Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Example 1

Proofs don’t have to be complicated, and they don’t have to resolve conflicting evidence. They don’t have to include indirect evidence, either, even though it may be present and could be included to support an argument. Sometimes multiple pieces of direct evidence support a genealogical conclusion. They all answer the genealogy question directly. As promised in the last Ten-Minute Methodology post on proofs here is an example from a published work.

Michael Hait, CG, presents a narrative proof in an introduction to a genealogical summary published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. His article, excerpted here, treats a family of slave and newly manumitted Ridgelys, Caroline and her three children.[1] While Michael presents kinship evidence for all three children, our focus in this post is on Augustus. What proof is there for his relationship to Caroline? How is that proof presented to readers?

Victoire, mentioned in the first paragraph of this excerpt (p. 248), was Caroline’s owner.

Direct evidence showing that Augustus was Caroline’s son is highlighted on p. 249. The first item of a two-bullet list (highlighted, p. 250) includes additional direct evidence. There is no indication if Augustus’s baptism record (p. 249, paragraph 1) names his mother. The 1860 census shows Augustus in Caroline’s household (p. 250, paragraph 3), but does not provide direct evidence of kinship.

The genealogical summary that begins at the bottom of page 250 offers a picture of Caroline, her children, and her grandchildren. Augustus’s sketch offers no new evidence of his relationship to his mother.



Thanks, Michael!


[1] Michael Hait, “In the Shadow of Rebellions: Maryland Ridgelys in Slavery and Freedom,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (December 2012): 245-66, reprinted by permission. The article is available online at Michael’s website.

 


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

 

In Memoriam: Merrill Hill Mosher of Coos Bay, Oregon

Merrill Hill Mosher, 2005
Image courtesy of The Coos Bay (Oregon) World

On 2 February 2015, our friend and colleague, Merrill Hill Mosher died in Coos Bay, Oregon, aged 84. She was formerly certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) and was founder of Donald Mosher Memorial Award for Colonial Virginia Research, administered by the BCG Education Fund.

Merrill was born and grew up near Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area. She had one son, Ashley Cooke Auld. On 5 January 1970 in Crescent City, California, she married the late Donald Mosher.

Beginning in 1974, Merrill was an active volunteer at the local Family History Center, serving as librarian sometime after their opening until 2000. She taught genealogical courses at Southwestern Oregon Community College and mentored many of her students. Merrill earned BCG certification on 15 May 1993, and in 1995 she received the North Carolina Genealogical Society’s award for excellence in publishing for her book, John Freeman of Norfolk County, Virginia: His Descendants in North Carolina and Virginia and Other Colonial North Carolina Freeman Families (Berwyn Heights, Md.: Heritage Books, 1994).

Beverly Rice, former BCG treasurer, writes that “Merrill was a mentor to many of us in Coos Bay (and Oregon), including Rhonda Edwards, Marcia Rice, and myself. She often lectured and taught classes. I still remember her handwriting workshops because she had us write and practice the early Virginia script, over and over. This was in my first years of research; it was a great learning experience and one I have not forgotten.” Beverly also stated that Merrill had been a competitive downhill-skier. An ankle injury led to difficulty walking later in life.

Professional to the core, Merrill was an avid supporter of BCG and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). She was a founding member of APG’s Oregon Chapter and served as the chapter president from 2000 to 2001. Beverly Rice recalls, “We actually had our chapter-forming meeting in her living room overlooking the Pacific Ocean.” Former BCG president Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, adds, “Merrill was a driving force in many successful certified associates’ lives. There were probably more certified people in her area at one time than in any small town. She was a wonderful representative of the BCG spirit.”

Merrill established Mosher’s Southern Research Library, located outside of Coos Bay. In 2013 she donated her personal papers to the Genealogical Forum of Oregon.

Merrill Mosher, VIGR, 2000
Image courtesy of Marty Hiatt, CG

Marty Hiatt, CG, writes that Merrill attended the Virginia Genealogical Society’s summer institute, known as Virginia Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR), once or twice, and became an instructor in her third year.

