Massachusetts Genealogical Council
Genealogists Submit Three Requests to the Biden Administration
The Records Preservation and Access Coalition (RPAC), a national group of genealogy societies, submitted three transition papers to the incoming Biden administration. The papers concerned three issues that have created strong feelings within the genealogical community in recent years.
USCIS Fee Increases Withdrawn
Last year the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed significant fee increases for records under their control. Genealogists responded strongly against these huge increases. MGC was one of 177 societies signing a letter coordinated by RPAC. Click here to see the letter.
When the new administration took office, RPAC used that opportunity to suggest increasing the budget of the National Archives and Records Administration to facilitate transfer of older, genealogically valuable records from USCIS to NARA. Click here to see the USCIS/NARA transition paper.
Later USCIS published in the Federal Register a request for suggestions on how to meet their mission. MGC submitted feedback that we also published on our blog.
The Seattle Branch of the National Archives Will Not Move
The January 2020 announcement that the facility housing the Seattle NARA would be sold and the archives moved to another NARA facility (likely in Missouri or California) shocked the genealogy community. The Seattle facility housed documents from the closed Alaska facility, making the new distance untenable for all.
When the new administration took office, RPAC submitted a transition paper discussing the need to have stakeholders at the table when such an important decision was made. You can read the transiton paper here.
The administration later halted the closing of the Seattle facility.
Accurate, Complete, and Open Death Indexes
In November 2011, a policy implementation at the Social Security Administration removed millions of records from the Death Master File, known to genealogists as the Social Security Death Index. Then in March 2014 a rolling withdrawal happened, ensuring that at least the last three years of all deaths were withdrawn from the SSDI. Although the legislation spoke of three years of sequestered data, no updates were ever provided. Now the sequestered period is eight years long.
When the new administration took office RPAC submitted a transition paper calling for an accurate, complete, and open death index. Several agencies in federal government track deaths and RPAC requested that the best source of this information be explored. You can read the transition paper here.
Various federal agencies were already exploring the need for an accurate death index. in January 2021, the Congressional Research Service published "The Social Security Administration's Death Data: In Brief." It compares the utility of the Death Master File, the Treasury Department's Do Not Pay List, and third-party vendors.
Other States Open Original Certificates of Birth
The three-year push to open original certificates of birth to adoptees developed momentum in other states. New York's bills S3419 and AS494 were signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on 4 November 2019. For more coverage, click here.
This year saw the passage of the Original Certificates of Birth Law in Connecticut.