be announcing RPAC recommendations for possible community action as details are developed.  Stay tuned.

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Submissions for the Record –Social Security Subcommittee of House Ways & Means–2 Feb Hearing

Sign the We The People petition at http://wh.gov/khE.

RPAC and its sponsoring organizations (FGS, NGS, IAJGS)  all submitted Statements for the Record supplementing the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee hearing  2 February 2012 in response to a committee invitation to do so.

RPAC Statement for Record HWMC 16 Feb

FGS Statement for Record HWMC 16 Feb

NGS Statement for Record HWMC

IAJGS Statement for Record HWMC

We particularly appreciated supporting Statements for the Record submitted by other societies and uniquely qualified individuals, some of which have come to our attention.

Kenneth H. Ryesky Comments for Record HWMC

APG Statement for the Record

Massachusetts Genealogical Council Statement for Record

Virginia Genealogical Society

Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogists

We have all been outraged by reports of identity thieves filing fraudulent tax refund claims using the SSNs of recently deceased infants & adults.  Our strongest message is that the means to stop this particular form of identity theft exists now, without waiting for any additional legislation.

       As existing policy regarding public access to the Death Master File is reviewed, we urge that input from actual 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.

Sign the We The People petition at http://wh.gov/khE.

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NEW! SSDI Call to Action Kit

SSDI Call to Action Kit

Record Preservation and Access Committee

Your help is needed to help Save the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) as an accessible resource for the genealogical community and others. Here are ways that you can help:

1. Educate yourself on why saving the SSDI is so important to the genealogy community!

- Please see the SSDI FAQ at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2012/02/08/ssdi-frequently-asked-questions-faq%E2%80%99s/.

- Watch the video of the 2 Feb Hearing before the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways & Means Committee found at http://waysandmeans.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=133. For a glimpse of the Administration’s vision of genealogical access to the SSDI, focus on the five minute segment beginning with Congressman Marchant’s question to SSA Commissioner Astrue near minute 26 and ending with the completion of the Commissioner’s answer to the Chairman’s follow-up question at 31:00. If you are on the fence about signing the RPAC petition, this should be required reading.

- View the Got Records? Threats to Genealogy Records Access video at http://broadcast.lds.org/elearning/FHD/Community/en/Community/Jan_Meisels_Allen/Got_Records__Threats_to_Genealogy_Records_Access/Player.html featuring RPAC member Jan Meisels Allen. This is a good overview of RPAC and the issues confronting access to the SSDI and other records.

2. Sign the We The People petition at http://wh.gov/khE.

If you are experiencing problems with registering at the website or signing the petition, please see http://fgs.org/pdf/rpac_petition.pdf. Most issues with the petition can be solved by closing your browser window, opening a new browser window and clicking http://wh.gov/khE once you’ve registered with the website.

3. Fax and email letters to Congress!

Download a sample letter at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/sample_ssdi_letter_basic.doc  (Microsoft Word) or at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/sample_ssdi_letter_basic.pdf (PDF) and read the instructions carefully. Your efforts will be more effective if you:

- fax a copy of your letter to Congressman Sam Johnson, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.; and

- email copies of your letter to your own Representative and Senators.

4. Help get the word out to others!

- Post the link http://wh.gov/khE as part of a Status Update on Facebook if you have a Facebook account. Also, don’t forget to post to any Facebook pages or groups to which you are subscribed, including genealogical societies!

- If you use Twitter, include the link http://wh.gov/khE and briefly explain why signing the petition is important. The hashtag for this campaign is #openssdi.

- Consider putting the link http://wh.gov/khE in your email signature to let others know about the petition.

5. Ask questions! RPAC is here to help!

For further information, contact RPAC at access@fgs.org.

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