Legal Affairs

Illinois Legislature Considers a Bill to Allow Access to Landlocked Graves on Private Property

State Representative David R. Leitch has introduced a bill in the State of Illinois’ 99th General Assembly that provides that owners of private property on which a landlocked grave is located have a duty to allow ingress and egress to the grave by:

  1. family members and descendants of deceased persons buried there;
  2. any cemetery plot owner; and
  3. any person engaging in genealogy research who has given reasonable notice to the owner of record or to the occupant of the property or both.

Announcing: Irish Probate Genealogy Partners

A new genealogy corporation in Ireland has been launched. It is the product of a partnership between Eneclann, Ireland’s largest historical and genealogical research company, and Heirs Ireland, an internationally recognized probate genealogy firm. Irish Probate Genealogy Partners’ business goal is to provide comprehensive services to the legal profession.

Today’s announcement states:

Irish Probate Genealogy Partners have over 60 years combined experience legal, title and probate research, which includes:

New York City Board of Health Limits Access to Death Records 1949-to Present

The following was written by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

The Board of Health for the City of New York adopted changes to the New York City Health Code articles 205 and 207 in late 2014. A public hearing was held on November 14, 2014 and no comments were received. The proposal was presented to the Board of Health on October 7, 2014 in response to a comment from one of the board’s members. Unfortunately, the genealogical community was not aware of the hearing or notice. At its December 9, 2014 meeting the Board of Health adopted the new articles which may be read at:

Basically it expands access to confidential medical reports for deaths that occurred prior to January 1, 2010 and clarifies who may obtain a death certificate…genealogists are not included. It adds siblings, grandparents and grandchildren to the list of people who may access confidential medical reports of death.

Saline County Historical Society Files a Lawsuit Against the City of Marshall, Missouri

On Dec. 23, 2014, the Saline County Historical Society filed a lawsuit against the city of Marshall — specifically Marshall Public Library. The suit seeks determination of ownership and right to remove the collection of historical record books and “other items” currently located in the Maggie Duggins Genealogy Room.

The materials in question were originally donated by the Saline County Historical Society (SCHS). In 1989, SCHS moved its collection of materials from Murrell Library, on the Missouri Valley College campus, to the newly opened public library. The suit states the agreement made in 1989 was that MPL would “serve as bailee of said collection,” while SCHS retained ownership.

The Majority of Books Published Before 1964 Are Free of Copyrights

Over and over, genealogists have been told that the copyright has expired for all works published in the United States before 1923. In other words, if the work was published in the U.S. before January 1, 1923, anyone is free to republish excerpts or even the entire book without obtaining permission. That statement remains correct today. However, many genealogists are not aware that the overwhelming majority of all books published prior to 1964 are also free of copyright. That’s “the overwhelming majority of all books” but not all of them.

Between 1923 and 1964, a renewal registration was required to prevent the expiration of copyright. If a work was first published before January 1, 1964, the owner had to file a renewal with the Copyright Office during the 28th year after publication. No renewal meant a loss of copyright. In other words, for all books published prior to 1964, the copyrights expired before January 11, 1992 IF THE COPYRIGHT WAS NOT RENEWED. However, a 1961 report from the U.S. Copyright Office estimates that 85% of the books never had the copyrights renewed. (See, page 187.) Therefore, those books are now public domain.

Rhode Island Legislative Bill Proposes to Provide Free Access to Death and Marriage Certificates

Rhode Island Representatives Ackerman, Shekarchi, Keable, Kennedy, and Marcello have introduced HB 5309 that will change several provisions of the current Section 23-3-23 of the General Laws in Chapter 23-3 entitled “Vital Records,” including:

(a) To protect the integrity of vital records, to insure their proper use, and to insure the efficient and proper administration of the vital records system, it shall be unlawful for any person to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in, vital records, or to copy, or issue a copy, of all or part of any vital record except as authorized by regulation, or as provided for herein.

