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How many deaths before the SSDI gets updated again?
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Please Sign RPAC's Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights
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We're Taking Genealogy to the State House!
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Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt

Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt

Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt is a Board-certified genealogist specializing in Massachusetts research. She has been taking clients for sixteen years and researches a variety of topics from Mayflower lineages to locating townlands of Irish immigrants. She is a case worker under contract to the US Army on repatriation cases, helping to locate family members of servicemen missing or killed in previous conflicts. She currently serves as a director at Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and editor of the FGS Voice Newsletter, and is past president of MGC. You can read her personal blog at http://pk-pollybog.blogspot.com.

At the National Genealogical Society's Conference in Richmond, Virginia last week, the Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) announced the Genealogists' Declaration of Rights: a statement advocating open access to federal, state, and local public records. The Declaration affirms America’s long history of open public records, which has been threatened the last few years over concerns about identity theft and privacy. RPAC has worked with state and federal legislators as well as local public officials for more than twenty years in support of legislation and regulations that achieve a balance between access and privacy. The Declaration of Rights has been approved by the board of directors of the three sponsoring organizations: The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). To read the full press release click here: Press Release RPAC Declaration of Rights Ver4 (3). Now is the time to speak...
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  Members of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council board braved the elements in December to present the first of two talks introducing genealogy to State House staffers. By all accounts it was a great success and we are happy to announce the second talk in the series. Please join us! Learning about Family History Tuesday, March 18, 12:00pm – 1:30pm State Library, Massachusetts State House, Room 442 Bring your lunch and listen to Sharon Sergeant, Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt,CG, and Mary Ellen Grogan talk about the resources and techniques used to discover the story of your family. This is a follow-up to the talk on genealogy given on December 11. We will be discussing different aspects of research, but you will be able to follow the talk even if you weren’t able to attend in December. Sharon will be talking about various records and how one set of records will lead to...
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  Massachusetts Genealogical Council  Annual Meeting and Seminar  Save the date! July 26, 2014   Holiday Inn Conference Center, Mansfield, MA Conveniently located near the intersection of I-95 and I-495   Click here to see the three tracks of talks.   And click here to read all about our speakers!   Enjoy a continental breakfast, and plated luncheon with your choice of chicken or four-cheese lasagna meal with dessert, themed table topics, and more!    Early registration for MGC members at only $60 begins in February.  Non-member early registration: $70. Late registration $80.   Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for vendor news, additional program features and prizes! Check hashtag #MGC2014 for updates.  ...
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Tuesday, December 17th 12:00-1:30pm Massachusetts State House, Room 442 The Massachusetts State Library, located at the Massachusetts State House, holds a monthly Brown Bag Lunch. The attendees tend to be from the Massachusetts Legislature and other offices in the State House, probably more aides and administrative staff than legislators.  The Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) will present "Learning About Your Family History" at a Brown Bag Lunch on December 17th. MGC was founded in 1980 and is the umbrella organization representing Massachusetts genealogists, historical societies, and individuals concerned about records preservation and free and unfettered access to civil records. MGC serves as the records access watchdog and provides a reality check for the Massachusetts legislature regarding access issues. Thanks in large part to efforts by MGC, Massachusets is one of very few states where the public is still able to access all vital records. MGC President Mary Ellen Grogan says, "We want...
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When you visit your doctor do you have to fill out a lengthy family health history questionnaire? Physicians use these to diagnose and treat us because it helps them assess our risk factors for certain diseases. You can blow your doctor away by completing a family health pedigree and bringing it to your next appointment! But what if you don't know your family members' exact cause of death or ages at death? Sometimes this information does not get passed down in families because it is too sad, or just too long ago. And frequently you'll hear a cause of death as "old age" or "broken heart." So what can you do if you want more exact details? If you are lucky enough to live in Massachusetts you can pay a visit to the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics at Columbia Point in Dorchester, right off Route 93. Massachusetts death records up...
