August is the Right Time to Tell Your Senators About Your Record Access Concerns

Most of you are aware of the concerns the genealogical community has regarding the loss of access to the full Death Master File, commercially known as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and the impediments –financial and logistical—to them imposed by the Section 203 of the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act, which went into effect 29 March 2014. 

For this to be changed we need YOUR help.

In late July, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved SB 1073, Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act. We—the genealogical community as represented by the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC)–of which the IAJGS is a sponsoring member, want to have an amendment added to the bill. Our desire would amend Section 203 of the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act so the information in the Death Master File can be released to the public except for the Social Security Number. For this we need you to write/visit your Senator to ask them to support such an amendment and perhaps co-sponsor it.  For more information and for a one-page talking point paper to assist you in understanding the issues and for talking with your US Senator see http://www.fgs.org/rpac/  and see the posts on 1 April 2015, “DMF—Comment Period on Proposed Final Rule Closed 30 March,” and under the Publications tab, “SSDI Timeline, 19 January 2015.”. Congress is currently recessed until 7 September 2015. Now is a good time to contact your Senators, either in person or by writing a letter.

Thank you for your support.

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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You May Have To Limit Your Request for California and Other States’ Vital Records

document_blurIf you are ordering birth, marriage, or death records from some states in the U.S., including California, you may have to limit the number of copies requested due to a security paper shortage. The last printing firm in the United States that uses the special method known as intaglio has gone out of business.

California law requires birth, marriage, and death certificates be printed in a method known as intaglio—a security paper. California’s Department of Public Health and the 58 Counties use the security paper to produce requested copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates. All California counties purchased the paper from a printing company in Ohio, Sekuworks, which closed, resulting in at least several California counties having a reduced supply of secure paper on-hand to produce the vital records. There are limited printers who use that method — none in the U.S., but one in Canada. It may take legislative action to permit other types of secure paper to be used in California — 38 other states had to have a change in the type of security paper they used, as the intaglio process is no longer available from printers. As of the writing of this for Venturing Into Our Past, there are no bills introduced to the California Legislature that address this problem. The California Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on September 11th.

The Orange County Clerk- Recorder’s Office is now encouraging people to limit the number of copies they order while they try to find a new supplier of intaglio paper. Other California counties who get their security paper from the same source are also struggling, and Stanislaus County has limited the number of copies to only one. The state registrar has sufficient supplies for records into next year.

The State is working on a long-term solution, according to the Sacramento County Recorder, while that County has about 9 months’ supply of paper.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if your requests for multiple copies of vital records may be limited.

Article contributed by CSGA Legislative Watch Chair, Jamie Mahew
Originally written by Jan Meisels Allen, President, JGSCV
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee
IAJGS Sponsoring Representative to RPAC

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JGSCV to Present “DNA Testing for Genealogy”

Jay SageSunday, October 11, 2015
12:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Temple Adat Elohim
2420 E. Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, California

With the incredible drop in the cost of DNA sequencing, DNA testing is now affordable for individuals. Speaker Jay Sage will discuss the role that DNA testing can play in genealogical research. Presentation of the basics of human genetics will clarify the essential features of the two very different categories of tests: the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA tests on the one hand, and the autosomal DNA test on the other. Examples will illustrate how conclusions can properly be drawn from results of each type of test, with an emphasis on the appropriate uses of the tests and on what can and cannot be learned from them. The talk will also briefly cover how to order and perform the tests and how much they cost.

About the speaker: Jay Sage served as co-president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB) from 2000 to 2003 and is currently co-editor of the Society’s journal, Mass-Pocha. He was co-chair of the 2013 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Boston. He has lectured at the international conferences and to genealogy societies on the topics of DNA testing and the use of Google Earth as a genealogical tool. Professionally, Sage worked as a research physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County is dedicated to sharing genealogical information, techniques and research tools with anyone interested in Jewish genealogy and family history. Meetings are open to the public, and there is no charge to attend. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact information@jgscv.org.

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Presentation on 20th-century Immigration and Naturalization Records

SFBAGS_logo_color-Sm20th-century Immigration and Naturalization Records
Speaker:  Marisa Louie

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Rhoda Goldman Plaza
2180 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Program begins 1:30 p.m.

The National Archives maintains many records relating to immigration and naturalization in the 20th century. They include more than 400,000 Alien Case Files or “A-Files” at its facilities in San Francisco, California and Kansas City, Missouri. Created beginning in 1944, these files relate to noncitizen alien residents of the United States and have a potential wealth of genealogical information. At this presentation, you’ll discover more about what’s in A-Files, who is documented in them, and how to find them at the National Archives.  We’ll also explore other unique records relating to naturalization and the stories of Jewish refugees detained at Angel Island Immigration Station.