U.K. Government has Accepted an Amendment to the Deregulation Bill to Allow Lower-Priced Copies of Birth, Marriage and Death Information in England and Wales

The following is an excerpt from the Society of Genealogists web site:

The Society of Genealogists is delighted to announce that the Government has accepted an amendment to the Deregulation Bill currently going before the House of Lords that allows for the publication of information from Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates in England and Wales to be issued otherwise than in the form of a certified copy. This is something the SoG has long campaigned for and is grateful to Baroness Scott of Needham Market, herself an enthusiastic genealogist, who suggested to Government that this deregulation is possible.

U.K. Moves Toward Making Babies from DNA of 3 People

Well son, babies happen when a Daddy and a Mommy and another Mommy and some scientists get parlimentary approval to love each other very much.

This should complicate record keeping for genealogists!

Members of Parliament voted Tuesday to allow the creation of human embryos from the DNA of three people to try to eradicate a type of genetic disease that has caused the deaths of thousands of babies. If the measure also passes Britain’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, England would become the first country to legalize the procedure. If the House of Lords approves the bill, the first three-person baby could be born as soon as next year.

Canada’s Long Form Census Debate Continues

This debate in Canada has been going on for some time and shows no signs of being resolved. Much of the debate centers around a provision in proposed laws to not make the release of census records’ data mandatory after 92 years – the person filling out the census forms would have to explicitly give permission to allow the release of the information 92 years later. Another debate concerns a proposal to delete the presently required mandatory jail time for anyone who does not fill out a census form! (Wow!)

UFO Project Blue Book Files Removed from a Web Site at the Request of Fold3

Click on the above image to view a larger, although still fuzzy, version.

Ten days ago, I published an article entitled Photos of UFOs Now Available from the National Archives and Records Administration at The article described the new addition of files concerning UFO reports collected by the U.S. Air Force while investigating UFOs from the late 40s to the late 60s. The files were recently added to the Black Vault web site at To be sure, most of the material had previously been available on and bits and pieces have also been published on other web sites as well. However, the documents on the Black Vault web site were in a PDF format, and therefore were more accessible than they had been previously.

The files at The Back Vault have now been deleted. Fold3, a subsidiary of, has claimed they have a digital copyright over the files.

(US) Proposed Rules for Certification for Access to Death Master File Comment Period EXTENDED Published in the Federal Register

This is a follow-up to the article published five days ago in this newsletter at This was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

As mentioned in Friday’s January 23, 2015 posting to this announcement list, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) extended the comment period from January 29, 2015 to March 30, 2015. No reason has been given for this extension. The notice of the extension has been posted in the Federal Register and may be read at:

To read the proposed final rule go to: For those who wish to review the proposed final rule see:

The proposed final regulations for certification for access to the Death Master File have major concerns for genealogists and small businesses. As drafted they are:

  1. limited data elements in the Death Master File making it all but unusable for meaningful genealogical searches;
  2. prohibitive charges for access to the data and to becoming certified; and
  3. security provisions that are not small business-friendly.

    IAJGS is submitting our statement expressing our concerns later this week. It will be posted on this announcement list. Individual forensic and professional genealogists should express their concerns by submitting a statement by March 30, 2015. To submit a statement it must be submitted to Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF formats only.

94-year-old Can’t File Tax Return because IRS Says He’s Dead

Apparently not every bit of information in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is accurate. There is a 94-year-old World War II vet in Ohio who just wants to pay his taxes but can’t because the IRS says he’s dead.

Siegfried Meinstein has been unable to convince the IRS he is alive, living in an assisted living facility near Columbus, Ohio. The IRS has told the nonagenarian it can’t process his tax return because their records indicate he is deceased.

NTIS Extends Comments Period for Proposed Changes to the Certification for Access to the Death Master File (DMF)

The Death Master File, or DMF, is better known to genealogists as the SDSDI or Social Security Death Index. The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) has proposed new rules that will, if implemented, create a certification program to replace the temporary certification program currently in place for access to the DMF. The result will create an expensive impediment to genealogists attempting to learn more about their ancestors.