Merrill was a prolific writer and had family articles published as lead pieces in The Virginia Genealogist. She also wrote an article for that publication describing mapping errors for several Northern Neck counties. Another of her family articles was published in The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research.

In 2001, in memory of her deceased husband of thirty-two years, Merrill established the Donald Mosher Memorial Award for Colonial Virginia Research. The award recognizes scholarly research on colonial Virginia topics in the categories of family genealogy, immigrant place of family origin, and publication of obscure or difficult Virginia resources. Mary McCampbell Bell, BCG Education Fund treasurer from 2002 through 2009, recalls, “It was my honor and pleasure to work with Merrill as we shared ideas on how her award could be implemented. She was extremely knowledgeable about Virginia, and we shared a mutual love of colonial Virginia research. Her vision for the Mosher Award was to encourage people to look for and publish little-known Virginia records.”

We will miss Merrill, but the Mosher Award will continue to inspire and benefit Virginia researchers for years to come. Tax-free donations to the BCG Education Fund, designated for the Mosher Award, will assure that the award flourishes. For more about the Mosher Award, visit the BCG Education Fund at http://www.bcgcertification.org/educationfund/index.html.

by Mary McCampbell Bell, Certified Genealogist Emeritus


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

 

Free BCG Webinar: F. Warren Bittner, CG, on Complex Evidence

The Board for Certification of Genealogists proudly announces the next in its series of webinars.

F. Warren Bittner, CG

On Tuesday, 24 February, F. Warren Bittner, CG, will present “Complex Evidence: What it Is, How it Works, Why it Matters.”

The genealogist’s goal is to establish identity and prove relationships. Complex evidence is often the ONLY way to do this. Follow a case study of clues from multiple sources to solve a problem.

This free webinar is open to all genealogists who want to improve their skills. Presented live, it will begin at 8pm EST (7pm Central, 6pm Mountain, 5pm Pacific) and will run about an hour and a half.

To register and receive your unique link to the webinar, please go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3412355591969569026.

Note that recordings may be made available online at a later date.

Look for announcements of future monthly webinars on this blog.


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

 

New OnBoard Editor: Nancy A. Peters, CG

Nancy A. Peters, CG

The most recent issue of BCG’s OnBoard gives one hint that its editorship has changed. At the bottom of page seven are a new name, Nancy A. Peters, CG, and a new address, Aiken, South Carolina. Nancy already knew some of the ins and outs of OnBoard, as she served three years as one of its editorial assistants. Last year she was elected a trustee of the Board and simultaneously asked to take over OnBoard. Fortunately she agreed.

Nancy’s goals for OnBoard include continuing its scholarly tradition of educating readers in genealogy standards. Articles cover BCG news and skills and techniques needed to produce quality genealogical work. Nancy explains, “I hope to continue meeting the standards set by our outgoing editor, Will White, CG, for scholarship and timeliness in future issues. Working with Will taught me a tremendous amount about writing and editing and I want to thank him for his service to OnBoard from 2011–2014. Kathy Gunter Sullivan, CG, and Teri D. Tillman, CG, generously agreed to continue in their roles as part of our editorial team.”

A background in technical assistance for adult learners prepared Nancy well for her editing position. With an M.S. in computer science, she was employed for many years in customer support management in the information technology industry. What matters for OnBoard readers is that her work in onsite support led her to education. She instructed on software for business applications and wrote courseware, hands-on exercises, and training manuals. She explained to adult users how things work. From there it was an easy transition to OnBoard’s educational mission.

Nancy had been researching ancestors for many years by the time she left the corporate world for full-time genealogy. She has been doing client work for the past four years, challenging herself to take brick-wall problems, apply standards, and hone the skills necessary to research in an unfamiliar place and time. She has been Board-certified since 2011, and OnBoard featured her in a Spotlight article in 2012. That article tells a good story about how Nancy became interested in genealogy back in 1986.[1]

To reach Nancy, email npeters@bellsouth.net. Editorship of OnBoard, like almost all BCG activities, is a volunteer position. Congratulations and thank you, Nancy, for your time and effort on behalf of BCG. Readers of SpringBoard will be watching for your skilled and steady hand guiding OnBoard.


