Saturday, November 5, 2011

Online News : Attention Social Security Death Index Users!

In the world of access to records of interest to family historians, we continuously play a game of ping-pong, records become available, records are taken away.  We are experiencing this with state level vital records as more and more of them are being closed for "privacy" or "national security" reasons.  It's happened with the Bureau of Land Management's offerings of United States land patent documents, the website has been up and down several times pending litigation, and each time we lose something more.

Now it's happening to what is probably the largest single online resource of all, the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).  It was announced in the last few days that as of November 1, 2011, [lots of warning there] the Social Security Administration who maintains the Public Death Master File (DMF) will no longer use state death records to add new entries to the database.  The DMF is what is used to create the SSDI, a free resource that we've all come to use in tracking post 1950's deceased persons.

To add insult to injury, they will not only stop adding those supplied by state death records, amounting to about a million records a year, but an estimated 4.2 million records will be removed from the existing SSDI.  All pursuant to a decision based on Social Security Laws which indicates that death certificates can only be used to correct information already in the DMF, not supply it. 

I don't know how soon this will affect the existing databases available for free through sites such as Rootsweb, Ancestry, Genealogy Bank and others, but my advice to researchers would be to do your SSDI research as soon as possible.  Millions of records may disappear with the next online update.  However, it would be terrific if those sites would now maintain two SSDI's, the old one still holding records to be deleted, and a new one which would reflect deaths from the November 1st date forward. 

We will keep our fingers crossed that the current online hosts of the SSDI will somehow maintain the soon-to-be deleted listings.

News of this potential records access catastrophe is spreading quickly so be sure to pass the news on to your friends & colleagues.   To learn more about the changes coming to the Social Security Death Index, read the November 1 post of Steve's Genealogy Blog.  This was forwarded to our local genealogical society by the Michigan Genealogical Council, and outlines the current laws effecting this change, and summarizes the results.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 "Singing Sam", taking the mail at Earl Wiest Resort,
Indian Lake, Dowagiac
Real photo postcard 
M1831

Can you identify "Singing Sam" in this photo?  Do you know any history of Wiest Resort?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.