Recent Blog Posts

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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?
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MGC has been recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3). Gifts of support are fully tax-deductible and donors will receive a written acknowledgement for tax purposes.

Legislation

Advocating for Records Access at the National Level

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Our commitment is to advocate for your right to access the records of your family history. When archives restrict their hours or increase their access fees, we let government agencies and representatives know what this means to us. When records that were historically open are closed, we relentlessly advocate for access. When the complexity of these issues overwhelms government staffers, we write white papers and timelines to put events into perspective.

We provide resources to help us all to discuss and understand issues that impact records preservation and access. These are some of the things we have put together for you to read or use.

  • Barbara Mathews, Sharon Sergeant, and Melinde Lutz Byrne wrote the White Paper “Framing a Discussion on Vital Records Access”. This paper made a big impact when it was written in 2009 and still has valid points today.
  • Polly Kimmitt’s Model Letter: Take this letter as an example, then personalize it by adding your own statements about an issue or bill.
  • Barbara Mathews' explanation of the 2011 Model Act, which, though not actually a law, is being used as a starting point for many states to re-draft and restrict their access policies.
  • Barbara’s Identity Theft, Tax Fraud and the Death Master File Timeline — which shows the major events leading up to the restriction of deaths from the Social Security Death Index used by genealogists — has been posted online by the Records Preservation and Access Committee.
  • The US Surgeon General recommends that we all compile a family health history to help our doctors diagnose and treat us. Fill out Polly’s family health pedigree online, then download it to your computer or print it out. Bring it with you to your next appointment with your primary care provider.

 

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We do not work alone in this endeavor. We coordinate with the national Records Preservation and Access Committee and with other genealogists.

If you are not from Massachusetts, is your state participating in RPAC? Check out RPAC State Liaisons. If not, you can work with RPAC to find the right person to serve as a communicator between your state’s genealogy societies and RPAC. 

 

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In recent years, we have moved quickly to advocate for genealogists in several interesting situations. Here are some examples.

In 2011 and 2012, several Congressional subcommittees held hearings on I.R.S. tax fraud. Denying access to the Social Security Death Index would do nothing to curb identity fraud. The vast majority of fraud cases are perpetrated by individuals who steal credit card and online password information which then gives them access to Social Security numbers as well. Less than 1.8% of federal income tax fraud involves refunds to the dead as shown by TIGTA, the Tax Inspector General of the Treasury Department. No genealogists were ever called as witnesses in the Congressional hearings.

Fingers were being pointed at the big genealogy websites because the social security numbers of the deceased were listed. The websites responded in November 2011 by eliminating social security numbers for those dead fewer than ten years and by placing the SSDI behind a paywall. This, however, did not stop the finger pointing.

We continue to monitor the creations of regulations to implement this law by the National Technical Information Systems group.

We also provide support to fellow genealogists in New England dealing with records access issues.