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Every year, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) holds a large national genealogical conference. The highlight of the conference for MGC this year was being awarded a Presidential Citation from D. Joshua Taylor, President of FGS, in recognition of our outstanding work in ensuring records access for genealogists! When our FGS delegate was called to the front of the huge hall to accept the award in front of all of her peers she was quite tickled and very proud. More than 1,500 genealogists gathered this year in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to learn, share, network and stock up on reading material! FGS members include genealogical societies, libraries, family societies, archives and companies, and all share the goal of studying the history of families. Regular ol' genealogists attended the conference in abundance and were not disappointed. MGC had a presence in the Exhibit Hall in the area known as Society Showcase, a small, village-like...
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MGC Civil Records Co-Director Mary Ellen Grogan is our watchdog for bills in the Massachusetts legislature on Beacon Hill. She summarizes the situation here. The Massachusetts Genealogical Council monitors legislative and administrative activities of governmental agencies which affect genealogists and family history researchers. We sponsor and support legislation designed to expand the resources and accessibility of research services; and, where appropriate, we oppose laws and regulations which limit or close access to records. In the last ten years, significant efforts have been made on both state and federal levels to close records that have been traditionally used by genealogists. The impetus behind these efforts is not completely clear, but arguments center on issues of privacy. In most cases, closure of records to genealogists is not the result of actual legislation but of local regulations and the interpretation of these issues by records custodians. HIPAA, the Patriot Act, and identity theft have...
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Nora Galvin is the president and government relations liaison of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council, and president of the Connecticut Ancestry Society. Nora serves as a great example today, showing us how genealogists can speak up on behalf of keeping access to public records free. Today she is presenting a statement to the Connecticut General Assembly's Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections regarding proposed House Bill 5421. I am grateful to Nora for giving me permission to publish her address here.   My name is Nora Galvin. I am a professional genealogist and president of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council, Inc. I make my living by researching the history of Connecticut families in the state's rich record collections.   Three organizations have asked me to represent them here today: the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council, Connecticut Ancestry Society and the Connecticut Society of Genealogists. I unofficially represent the other 13 genealogy societies that are also incorporated...
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Fraud against United States government agencies is rampant. It is impossible to obtain an exact figure, because not all agencies are measuring the extent to which they are losing money, but estimates of over $100 billion/year in improper payments are common.  We are all aware of and horrified by this. It's unfair, unscrupulous, and worsening our already faltering economy. And we agree that IT MUST STOP. Yet all too often these days it seems that efforts to stop this trend are led by individual legislators who propose bills of only small scope. When we see a congressman propose a bill, it seems to be either because he knows of the problem and wants to fix it, or has a constituent who was the indirect victim of such a fraud. It seems easy enough to propose, is a hot-button issue and seems like a great way to attract votes. But most of...
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You heard it from us first! The Fall issue of the MGC Newsletter is hot off the presses! We have a date and speaker announcment for next year's MGC Annual Meeting and Seminar. You can follow this link to read it: http://bit.ly/TQ2EXa.  If you are a member and require a paper copy, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.....
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We Need Your Support Now More Than Ever! In these days of tight budgets, more and more institutions are choosing or being forced to reduce hours of operation, close outright, and even dispose of records to free up valuable storage space. The result is that the public has ever more restricted access to records. Massachusetts, thanks in large part to the efforts of MGC over the past thirty years, has notclosed records, and the law that was first enacted in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1641 to keep our records open and accessible to all citizens remains in effect.  Imagine a World With Closed Records Many states in the nation have chosen to close access to civil records such as birth, marriage and death records to all but proven family members. But how do you prove you are related without providing these same certificates? We need vital records to make any progress whatsoever in...
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Thanks to Judy Russell and the Legal Genealogist blog we are aware of yet another threat to public records, this time in Washington State. It seems that the Washington State Department of Health has sent a request to the 4-member State Records Committee to close access to births more recent than 125 years, and marriages and deaths more recent than 50 years. Obviously another knee-jerk, uninformed reaction to credit fraud, but we need to do what we can to lend our support. Note that this is not going to the Washington State Legislature or any court, just to this small committee of appointed, not elected, members, as Judy points out. You can ready Judy's blog post here: http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2012/11/08/washington-public-records-threatened/. ...
