Today was the second day of the annual conference of the National Genealogical Society in Richmond, Virginia. The event proceeded about as predicted. You can learn more about the events at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/. However, I can add a few things that I saw and heard at the conference today.
First of all, I have to admit that I was wrong recently. A few weeks ago, I wrote that there have been no new Windows or Macintosh genealogy programs in the past two or three years although genealogy programs for iOS and Android handheld computers are appearing almost daily. I guess that statement is still correct but will be incorrect soon.
While not yet ready for announcement, a new genealogy program is being written today and is nearing a release date. The developer won’t yet announce a planned release date but says it will be within a few months. I haven’t seen the program in operation yet but the developer promises it will be a full-featured program, competitive with most of today’s Windows and Macintosh genealogy programs. Even better, the program will run on Windows, Macintosh AND Linux. It will be written in Java and the same program will run on all three operating systems. The database will also be identical on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. Anyone using the program on one operating system will be able to copy the data to the same program on a different operating system and continue to operate.
Look for an announcement in this newsletter in a few months when the program approaches its release.
I attended an RPAC presentation this afternoon. RPAC stands for the Records Preservation and Access Committee, a joint effort of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. The “Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights” mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter was available and was signed by many genealogists.
Today’s presentation centered primarily on the efforts to preserve open access to vital records, including birth, death, and marriage records. Two recent attacks are currently threatening to restrict such access:
The 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act passed late last year with a provision that blocks access to the Death Master File (also known as the Social Security Death Index, or SSDI) for 3 years following death of the individual. While we tend to consider only the interests of genealogists, the fact is that the restrictions also affect many other groups.
The Department of Commerce is now willing to certify some individuals to give them direct access to the data as soon as it is released. However, the application for certification costs $200. Once certified, a $995 fee is charged EVERY YEAR to access the data. Even worse, the certified person needs to keep very detailed records showing every bit of information obtained and who was given that info. In addition, the certified person can only access LIMITED data fields, not the full SSDI that genealogist have enjoyed in recent years.
Distribution of the SSDI data will continue to be managed by the National Technical Information Services (NTIS) of the Department of Commerce, the same agency that has been distributing SSDI for years. This agency is well prepared to handle the access, generally seen as a good agency to do so because NTIS understands the SSDI and the issues surrounding it.
The 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act only affects Social Security records. However, the 2011 Revision of Model State Vital Statistics Act is being suggested as the model for future STATE level legislation in all states. The proposal restricts access to all birth records for 125 years, marriage or divorce records for 100 years, death records for 75 years. The model is a proposal at this time and has not been adopted by any Federal agency.
The influence of private citizens on state and national legislators was emphasized strongly. 2014 is an election year so all genealogists are strongly urged to contact their representatives to make sure the legislators are aware of your views well in advance of Election Day
The Powerpoint slides from today’s presentations will soon be available on the RPC Blog at http://www.fgs.org/rpac. However, I don’t see the slide presentation there just yet.
As Fred Moss said, “We recommend joint calls between President of State Genealogical Society and the APG Chapter President.”
All in all, it was a productive day and I suspect tomorrow will be the same.