[1] Elissa Scalise Powell, “Spotlight: Nancy A. Peters, CG,” OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists 18 (January 2012): 8.


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

 

BCG at FGS-RootsTech 2015

The Board for Certification of Genealogists will be well represented this week at the combined 2015 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference and RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah.

BCG will have a booth in the vendor hall, coordinated by Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL, where information about certification and standards will be available, and where those considering certification can review portfolios.

It will also be presenting a two-hour workshop on Friday, February 13, starting at 1 p.m., on “Certification: Measuring Yourself Against Standards.” It will be moderated and presented by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, and Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL.

The BCG-sponsored luncheon on Friday, just before the workshop, will feature J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA, speaking on “What Did You Do When You Were A Kid? or Strategies for Gathering Family Stories.”

And Board-certified genealogists will take to the podium in large numbers. Scheduled presentations by associates include the following:

Wednesday, February 11

The Policy and Procedure Manual: Preventing “I Didn’t Know That”
by C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL

The Ethical Genealogist
by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Involve Elroy Jetson (& others) in Your Genealogical Society
by J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA

Organizing and Carrying Out a Society Project
by C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL

Thursday, February 12

Getting the Most Out of Genealogical Evidence
by Thomas Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

Hatched, Matched, and Dispatched: Vital Record Research
by C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL

Searching for Our Ministers and Clergy
by Patricia Walls Stamm, CG, CGL

How Old Did He Have to Be…?
by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Researching Your War of 1812 Ancestor
by Craig R. Scott, MA, CG, FUGA

Biblical Breakthrough! How I Came to Love the NGS Online Bible Collection
by Diane Florence Gravel, CG

Tales Grandma Didn’t Tell
by Warren Bittner, MS, CG

Civil War Medical Records
by Craig R. Scott, MA, CG, FUGA

Problem Solving with Probate
by Thomas Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

The War Ended But Not The Records!
by Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA

Making a Federal Case Out of It
by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Obtaining 20th Century Military Records from St. Louis Personnel Records Center
by Patricia Walls Stamm, CG, CGL

Friday, February 13

Impossible Immigrant! Exhausting Research to Find an Ancestor’s Origins
by Warren Bittner, CG

Gentlemen Judges: The Justices of the Peace
by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Federal Records Relating to Rivers and Canals
by Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL

New Standards or Old? Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories
by Thomas Jones PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

Our River Ancestors and the Records They Left Behind
by Patricia Walls Stamm, CG, CGL

Writing a Prize-Winning Family History
by Thomas Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

Railroads Beyond the Mississippi: History and Records
by Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA

The Compiled Military Service Record
by Craig R. Scott, MA, CG, FUGA

Finding the Migration Record and Stories of the Dust Bowl Disaster and Western Movement
by J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA

Saturday, February 14

Comparing Records With Vintage Tools and High Tech Resources
by J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA

Meyer’s Gazetteer: Gateway to Germany
by Warren Bittner, CG

Manuscripts and More
by Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL

Martha Benschura: Enemy Alien
by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

National Institute on Genealogical Research Announces New Director

Malissa Ruffner, JD, MLS, CG

BCG is co-sponsor of the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), a week-long course held each July in Washington, D.C. It focuses on the holdings of the National Archives. NIGR’s Board of Directors has announced the appointment of our colleague, Malissa Ruffner, JD, CG, as its new director, effective immediately.

In view of the recent death of  NIGR’s former director, Patricia Shawker, CG, the 2015 institute has been postponed. Malissa will assume responsibility for future programs, the next to be held in July 2016. The National Archives has expressed strong support for the continuation of NIGR and will work with Malissa to assure the institute’s success in the coming years.