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In a happy turn of events, Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced yesterday that the Georgia State Archives will remain open at least through June 20, 2013. It is slated to be transferred to the University System of Georgia after that, so this opens up more questions. This new budgetary commitment allows the archives to remain open under current hours. http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2012-10-18/deal-kemp-keep-georgia’s-archives-open...
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Fiona Gartland of the Irish Times (www.IrishTimes.com), writes: "Genealogists have raised concerns about moves to resurrect the Privacy Bill 2006, which they say could restrict access to records for genealogical or biographical research." If this bill is reintroduced and passed, will it have serious consequences on all of those seeking to trace their roots in Ireland? Click here to read Fiona's article, "Concerns bill could restrict research into roots."  Entitled an "Act to provide for a Tort of Violation of Privacy; and to provide for matters connected therewith," Privacy Bill 2006 was restored to the Order Paper of Seanad Éireann on September 25th 2012, at number nine. Based on the premise that everyone has a right to privacy, the bill seeks to guarantee a right to privacy, and in the process may restrict access to certain records.  It says, in part: Tort of violation of privacy3. Section 2 provides that it is a tort...
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Jan Meisels Allen, IAJGS Vice President and Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee keeps MGC up-to-date on legislative developments. Here is a summary of her latest announcement. State vital records laws that redact or restrict information can stymie genealogists.  A recent example is Virginia's law allowing only Virginia residents the right to access public records. According to the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) there are eight states that have or have had similar provisions: Arkansas, Georgia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania,  Tennessee,  and Virginia.  See: http://tinyurl.com/99emf8o. Several groups and individuals are taking this provision to the U.S. Supreme Court. One person from Rhode Island and another from California are challenging the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provision on access for only Virginia citizens. Two Federal appellate courts have each ruled differently, which is why it is being appealed to the Supreme Court. A decision by the Supreme Court whether it will...
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The US Congress ( House of Representatives and Senate) has adjourned for elections and won't return until November 13 for the "lame duck" session which will last up until the new Congress is seated in January. No action on the six bills before either the House or Senate regarding the Social Security Death Index (the commercial name of the Death Master File) will occur before the lame duck session -- if then. They had been waiting for the Obama Administration bill, but with Congress out until November 13 nothing has been forthcoming from the Administration at this time. Jan Meisels AllenIAJGS Vice PresidentChairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee...
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Now here is a step that will make a tremendous difference in helping to stem to tide of identity fraud. "IRS Takes New Steps to Prevent Fraud" was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq, a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. He grants permission to post/reprint this article with attribution. You can find the original at www.idtheftcenter.blogspot.com. IRS Takes New Steps to Prevent Fraud The IRS has been dealing with an epidemic of tax fraud and identity theft.  An audit report prepared by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) estimated that 940,000 tax returns involved identity theft in 2011. The same audit report estimates that in addition to those, another 1.5 million fraudulent tax returns may have been submitted but not detected by the IRS. Fortunately, in 2012 the IRS has been taking additional steps to help stem the flow of these fraudulent returns.  In the TIGTA audit, several recommendations were made to...
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ATLANTA, GA -- Official statement from the state: "The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget has instructed the Office of the Secretary of State to further reduce its budget for AFY13 and FY14 by 3% ($732,626). As it has been for the past two years, these cuts do not eliminate excess in the agency, but require the agency to further reduce services to the citizens of Georgia. As an agency that returns over three times what is appropriated back to the general fund, budget cuts present very challenging decisions. We have tried to protect the services that the agency provides in support of putting people to work, starting small businesses, and providing public safety. To meet the required cuts, it is with great remorse that I have to announce, effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public. The decision to reduce...
