Quarterly Newsletter of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists

Saturday, March 20, 2010

12 October 2009

APG Floria 2009 Officer Nominations

Submitted by Dick Robinson, Nominations Chair.

President: Jack Butler
Vice President: Cindy Hineman Davis
Treasurer: Pat Rand

Jack Butler – Presidential nominee
Jack Butler is professional genealogist who has been active in serious genealogical research for about 14 years. Also active in the genealogy community, Jack is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and served as vice president of the Florida Chapter of the APG for the last two years. He has recently been nominated as a member of the board of the international APG for Southeastern U.S. in the coming term.

In addition to the typical combination of self-study and attendance at conferences and seminars, Jack’s genealogical education has come from completion of the National Genealogical Society’s American Genealogy course, Samford University’s Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research’s Advanced Methodology Course, and the National Institute of Genealogical Research program at the National Archives.

Prior to recently moving back to Central Florida, Jack was a member of the Tallahassee Genealogical Society where he served on the board and edited The Tallahassee Genealogist, the Society’s quarterly. Other genealogy related memberships include the Florida State Genealogical Society, where he has been a regular contributor to The Florida Genealogist, the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the National Genealogical Society.
Jack’s personal research had focused largely on the southeastern U.S., so when he created Southern Heir Ways and hung out his shingle as a professional genealogist, he expected to specialize in research in that region. While a majority of his work has been centered there, he has been happily surprised to have also completed substantial projects in New England, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Sicily.

Jack Butler holds university degrees in accounting and business. Prior to moving into full-time genealogy, however, his work-a-day life has been something of a series of mini-careers: six years as an Army officer, five years owning and operating restaurants, eleven years as a corporate accountant, six years as a college instructor and one year as bursar at a small university, and 14 years as a professional writer. [Jack is also nominated for 2010-2011 president of the Florida State Genealogical Society.]

Cindy Hineman Davis - Vice President nominee
Cindy Hineman Davis “retired” in January of 2001 after a 35-year career in the telecommunications industry. Not long for the retirement frame of mind, she decided to pursue her love of people and their stories by becoming a family historian. Through the pursuit of that passion she became a certified affiliate of Denis Ledoux, author of Turning Memories into Memoirs, A Handbook for Writing Lifestories. Then one day in early 2002, Cindy went to a program on oral history presented by the Indian River Genealogical Society (IRGS) in Vero Beach, Florida. She soon discovered the way to complete family history perpetuation is through genealogy! In 2003, Cindy was elected to the executive board of IRGS and has held various offices from corresponding secretary to president.

In her quest of genealogical education, Cindy enjoys attending local, state and national conferences, workshops and seminars on various genealogy topics. “My present path is to become a certified genealogist, so I joined a PROGEN Study Group in September of 2009, which will continue for 18 months,” says Cindy. Ms. Davis is also well known in genealogical circles as a motivational lecturer and educator to those who are new to researching their family history.

She maintains current memberships in the following organizations: Indian River Genealogical Society (currently vice president), The Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County, Florida State Genealogical Society (currently state conference chair), National Genealogy Society, Beaver County (PA) Genealogical and Historical Society, APG, and APG-Florida Chapter. Ms. Davis can be reached at home 561 626-7465, on her cell phone at 772 532-6288.or by E-mail:

Pat Wallis Rand - Treasurer Nominee
Before my recent retirement, I was a CPA/CFO for 35 years, and have served as treasurer of a great many organizations along the way. Currently, I am serving as vendor chair for the 2009 FSGS conference in Melbourne, and have been nominated for treasurer of the Florida State Genealogical Society [for 2010-2011].

I have been researching my Proudfoot family in Cleveland, Ohio for almost 20 years, and was elated to find that my new husband’s Rand family didn’t have a resident genealogist. We moved to Vero Beach from Virginia in 2003, where the first thing I did was to volunteer for Pam Cooper in the Genealogy Room of the Indian River County Main Library. She got me started in book indexing, and I have done a number of books for her and for other libraries in Florida and North Carolina. I now live in The Villages, and belong to The Villages Genealogical Society.

I have been doing family research for a number of clients the last several years. I enjoy it so much I’d almost pay these clients for the fun of researching their families! I have just started in the Pro Gen 4, a group of genealogists involved in an 18-month study of the manual Professional Genealogy, as the first step towards BCG certification.

15 August 2009

Setting our Senses on Pre-1850 Census

For our August meeting, we gathered at the Indian River Main Library at 1600 21st Street, Vero Beach, where Florida Chapter member Pam Cooper heads the Archive Center and Genealogy Department.

We did things in reverse order from our normal meeting - our speaker made her presentation first, followed by the business meeting.

The speaker, Debra S. Fleming, of the Pasco County research firm Ancestor Dective, LLC, spoke on "Census Analysis - Using Pre-1850 Census Reports."

Debra S. Fleming has been a practicing genealogist for nine years. She is the Genealogy Instructor for the University of South Florida OSHER Lifelong Learning Center where she has been teaching Genealogy Courses since early 2007. She is a graduate of Florida State University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in her passion, Religion and has attended the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). She is currently a member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild (GSG), The Association of Professional Genealogists (
APG) and the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE). You can learn more about Debra S. Fleming at

5 May 3009

A Gathering in Gainesville

The May meeting was held at the Alachua County Library District Headquarters in Gainseville. Anywhere else, this would probably be called the "main" library in the county library system. Alachua County, however, provides its library services through an independent special taxing district.

