Legal Affairs

(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 http://goo.gl/UlqiNl. 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: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-28/pdf/2015-01546.pdf.

To read the proposed final rule go to: For those who wish to review the proposed final rule see: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-12-30/pdf/2014-30199.pdf.

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 http://www.regulations.gov. 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 http://goo.gl/vq5fSF and at http://goo.gl/U7MJLs.

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: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-12-30/pdf/2014-30199.pdf.

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 http://www.ntis.gov/assets/pdf/interim12-19-2014.pdf. 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 http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/ssn/misused.html:

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 Dictionary.com, 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 http://www.genealogyintime.com/news/lets-talk-about-plagiarism.html.

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 http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/q-and-a/q6.cfm).

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

County Employee Charged with Theft from Cape May County (New Jersey) Historical and Genealogical Society

A Lindenwold woman has been charged theft in excess of $500 from the Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society, according to a statement from Cape May County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor.

Judith Davis, 52, a Cape May County employee was arrested and charged with third degree theft and second degree official misconduct criminal charges, the prosecutor said. The prosecutor’s office conducted an investigation recently into the finances of the Society.

Taylor said that people convicted of a second degree crime are subject to a term of imprisonment of 5 to 10 years in prison; and people convicted of a third degree crime are subject to a term of imprisonment of 3 to 5 years.

Combating IRS Refund Fraud: The Next Profile in Courage?

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:

The continuing vulnerability for the IRS online filing system to refund fraud by identity theft has been much in the news in recent days.

It was the focus of the CBS 60 Minutes broadcast Sunday evening, the 21st of September which featured interviews ranging from the fourth IRS commissioner in the last two years, film clips from the Congressional testimonies of his predecessors, and “expert” testimony from a former identity thief.

http://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/video/RzmZGQTr7RPHG2pfxMj4ufrsdTRnQXPd/biggest-irs-scam-around-identity-tax-refund-fraud/

The broadcast also anticipated the public release on Monday, the 22nd of September of a Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) Report responding to a request from key members of Congress entitled: “Identity Theft – Additional Actions Could Help IRS Combat the Large, Evolving Threat of Refund Fraud.”

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-633

What GAO Found

Genealogists Shouldn’t Need Town Hall Appointments

An interesting editorial in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant describes a legislative proposal to give town clerks the option to require genealogists to make appointments for research. The bill never made it out of committee in the last session but probably will be re-introduced in the next session. If it passes, it will be bad news for genealogists and others and also will provide government employees one more opportunity to provide less and less service to the constituents who pay the salaries of the same government employees.

Petition Launched for Early Release of England & Wales Birth, Marriage, and Death Records

A campaign has been launched to enable greater public access to historical English and Welsh birth, marriage and death records, and your help is needed.

Alona Tester has published an article in the (Australian) Genealogy & History News that says, in part:

“Guy Etchells, the man who is behind the push to get the 1911 Census released early, for which we are all eternally grateful, has now started an online petition asking for the UK’s civil registration records … to be made open for public inspection, online and at local record offices. Sounds awesome doesn’t it?

“Currently the main way that English and Welsh BDM records can be accessed is by certificates posted out by the General Register Office (GRO) – a process that costs £9.25 per certificate, and obviously takes time in the mail, anything from a few days to weeks.

“According to Mr Etchells this whole process could be alleviated if historic registers were made available, as other historic records are, through the National Archives – as instant downloads. “

Department of Veterans Affairs Proposes to Build a Genealogy Database of 10 Million NEW Individual Genealogies Per Year

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a a combined synopsis/solicitation for commercial corporations to bid on building a huge genealogy database, starting first with persons with roots in Washington and Oregon. The goal is to create a Genealogy Medical Phenotype Resource Database.

The request is to create 10 million NEW individual genealogies per year in electronic format for persons with roots in Washington and Oregon. If successful, the project will be continued a second year to add 10 million more individual genealogies. The VA proposed the ultimate creation of a U.S. genealogy of 100-200 million individuals, linked to the entire VA system (25 million individuals). This service contract will last for three years, through the duration of the MERIT review grant.

Senator Demands US Courts Recover 10 Years of Online Public Records

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) says the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history. The documents were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER.

“Wholesale removal of thousands of cases from PACER, particularly from four of our federal courts of appeals, will severely limit access to information not only for legal practitioners, but also for legal scholars, historians, journalists, and private litigants for whom PACER has become the go-to source for most court filings,” Leahy wrote Friday to US District Judge John D. Bates, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO).

Man Conceived with Donated Sperm Seeks Birth Certificate Change to Reflect the “Truth”

An Australian man conceived using anonymous donor sperm has applied to have his birth certificate changed to record his father’s name as unknown. His present birth certificate lists the man who raised him as the father, even though there is no biological connection between the two.

Damian Adams says he seeks the change because, “It’s not just for my kids but also my descendents, in that if anybody in the future was to conduct genealogy research on our family I don’t want them to go down the wrong path. If they have an inaccurate birth record they will basically believe a lie.”

You can read more in an article by Sarah Dingle in the abc.net.au web site at http://goo.gl/ymyf9o.

Delaware Becomes First State to Give Heirs Broad Digital Assets Access

What happens to your email, Facebook, Twitter, blog, and other accounts when you die? Delaware has now passed a law that ensures families’ rights to access the digital assets of loved ones during incapacitation or after death. House Bill (HB) 345, “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act,” gives heirs and executors the same authority to take legal control of a digital account or device, just as they would take control of a physical asset or document.

While some states, including Idaho and Nevada, have some existing provisions pertaining to limited digital assets for heirs, they are not as broad as the new Delaware law. For now, the state’s version of UFADAA only applies to residents of Delaware.

Burglars Steal 100 Years of Chaska, MN Historical Records

The birth, wedding and death records of Chaska Moravian Church parishioners are handwritten in ledgers and kept in a church safe. During the night of July 14 and early July 15, burglars broke into the church and lugged out a 3-foot by 3-foot metal safe. The safe held about four ledgers recording births, weddings and deaths, as well as an index. The records reportedly have never been digitized or recorded in any way. The safe also contained $50.

Legislation Would Provide Headstones for Veterans’ Unmarked Graves

The “Honor Those Who Served Act of 2014″ would enable veterans service agencies, military researchers, historians or genealogists to request a free headstone or marker from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for a veteran’s grave.

Until 2012 the VA provided headstones for unmarked veterans’ graves based on documentation of that vet’s identity and service provided by these groups or individuals. That policy was then changed, limiting headstone requests to a veteran’s next-of-kin or authorized family representative – a difficult requirement when dealing with graves dating back 100 years or more, and unknown family descendants. (The policy does not apply to replacement of worn, illegible or damaged markers.)

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