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I'm a little excited today because in doing some genealogical research I came across a site that provides a portion of the Social Security number (SSN) of individuals. I am glad that not all websites have had a knee jerk reaction and simply redacted these numbers because it is essential that we have access to them in order to PREVENT identity fraud. The owners of the site, called Sysoon, took the time to put a link underneath the SSN which says, "Why we show it," and here is what they say: Identity Theft of the Deceased Identity theft is the fastest growing crime worldwide! How to Prevent Identity Theft of the Deceased? Identity theft: It can happen to anyone, living or dead. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime worldwide. Your identity does not automatically die with you. Identity thieves used the name and Social Security number of someone who is...
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I've been home from the FGS 2012 Conference in Birmingham, Alabama for a week now and am still catching up on spreading the news of all the great happenings there. Perhaps my favorite surprise was the success of the APG Roundtable, "Records Access: The Art of Advocacy," held on Tuesday, August 28th. Sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (NEAPG) and organized by Diane Gravel, it was in the form of a panel moderated by Thomas MacEntee. The panel, consisting of Kelvin Meyers, Terri Flack, Alvie Davidson and Polly Kimmitt, were asked a series of questions about the current state of records access legislation. (The link at the end of this article gives more details on the panelists and questions asked). Though RPAC has traditionally been the group in which we place our confidence, the community is seeking more in terms of instruction, advice, outreach and coordination...
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Jan Meisels Allen, Vice President of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and chairperson of IAJGS's Public Records Access Monitoring Committee keeps us informed of developments at the Federal level regarding records access. Here is her latest alert. Here is a link to an advance copy of IRS [Internal Revenue Service] Revenue Procedure 2012-35 effective August 31, 2012 : http://benefitslink.com/src/irs/revproc2012-35.pdf   Evidently, the IRS for "humane" reasons will forward a letter for those who are attempting to locate missing persons.  This "service" is available to private individuals and state and federal agencies.  What they have done is define this service for humane reasons.  What the IRS has determined (see Section 4.02) are examples not considered as humane including: "tracing a family tree or attempting to locate individuals for reunion purposes " .   What is also ironic is that the requestor must provide the missing person's Social Security Number along with the letter to be forwarded.  The IRS...
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MGC The issue of records access will be front and center at the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2012 Conference in Birmingham, Alabama next week. For the first time, MGC will have a table at a national conference, and we hope to spread the word about our activities as watchdogs over public records. Our display will be in the Society Showcase section of the exhibit hall and attendees will find answers to many questions plus information on how to get more involved. It can be confusing to those not accustomed to the legislative process, but we aim to demystify! If you are in Birmingham, please stop by our table, pick up our newsletter and think about joining our society! APG On the Tuesday night before every FGS conference, the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) traditionally holds their APG Roundtable. This year it is Records Access: The Art of Advocacy. MGC is thrilled to welcome APG to the...
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As we've seen, everal pieces of legislation propose to restrict or deny access to the public (including genealogists) to the Death Master File (DMF), also known as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, is a fountain of knowledge about how Congress is reacting to identity theft and accusations that  the DMF/SSDI is being used as a vehicle for identity theft. Recently, Congress has also taken steps regarding identity theft and addressing the IRS due to fraudulent tax filings without directly mentioning the DMF/SSDI.  There are several steps they have taken that you might find of interest: 1.  The House has passed HR 4362, which may be cited as the "Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft Act of 2012" or the "STOP Identity Theft Act of 2012". Visit http://tinyurl.com/8ou2nxq. The bill addresses tax-return identity theft and the author is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman...
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Jan Meisels Allen of the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies, and member of the Records Preservation Access Committee (RPAC) keeps abreast of developments that interest anyone concerned with access to public records. She sent out this update and we thought we should republish, with Jan's permission, of course. The US Congress is starting on their "summer vacation" and your elected US Senator and Congressperson will be home.  Getting to know your elected representative is very important--and if you are concerned about continued records access including the Social Security Death Index and that genealogists are NOT the cause of identity theft, there is no better time to make an appointment to meet with your representative and their staff.  2012 is an election year--the entire House of Representatives and 1/3 of the US Senate -- your society is made up of their constituents -- use this time wisely to get to know your elected officials...