Malissa, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, earned a Bachelor of Arts from Goucher College and a law degree and a Master of Library Science degree, both from the University of Maryland. In addition to genealogy, she has worked as a lawyer, and in schools, libraries, and archives. Her genealogical pursuits include client work, writing and blogging, lecturing, and participation in conferences and institutes, including NIGR, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, Forensic Genealogy Institute, ProGen, and “Come Home to New England” at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Malissa currently serves on the Maryland Genealogical Society Board of Directors and on BCG’s Intellectual Property committee.

 


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patricia O’Brien Shawker, CG (1956-2015)

Patricia E. Shawker, CG, FMGS
(Photo printed with permission)

The genealogical community is mourning the loss of Patricia O’Brien Shawker, CG, FMGS, who died on January 16, 2015, after a battle with cancer. She is being remembered for her expertise, generosity, ready smile, and remarkably broad career. Her specialties were Maryland research, federal records, lineage applications, and methodology. She was widely known as the director of the National Institute of Genealogical Research for the past seven years, guiding hundreds of attendees during their first research endeavors at the National Archives (NARA) in Washington, D.C.

Patty was actively involved at every societal level. Her undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Maryland made her a valued organizational volunteer. Certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) since 1999, she was a trustee of the BCG Education Fund and its treasurer. She was the treasurer of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) from 2003 until 2006. She served on the board of the Maryland Genealogical Society for several years, including one term as treasurer. She became the registrar of the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society in 1998, a position she still held at her death. She had been a volunteer staff aid at NARA since 2005 and served as a mentor for the ProGen 6 study group.

Patty lectured nationally, including at NGS conferences, and continued to present locally. She wrote Research in Maryland of the NGS Research in the States series, authored several guides published in the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal, and was a longtime contributing editor to The PGCGS Bulletin.  She received the Jane Roush McCafferty, CG, Award of Excellence from the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society in 2009. In May of 2014, she was named a Fellow of the Maryland Genealogical Society for her outstanding scholarship, contributions to MGS, and the genealogical community.

She is survived by her husband, Dr. Thomas Shawker (with whom she shared a passion for genealogy), her mother, four siblings, and six nieces and nephews. Expressions of sympathy can be sent to 7014 Megan Lane, Greenbelt, MD 20770-3014.

by Malissa Ruffner, JD, MLS, CG


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Welcome, Patricia Lee Hobbs, CG

Patricia Lee “Patti” Hobbs

Patti Hobbs, native Californian, inadvertently made a reverse, west-to-east migration by settling in the Missouri Ozarks in 1990. After the move she discovered that her grandfather was born ninety miles west of her current home, and his mother was from territorial Missouri stock, bringing her back to her own roots.

Patti is the genealogy face of the Springfield-Greene County (Missouri) Library District. Since 2009 she has been a genealogist reference associate for the Local History and Genealogy Department. She loves this position that suits her inclination to teach and her passion for genealogy.

Her twenty-five-year career homeschooling her six children prepared Patti well for genealogical research and readying her BCG portfolio. She became more logical, especially in her presentations. Too, she had to teach herself a lot, and at a high level, to be prepared to teach her students. She knows that “you can learn almost anything if you have the experts giving the standards, and you have the tools for learning.” For Patti those tools included at least ten sessions at the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research, the National Institute on Genealogical Research, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

From preparing her children’s lessons, this biology major developed a love of history and the stories of people in historical context. “It has been thrilling to me to see how the everyday people fit into the grand historical themes. [They] are the fabric of our society, and we should be proud of that.”

Patti found great satisfaction in preparing her kinship-determination project. She had two goals: to start in the 1700s and to include her family watchmakers. The story begins with a Massachusetts woman whose father was a Revolutionary War patriot and continues through Patti’s great-grandfather, whose son, taught by his father, was well known for his watch craft during World War II. Patti wants to continue this type of writing where “little details come together that [may not be] so obvious. Writing biographical material with historical context creates a synergy that can otherwise be lost.”

