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Kimberly Powell

Call to Action - Save the SSDI

By January 31, 2012

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Last month I wrote about several popular genealogy sites being pressured into removing or altering access to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) through the actions of four Senators in support of a bill by Representative Sam Johnson (R - Texas) to remove all public access to the Death Master File, often referred to as the SSDI. This is an extremely valuable tool for anyone researching 20th century U.S. ancestors, and loss of access would be a huge blow for genealogists.

This Thursday, February 2, 2012, the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Ways & Means Committee in Washington, D.C., will hold a hearing on the "accuracy and uses of the Social Security Administration's Death Master File," which is a fancy way of saying that they want to discuss permanently closing all public access. In case you still aren't worried, the committee is only allowing invited witnesses to offer oral testimony at this hearing -- and I'm going to hazard a guess that there aren't any genealogical organizations on the invited witness list. We can, however, submit written testimony, and genealogist and lawyer Judy G. Russell offers some excellent advice on how to do just that on her blog, The Legal Genealogist. This is scary stuff, folks, so please take the time to read her post and make sure your voice is heard.

Sadly, another useful database that I mentioned in the same blog discussion which also included social security numbers, has also been recently removed by Ancestry.com. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, was removed by Ancestry.com last week after they were contacted by the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs upon learning that they had mistakenly included data about some living Veterans because some death reports provided to the website were inaccurate (let me guess -- the SSDI again). I absolutely support removing any personal identifying information about living veterans, but this still sounds like yet another case of genealogists and other researchers and investigators being penalized because the U.S. government can't manage to maintain accurate information on deceased individuals.

January 31, 2012 at 6:12 am
(1) Sourdough says:

Don’t these people realize they can also be removed? If enough people would just vote them out, they would know how it feels to be removed!

January 31, 2012 at 11:49 am
(2) Ina Young says:

I hope not removed as I have found so many family members
for family history. Just leave the last 4 digets.
Hope all the names stay……………………

January 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm
(3) Gayle Struska says:

If the Social Security numbers are not to be made public, then it is time to stop using our SS#’s for identification at companies and accounts Like our cell phones, doctor’s offices, health ins, auto insurance, drivers license, and the list goes on and on. HOw many times do you make a call about an account or other information and are asked for the last 4 digits of your social security number as identification. This is what has to stop, not the SS dealth index. We who are alive that need our identy protected.

January 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm
(4) Terrell Cunningham Walker says:

Please Please do not remove access to SSD Index it was very helpful for me in locatng my long lost Granmother

January 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm
(5) Cindy Stantz says:

I agree with comment #3 Gayle Struska. There is no such thing as privacy. It went out around the time the US was ‘communism obcessed’. And has been disintegrating ever since. By the way if anny one requests my credit card number, I don’t consider them “free”.

January 31, 2012 at 4:34 pm
(6) Jeannette Ruddell says:

I don’t think the SSDI should be done away with because they help in the genealogy studies that we do to trace our family trees. The older people in my family are gone and right now the genealogy sites as well as SSDI are helping me trace them so that the younger generation will know more than I did when I started this. I know there has been some trouble with identity theft there should be a way to keep this from happening.

February 1, 2012 at 10:46 am
(7) Ina Getzoff says:

Not only does the SSDI help us as genealogists to find information on our deceased family members but apparently what the committee does not think about is that some of the people out there who really want to steal someone’s identity have other ways of doing it. If they can walk by someone’s house and get their e-mail address then they can get social security information. Please don’t destroy history for innocent researchers.

February 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm
(8) SA'Rah White says:

Please keep SSDI it has certainly been helpful to me when I first started doing my family’s genealogy.

When I found out that my taxpayers money allowed SSDI to provide this service, I felt that was a good use of my taxes to provide that service.

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