Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The SSDI : Sorry to Say I Told You So...

In the November 5 blog we talked about modifications that were to be made to the release of information to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) starting November 1, 2011.  Unbeknown to us then, the situation is turning out to be even worse than anticipated. 

The SSDI has already been completely removed from the Rootsweb environment and other sites that had previously made this database available for free.  Ancestry.com hasn't removed it, but has moved it under the umbrella of the subscription databases, no longer to be available to search for free as it had been.  At present, the only other place known to this blogger where the SSDI remains searchable and intact is Family Search.  Who knows how long it will be before pressure is brought to bear to force them to remove it or to make reductions in content. 

Not only is the online Master Index being removed or restricted, but the Michigan Genealogical Council (MGC) informs us that Freedom of Information requests for copies of Social Security applications of deceased persons are being rejected in some cases, and in others key information is being removed such as parents' names.

There is a lot of online discussion about this issue.  A search at Google using terms "Social Security Death Index" will provide links to some.    For a more detailed account of the situation, the MGC recommends reading the post by noted genealogical author & lecturer, Megan Smolenyak.

Changes in online resources continues to be a hard lesson for genealogists, as we lose some that we have come to count on in our research.  I'm reminded of the times that I have defended the practice of making hard copies of information pertaining to Southwest Michigan local & family history in response to variations of "Why print out copies and take up shelf space when the information is on the internet?"  The internet is not forever, far less so than books and papers.  How will history judge us when we have little in print for the 21st century and we can produce documents from centuries past.  We may find that a "paperless" world is a "historyless" world. 

Added note - Those of you that still have the old CD disks from such genealogical programs as Ultimate Family Tree and Family Tree Maker might want to hang on to them as many of them came bundled with SSDI disks.   I'll be hanging on to mine...

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown young woman
Photographer - J. M. Brigham, Plainwell
M1843

Can you identify the young woman in this cabinet card?  Do you have knowledge of the photographer? 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.