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SSDI Access – Are You Ready To Rumble?

Records Preservation and Access Committee

[Editor’s Note: I am a director for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) which is a member of the Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC).  As many of you know, during last week’s meeting of the House Ways & Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security hearing, genealogists took it on the chin and were made out the be the scapegoats. This is just the start of an ongoing effort to remove access to these records.

Please read the announcement below from RPAC and get ready to help spread the news about the  Stop ID Theft NOW! petition effort.]

RPAC announces the “Stop ID Theft NOW!” Campaign

What if:

  • The Social Security Death Index were no longer available online; or
  • Birth certificates in every state were not made public for 125years, nor death certificates, marriages and divorce records available until after 75 years?

These and similar proposals further limiting genealogical access to “public” records are actively being considered by policy-makers at the state and federal level.

The most recent example is the hearing held by the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held on 2 February and found at:

Recent posts give at the RPAC Blog at  give additional information.

To address such issues, the genealogical community works together through The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), a joint committee which today includes The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) as voting members.  The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), the American Society of Genealogists (ASG), ProQuest and also serve as participating members.

We expect to launch a significant petition drive on Tuesday, the 7th of February. It will urge the Administration to take steps that should curtail the filing of fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from deceased infants and adults almost immediately.    Please plan to check back at the RPAC Blog at that time.

What can individual genealogists and local societies do?  In essence, our message is “Get Involved!”

Start by asking these two questions:

  • Do I know who my legislators (state & federal) are?
  • Do they know who I am?

©2012, copyright Thomas MacEntee

8 thoughts on “SSDI Access – Are You Ready To Rumble?

  1. Thank you so much for your work on this issue that is so important to us professional genealogists, and amateurs alike.

    There’s been a lot of discussion in genealogy circles about ‘not throwing the baby out with the bath water.’

    The ‘other side’ may have some valid points… but we do too… and it sure would be nice if we could compromise.

    Does this really have to be an all-or-nothing thing??? Or can we find a way to work together?

    For those of us with small businesses related to genealogy, this could do serious damage to our business. Sometimes it’s impossible to move forward without those records so if we don’t have access, we lose business. Plain and simple.

    I don’t think anyone in congress wants to be seen as a small business-killer. And at the same time, there are many in the genealogical community (at least the ones I’ve spoken with, I won’t try to speak for everyone) who don’t want to be seen as heartless or uncompromising themselves — they recognize that there could be some legitimate concerns and *some level of reform might be in order.

    But the keyword there is ‘some.’ Again, let’s try to get rid of the black and white thinking and see if we can work together. My 2 cents.

  2. Aliza, you are correct. Working together is key. Those in Congress don’t want to be seen as a small-business killer, but they’re not listening to those companies, big and small, who use the SSDI and depend on it.

    It’s especially vital for genealogists to agree amongst THEMSELVES what we can and cannot live with. I’ve read posts by genealogists who feel that a fair compromise is to keep the SSDI’s names and information public, but eliminate the SSN itself. That may work for SOME genealogists, but it is by no means a good solution for those of us who depend on access to the entire number to narrow down places of residence, order SS-5’s, etc.

  3. I would be happy to have the SSNs stripped out if it meant we could maintain access to the rest of the info. As far as ordering the SS-5, if they replace the SSN with a new unique value they can use that to reference the record in their database, but it would be useless outside of ordering an SS-5.

  4. Don,

    I love that idea of replacing the number but I don’t know how realistic it is as far as implementation.

    And Linda, I’m with you — in my business we need to order the SS-5 so we need the number.

    There’s GOT to be a way to find a happy medium! Maybe we need to start thinking outside the box more.

    Or maybe…if we let go of the most recent records that would be acceptable to those who take issue with how it currently stands, but most of us could still run our businesses.

    I don’t know…I don’t have the answer either. I’m just thinking out loud here.

  5. As other people have stated, I don’t need to see the actual SS number. The first three numbers are helpful to know where it was issued. After that, I don’t care.

    I do agree that if we don’t take some action, this will snowball until tons of records are out of grasp.

  6. Will they also ban obit notices? Restrict the use of b. dates and d. deaths on headstones? Restricting access is like a lock – it only keeps the honest man out. Identity thieves will find a way around any restriction.

    I also wonder how many identity thefts are from these records vs. credit cards and on line banking info.

    I sincerely hope a compromise can be worked out. I can understand the SS Death Index (don’t like it but understand it) but not the birth certs and death certs.

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