Illinois Ancestors: Death list accessibility now limited

The U.S. budget bill that was recently signed into law includes the closure of the Social Security Death Index and the exemption of SSDI information from the Freedom of Information Act.

Richard Eastman's Genealogy Newsletter (Dec. 30) and Curt Witcher's Genealogy Gems (Dec. 31 news from the Fort Wayne, Ind., Library) both reported on this depressing news.

Supposedly the action was taken "to prevent criminals from fraudulently using others', particularly deceased individuals', Social Security numbers."

The Legal Genealogist blog (bit.ly/1iJZgtN) also reported on this event and includes the helpful advice: "We should not order SS-5 forms (requests for issuance of a Social Security number) for anyone who has died within the last three years. The request will be denied."

(The SS-5 application form includes information sought by researchers: name, address, age, date of birth, place of birth, father's full name, mother's maiden name, name and address of employer and signature.)

And no longer will the SSDI provide information on new deaths until three calendar years have passed — sad news for researchers. The blog also includes comments by genealogists.

The SSDI, prepared by the U.S. Social Security Administration, contains records of deaths for those who had Social Security numbers and the death was reported to the agency. Most records start in 1962, but the file contains a few records of deaths from 1942 to '61.

Information on the SSDI includes:

— day, month and year of birth;

— day, month and year of death;

— Social Security number;

— state where the number was issued; and

— last ZIP code of residence or zip code where the death benefit was sent.

FamilySearch provides a wiki with more information at bit.ly/1eflVZa.

No on Tombstone QR codes

BBC news recently reported "Son fits QR code on war hero father's gravestone" at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-25576682.

However, it had been previously reported by genealogist Eastman that such action is really not advisable. For instance, what happens if the company goes out of business and/or no longer has a website?

Primarily, however, the biggest concern is that the adhesive used for attaching any object would probably "hasten the destruction of the tombstone."

Eastman's original comments on tombstone QRs can be read at goo.gl/wrR9m. More recently he has stated, "I love QR technology but do question how long it will be available. I doubt if any technology will last more than 10 or 20 years."

According to Eastman, a QR code, or Quick Response Code, is a type of matrix barcode or two-dimensional code that was first designed for the automotive industry but is now on all sorts of products and advertisements. To use a QR code, one uses a smart phone (or similar mobile device) that has appropriate software installed in order to take a close-up picture of the QR code. The software reads the code and then opens a Web browser that displays the address that is embedded within the dots of the QR code.

World War I centenary

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. No doubt there will be websites created this year to commemorate the event.

The GenealogyInTime website has suggested "following the action" at 1914.org/about/family-history, a website called First World War Centenary. The site plans to publicize upcoming events and website locations. It also has a very useful guide for genealogists wanting to research soldiers from WW I. Access is free.

The website provides links to Research resources (from toolbar on left), the UK National Archives, a Commonwealth Casualty Database, the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the Australian War Memorial.

Free book catalog

The Genealogical Publishing Co. and the Clearfield Co., 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 260, Baltimore, MD 21211-1953, have published their 2014 Catalogue of Publications, and it is available free upon request.

The 32-page booklet is a listing of the "best of the best" titles in each category. All books and CDs offered by these two companies can be found at genealogical.com, where one can do a name search. For example, a search for Elizabeth Fones ("The Winthrop Woman") resulted in 43 "hits," identifying 17 books and 14 CDs, each with book title and page(s).

Whether or not one plans to purchase such materials, it is helpful to have a copy of the catalog to keep abreast of important publications and, perhaps, seek copies at local libraries.

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at jbgriffis@aol.com or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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