Patti continues, “I love discovering ‘lost’ family, especially those who had no children and therefore have no descendants looking for them. I want to be their advocate and tell their tales. But even with ancestors who aren’t lost, there are lost stories in their lives. Teasing those things out of the details of the records is immensely rewarding.”

This consummate teacher describes two types of library patrons: those who want simply to compile a family tree and those who are ready and willing to research in records. Addressing their frustration with not finding the one record that “proves” an identity, Patti explains, “If a jillion people haven’t found it yet, it’s because no one has muddled around in the records.” She’s just the person to help do that because she has a great attitude about brick walls. “I have difficulty calling anything a brick wall. I usually figure that I just haven’t looked hard enough yet.”

Looking hard can bring up surprises. While researching her great-grandfather watchmaker, Patti found online and was able to purchase his own watch with his name and the town he was working in engraved on it.

Looking to the future, Patti expects to spend the next five years continuing teaching through her local genealogical society and writing articles for publication. She can be reached at research@quotidiangenealogy.com, or she may be spotted at the next genealogical institute. All the best, Patti, and welcome!


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Summaries and Arguments 1


This post is part of an occasional series intended to educate and challenge BCG associates, aspirants, and the genealogical community at large.

Our Proof Goals

We genealogists aim for accuracy in representing identities and relationships. We want to show why we believe people were who we say they were. We want to show that they really belonged with the folks we attach them to.

We follow the Genealogical Proof Standard to ensure that our research is thorough, our sources well documented, our reasoning levelheaded, and our conflicts resolved. Then we write up our conclusions. Standards 51 through 54 in Genealogy Standards describe the qualities we aim for in writing our proofs for the public, for ourselves, and for posterity.

Options for Writing Proofs

Standard 53 offers a division of proofs into statements, summaries, and arguments.

  • Proof statements are the simplest and reflect direct evidence. We’ve looked at these in the first and second “Ten-Minute Methodology” posts.
  • Proof summaries are a little more complex and also rest on direct evidence. They are “relatively straightforward” and can be lists or narratives. Always, they present documentation. It there are conflicts, they are minor and easily explained.
  • Proof arguments are still more complex and address cases where evidence conflicts or where direct evidence is absent. These are the challenging cases that require more explanation and often include tables, charts, or maps. [1]

Both proof summaries and arguments can stand alone as work samples, or they may appear as parts of larger works. They can be very similar, only the complexity of the case distinguishing the two.

Understanding the Terminology of Proofs

What can be confusing is when a proof is a summary and when it’s an argument, and what to do about proofs that seem to be hybrids that aren’t defined in Genealogy Standards. Over time terminology has been changing. An example of a proof summary in an older publication may look more like the current definition of a proof argument.

A Continuum

We don’t have to get hung up over trying to create artificial boundaries between summaries and arguments. There’s an easier way to look at genealogical proofs than trying to determine whether we use a proof summary or a proof argument and to figure out which one to use when. It’s a continuum and looks something like this: [2]

There’s a big overlap between proof summaries and proof arguments in terms of their complexity and length: the grey area. Occasionally our proofs will naturally fall into the grey area, and that’s ok.

Naming types of proof isn’t our goal. Designing and writing them is. As we work with information we turn to research standards related to reasoning, for example Standards 47 (evidence correlation), 48 (resolving evidence inconsistencies), and 50 (assembling conclusions).[3] For choosing a format when writing, we rely on “Genealogical Proofs.”

Standard 53 gives us a general idea, from the type and complexity of evidence we have amassed, what type of proof we will write. Standard 54 reminds us of the importance of organizing evidence and sequencing it logically so it convinces readers of the accuracy of our conclusions.[4]

Examples

It’s fine and well to describe what proof should look like, but it’s important to see what it does look like. There’s an example of proofs that are part of a larger work right on the BCG website. This ascending genealogy provides proofs broken out into “Parentage” sections for three women.