Marisa Louie is an avid researcher and genealogist who specializes in federal records. She formerly worked as an archivist at the National Archives at San Francisco and is co-author of the article “The A-Files: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors“, published in the Spring 2013 issue of Prologue magazine. She is knowledgeable about the A-Files and other types of immigration case files maintained by the National Archives, having served as a research assistant for the book Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. A fifth-generation Chinese American, Marisa first delved into federal records as a college sophomore, researching her own family’s history in the United States.  She holds a B.A. in American Studies and Environmental Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz and is a past participant in the In Search of Roots program.

Presented by San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.  More information, including parking, is available at http://www.sfbajgs.org/.

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Upcoming Events for Freedmen’s Bureau Records at Oakland FamilySearch Library

DiscoverFreedmenOn June 19, 2015, the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth (when the Emancipation Proclamation was finally enforced in Texas), a major media event took place in Los Angeles to announce that all records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (commonly called the Freedmen’s Bureau) have been digitized and placed online at FamilySearch.org.  The event also was used as a platform to encourage participation in FamilySearch’s indexing (transcription) of the records to create a searchable database, which will make the records far more accessible than they have been in the past.  The digitization project was a joint effort of FamilySearch, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, and the California African American Museum.

The records are extremely important in black family history research because they are the contemporary primary source that indicates the last slave owner of a formerly enslaved individual.  In many of the records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau, one of the questions asked was “What was the name of your last owner?”  That owner’s name is critical to finding more information about the individual prior to Emancipation.

The difficulties with using the Freedmen’s Bureau records to date have been numerous.  Very, very few of the records had indices.  Though the complete collection is available on microfilm at every branch of the National Archives, the quality of many of the records was poor when they were microfilmed, and searching on microfilm was tedious and headache-inducing.  And that was after you figured out in which part of the collection you should start your search, an adventure in and of itself.  Some of the records had been digitized previously — some were on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and the Internet Archive — but no one site had all of them, and not all of them were searchable.

I’m on staff at the Oakland FamilySearch Library.  The people putting together the June 19 event actually wanted our library to be part of that event, but our director thought we needed a little more lead time to make sure we would be prepared.  Well, we’ve gotten organized, and now we’re going to have a media event.

On Thursday, July 16, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 noon, the Oakland FamilySearch Library, 4766 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland, California, will host the Northern California event to celebrate the completion of the digitization of the Freedmen’s Bureau records on FamilySearch.org.  All members of the genealogical community are welcome to attend the event.

In addition to the celebration event, the Oakland FamilySearch Library (OFSL) has scheduled five sessions to explain how to transcribe the digitized records to create searchable databases and to sign up volunteers to help with the transcription project.  This is the same class being offered five times; you only need to attend one.  Genealogists in particular are being encouraged to join in transcribing the records, though everyone can help.  You will have choices about the records you work on, and maybe you will discover your own ancestors in the process!  You will also be helping make it easier for other researchers to find their lost family members.

The scheduled sessions are:
Thursday, July 16, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. (same day as the celebration event)
Friday, July 17, 2:30–3:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 18, 10:00–11:00 a.m.
Wednesday, July 22, 7:00–8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 28, 7:00–8:00 p.m.

All sessions will be taught by Kim Miller, an OFSL staff member.

Please help make these records searchable for everyone.  I cannot overstate the importance of the records for helping identify enslaved ancestors’ former owners, a key piece of information needed to be able to trace those ancestors prior to Emancipation.  Tony Burroughs, the well known black genealogist and author of Black Roots, mentioned in a recent keynote presentation that in all the research he has done, only about 15% of emancipated slaves took their former owners’ last names.  That means that 85% of us need the information that can be found in Freedmen’s Bureau records.

You don’t have to wait for the library event to help; you can actually start transcribing records today if you want to.  Information about the indexing project and how to contribute is available at

http://www.discoverfreedmen.org/

The purpose of the July 16 event is to help publicize the importance of the records and the effort to transcribe the records and create the index.  The transcription work itself is an ongoing effort.

If you want to watch a recording of the June 19 event, it is available on the Freedmen’s Bureau Project Web site.

In addition to all the regular media coverage of the digitization and transcription projects, Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, explained how the records are important to everyone doing Southern research, not just those with formerly enslaved ancestors.  Danica Southwick wrote a great article about the project for the Jackson Sun prior to the media launch.  And Dear Myrtle has issued a challenge to genealogists everywhere to spend half an hour every week helping with the project.

As an individual member of the California State Genealogical Alliance, I am asking all genealogists to participate in this effort to transcribe the complete collection of Freedmen’s Bureau records.  The impact on research will be enormous.

(This article first appeared on the Ancestral Discoveries blog on June 30, 2015.)

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