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By now most people who attended the MGC Annual Meeting and Seminar on July 21st have filled out the evaulation survey we sent around. One of the most requested items was an update to the MGC newsletter. Despite all of the conveniences (bells and whistles?) of modern technology, with blogs, email, Twitter, Facebook, LInkedIn, etc., it appears that most of us just like to have a printed copy we can pick up when we feel like it, without having to turn on the computer. We've had a pause in production for quite a while, but I'm happy to say that at the seminar we announced the Summer 2012 issue of the MGC Newsletter. In case you missed the seminar, you can find the newsletter on our website at www.massgencouncil.org under the Newsletters tab by selecting the Current Newsletter button. Give it some time to load, then save it to your computer and...
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Well, the Massachusetts Genealogical Council's 2012 Annual Meeting and Seminar is over and we are very, very happy with the day! Over two hundred enthusiastic genealogists turned out on a gorgeous summer day to attend this event, held July 21st at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Our Program Co-Directors, Mary Tedesco and Phil Hermann did an absolutely fantastic job of selecting talented speakers who brought us a wide variety of presentations and discussions. We covered a broad swath of ethnicities––everything from Armenian to Chinese to Irish. Methodology lectures provided a challenge to all researchers, from beginner to advanced. Ancestry.com Vice President of Community Relations (and dear lady) Lou Szucs wowed us with her knowledge and touching personal stories. And clinical psychologist Dr. Rebecca Hanson Richardson gave us some insight into how our own minds can both create AND  break down those pesky brick walls we encounter in our research. MGC presented a panel on the latest...
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The Massachusetts Genealogical Council is happy to announce that we will continue accepting registrations for our 2012 Annual Meeting and Seminar until midnight on July 10th.  Please note that the Early Bird deadline has passed, so all fees will be at the full rate.  Can't wait to see you there!...
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Did you know that this month marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812? If you are like most Americans you have very little knowledge of the circumstances of that war, but as genealogists it behooves us to learn more! We can be especially appreciative of the efforts of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) to digitize and provide free access to the 1812 pension files. In conjunction with the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA), fold3, and Ancestry.com, FGS is helping to digitize 180,000 pension applications representing an estimated 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files. The collection will be available for free on fold3's website, here.  FGS has targeted the War of 1812 Pension Applications as a high priority project based on the value of the content for genealogists as well as the importance of preserving the fragile records. FGS is...
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MGC supports legislation designed to expand the resources and accessibility of materials used in historical research, but it is much more frequent to encounter legislation that blocks public access, hence we often find ourselves in battle mode. It is always a pleasure to be able to support rather than oppose a bill, for so many reasons. First, it is just a more positive activity. Much more importantly, we become allies in the legislative process, rather than foes. And isn't it preferable to work with legislators than against them? If we are supporters then our influence seems much more natural, we come across as the experts we are, and we gather respect rather than disdain. So it is with great delight that MGC announces support of Massachusetts House Bill 3043 - An Act Relative to Records Open to Public Inspection. Our Massachusetts Civil Records Director, Mary Ellen Grogan, constantly monitors bills proposed at the...
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REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!! ~ ETHNICITY AND GENEALOGY ~ Massachusetts has been a landing point for immigrants since 1620, and though the predominant nationalities of immigrants have varied in different eras, the challenge of locating those newly arrived, impoverished and disenfranchised ancestors has remained equally challenging through the centuries. See the blue menu on the top right of the MGC homepage at www.massgencouncil.org for more details on how to register. Save money by becoming a member of MGC first! Members pay $60 before July 1st, non-members pay $75. Everyone, regardless of membership status, pays $85 after midnight on July 1st. July 1st is also the day that online registration closes. ~ Massachusetts Genealogical Council ~Safeguarding researchers' access to Public Records in Massachusetts andproviding educational programs for the genealogical community. Register Now! Schedule Speakers Programs Vendors Sponsors ...
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