  • Elizabeth’s parentage, pages 1–2, rests on direct evidence. This is a proof in narrative format.
  • Another, more complex, narrative on pages 12–13 summarizes proof of Mary’s parentage with a focus on her mother. It requires five paragraphs to describe and explain the evidence for Mary’s mother’s identity as well as the parental relationship.
  • Proof of Barbara’s parentage on page 19 is presented in a numbered list. It derives from “Four pieces of direct evidence.” [5]

We see how the type and length of proof used depend on the type, quality, and reliability of the evidence available. More narrative is required to explain reasoning in cases where we have only second-hand information or when conflicts and/or indirect evidence is added into the mix. What we call our proofs is of minimal significance. What is really important is that we get them written!

Next time we’ll look at more published examples of proofs.

Many thanks to Alison Hare, Laura DeGrazia, Stefani Evans, and Tom Jones for helpful input.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2014), 31.
[2] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 87.
[3] BCG, Genealogy Standards, 27–29.
[4] BCG, Genealogy Standards, 32–34.
[5] Connie Lenzen, “The Maternal Line of Elizabeth (Niesz) Titus,” 2007, Board for Certification of Genealogists (http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/titusnarrlineage.pdf : accessed 11 January 2015).

Last Chance to Comment on Rules Regarding Social Security Death Index Access

Board-certified genealogists working in forensic genealogy should read the new regulations for access to the most recent three years of deaths in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), also called the Public Death Master File (Public DMF). The regulations were published in the Federal Register on 30 December 2014, and are available here.

A comment period was opened at that time. All comments are due by 29 January 2015. Your comments must be submitted through the “Submit a Formal Comment” button on the Federal Register website associated with this Final Rule.

The closure of recent deaths in the SSDI was enacted into law on 26 December 2013 and officially began on 28 March 2014. After that time, genealogists needing to locate the recently dead had to qualify for a certification program instituted and developed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), the entity responsible for selling the Public DMF produced by Social Security Administration. The history of this regulatory process was covered in an earlier Springboard post.

NTIS has requested specific feedback on several areas. Two are important to genealogists: (1) security and (2) impact on small businesses.

The original law provided more than one type of information security solution. Rather than request a technical amendment to the law, NTIS has picked a solution. It asks for feedback on that solution, which is to use third party companies to perform the security evaluation. All costs, of course, are to be borne by the NTIS-Certified Persons with access to the Limited Access DMF.

The impact on small businesses must be measured by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The majority of Board-certified genealogists certainly come within this group. If your small business has been hit by the 2013 law and regulations restricting the SSDI/Public DMF, your comments are specifically requested. The Federal Register states:

NTIS is unable at this time to estimate the number of impacted entities that may be considered small entities. Because NTIS lacks information about the types and sizes of entities [small businesses] impacted by this rule, it cannot determine impacts. Accordingly NTIS requests that the public provide it with information about the types of entities impacted by this rule, whether those are small or large entities under [the Small Business Administration]’s size standards, and the level of or a description of the type of impacts that this rule will have on those entities.[1]

Would you like to be NTIS-certified but are uncertain about the user query system on their DMF database? Would you prefer to pay by the query rather than a flat fee of nearly $1000 each year? Are you worried about the third party security program and how much it might cost? Would you rather make your queries through a database aggregator like Ancestry.com? Has this regulation made it more difficult to find next of kin? All of these are important impacts on your small business. NTIS needs to hear about them in order to fulfill its responsibilities under section 203 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

by Barbara Mathews, CG, FASG

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), Barbara advocates for the concerns of Board-certified genealogists, and participates in RPAC’s monthly conference call. RPAC is a joint committee organized by the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Each of these three societies has a vote on the committee. Non-voting representatives are sent by several national groups: American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, BCG, and ICAPGen. In addition, non-voting representatives attend from two corporations, Ancestry, and ProQuest. Communication is fostered by an email list, monthly telephone conference calls, and the RPAC blog.

Photograph used under Creative Commons license. For more information, see https://www.flickr.com/photos/arts/34758108/in/gallery-halliebateman-72157629088082905/.


[1] Federal Register, vol. 79, no. 249, p. 78320, 30 December 2014.