For more information, see my earlier articles at and at

Update: Death Master File — Request for Comments on Proposed Final Rule

Yesterday, I published an announcement from Fred Moss of the Records Preservation and Access Committee, a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies/ Today, Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee added some more details:

… the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice) describing a rule that would, if implemented, establish, pursuant to Section 203 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Pub. L. 113-67), a certification program to replace the temporary certification program currently in place for access to the Death Master File (DMF). While the NTIS expected the Federal Register to publish the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on December 24, the Federal Register published it today, December 30. The deadline for comments to be submitted is January 29, 2015. To read the proposed rule see:

Death Master File — Request for Comments on Proposed Final Rule

The following was written by Fred Moss of the Records Preservation and Access Committee, a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies:

Last week we were advised of the following notice:

“NEW: NTIS to Publish Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Establish a Certification Program for Access to Death Master File – Requests Comments

The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice) describing a rule that would, if implemented, establish, pursuant to Section 203 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Pub. L. 113-67), a certification program to replace the temporary certification program currently in place for access to the DMF. The Notice will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday, December 24, 2014. The Notice invites public comments on the proposed rule and certification program, and sets a 30 day comment period. The Notice may be reviewed at If there are any inconsistencies between this document and the version published in the Federal Register, the version published in the Federal Register governs.

UK Enhanced Procedure to Obtain Copy Wills and Grants of Probate

The following was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the International Jewish Genealogy Society’s Public Records Access Monitoring Committee and is used here with her permission:

Sometimes it pays to contact your elected official! The following information was shared with me by David Lewin in London, England sent to him via his member of Parliament. Justice Minister thanked David for his suggestions to improve the service for the provision of copies of documents resulting in the new changes below.

UK Justice Minister Chris Grayling announced effective September 30 that the Probate Service launched an online probate search facility. Customers can now access probate records from 1996 to the present day for a fee of £10 and order a copy of the grant which will be provided in 10 days. When an order is placed the customer will receive notification by email that the order has been received and when the document is available for download a further email will be sent. Payments may be made by debit or credit card.

Social Security Cards Issued by Woolworth

The following article is from

The most misused Social Security Number of all time was 078-05-1120.

In 1938, wallet manufacturer the E. H. Ferree Company in Lockport, New York, decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was inserted in each wallet. Company Vice President and Treasurer Douglas Patterson thought it would be a clever idea to use the actual Social Security Number of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

Let’s Talk About Plagiarism

Plagiarism raises its ugly head from time to time within the genealogy community. It has happened again.

According to, Plagiarism is “an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.” In other words, it is stealing the wirk of someone else without permission or attribution, and republishing it to make it look as if it is your own.

GenealogyInTime Magazine has an article about a recent problem with plagiarism by one individual who is obviously stealing articles from GenealogyInTime Magazine and possibly from other publications, then republishing part or even all of the text of the articles under his or her own name.

You can read the article in GenealogyInTime Magazine at

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Proposes to Expand Requests for Tombstone Markers on Behalf of Deceased Veterans

On October 1, 2014, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published, in the Federal Register, a proposed rule to amend the existing definition of eligible applicants by expanding the types of individuals who may request headstones or markers on behalf of decedents. The amendment addresses concerns that the existing applicant definition is too restrictive and results in identified Veteran gravesites going unmarked.

Can You Marry Your Cousin?

Consider this list:

Charles Darwin married his first cousin.

Albert Einstein’s parents were first cousins. Then Albert married his own first cousin. Elsa Lowenthal, Einstein’s second wife, was his first cousin on his mother’s side. In fact, they were also “double cousins.” Lowenthal also happened to be Einstein’s second cousin on his father’s side.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt were fifth cousins, once removed (a chart showing their relationship is available at

John Adams married his third cousin, Abigail Smith.

John F. Fitzgerald, former mayor of Boston and grandfather of John F. Kennedy, married his second cousin, Mary Josephine Hannon.

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, married his second cousin once removed, Regina Peruggi


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,936 other followers