The library recognizes its growing genealogy clientele and strives to support with a developing genealogy collection. The primary focus of the library’s genealogical collection is information relating to the State of Florida, especially information pertaining to local families and history. Material dealing with the Southeastern area of the United States (Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina) is also considered a priority for collection development.

The business meeting (see meeting minutes below) was held in one of the library's conference rooms. Following the meeting, we had a guided tour of the library and its genealogical collections .


May 2, 2009
The meeting began at 9:30 a.m. in the conference room of the Alachua County Library in Gainesville, Florida. President Alvie Davidson presided.

The following members were present: Jack Butler, Juanita Friedenberg, Amy Giroux, Bonnie Kohler, Patricia Rand, and Ann Staley.

Minutes of the previous meeting on February 7, 2009, were reviewed and accepted.
Amy Giroux, treasurer, reported a current balance of $1,055.58.

Alvie spoke about efforts by the Records Preservation Access Committee (RPAC) in regard to New York City's current restriction of access to its contemporary death index. In addition, he encouraged members to write to their state representative in support of Preserving the American Historical Record (PAHR) bill HR2171. The bill would provide funds to archivists.
Juanita suggested making the information about dues and where to mail the check for dues more prominent on the APG Florida Chapter Web site.

Jack reported on his efforts to post the newsletter/blog on the Web.

Amy inquired about the status of the APG Florida Chapter banner. Alvie will follow up on getting a new banner made.

A motion was passed to spend $500 to partially fund a Friday luncheon at the November 2009 FSGS conference at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place hotel. Jack Butler agreed to speak at the luncheon. He will need a projector and screen.

Jack also agreed to be in charge of the Ancestors Road Show at the 2009 FSGS conference. Other members offered to assist him.

The next meeting will be in Vero Beach on August 1, 2009.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:56 a.m.

Bonnie Dunphy Kohler

7 February 2009

February Board Meeting in Bartow

The February meeting began at 9:25 a.m. in the 3rd floor conference room of the Polk County Genealogical Library and Historical Museum in Bartow, Florida.

President Alvie Davidson presided, and the following members were present: Cindy Davis, Juanita Friedenberg, Debbe Hagner, Bonnie Kohler, Marta Metcalf, and Gladys Paulin. Joseph E. Spann, Jr., Library Manager of the Polk County Historical &Genealogical Library, also attended the meeting.

Actions of the Records Preservation Access Committee were discussed. Alvie noted that Pennsylvania would be allowing public access to death records.

Alvie stated that Ann Staley suggested that the minutes of the APG Florida Chapter be sent to all members of APG who reside in Florida.

The next meeting of the Chapter will be held on Saturday, May 2, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. at the Indian River County Main Library, Genealogy Department, in Vero Beach. Alvie will contact Pam Cooper, the librarian, regarding the program and/or a tour of the library.

At the conclusion of Chapter business, Joe Spann presented "Florida Railroads, Historical and Genealogical Resources." During the presentation,the name of Seth Bramson, an authority on railroads in Florida and author of books about the history of the Jewish community in Miami Beach, was mentioned as a possible speaker for the Chapter meeting on May 2, 2009.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.

10 December 2008

Road Show Report From the FSGS Annual Conference

Cindy Davis, Roadshow Coordinator for 2008, reports that we had another successful program this year. This is from her report:

Ten APG-FL members participated: Jack Butler, Pamela Cooper, Alvie Davidson, CG; Cindy Hineman Davis, Amy Giroux, CG/CGL; Bonnie Kohler, Donna M. Moughty; Gladys Friedman Paulin, CG; and Richard Robinson, CG, and Ann Staley, CG.

38 conference attendees participated by making advance appointments and meeting with a professional genealogist-consultant.

Each Participant was given a chapter brochure and an evaluation form at the end of the session. 20 evaluations were returned. These are the results:

Question 1: Did you bring material related to your ancestor research problem?
Yes= 18 No= 2

Question 2: Did the session start and end on time?
Yes= 20

Question 3: Did the professional genealogist appear to be knowledgeable in the subject area of research related to your research problem?
Yes= 20

Question 4: Was the genealogist able to help you in your research?

Question 5: Did the professional genealogist offer suggestions for further research?

Question 6: Did the professional genealogist give you a completed Research Suggestion Form?
Yes=19 No=1

Question 7: Would you meet again in a free session with a professional genealogist at a future conference? Yes=20

Question 8: Would you meet again with the same professional genealogist and be willing to pay a reasonable rate for services?
Yes=17 No=1 ?=1 No response=1

The participatant's evaluation sheet also provided a section where additional comments could be added. These are those additional comments:

“Really appreciated time offered.”

“Pam was thorough and very pleasant, plus very knowledgeable. Her computer wouldn’t operate so we ‘winged it’, however I’ve many leads to follow I didn’t know of or think of.”

I look forward to this each year”

"Very good suggestions”

“Eagerly looking forward to suggested leads. Many thanks”

“Donna Moughty was very helpful. I look forward to contacting her.”

“Very helpful. Many fresh ideas and different approach to the problem. I feel that I have a good chance of solving this mystery. I am very encouraged and I intend to e-mail Ms. Davis of my accomplishments. Thoroughly enjoyed the session.”

“Thank you”

“He didn’t get a ‘eureka’ for me, but confirmed that my searches were on target’

“Pam Cooper did an excellent job”

‘I would have liked to have visited a little more…15 minutes is just not enough time when you hit a brick wall (maybe 20 minutes) I have to say I was impressed with the way it was done. It was done very tactfully, Kudos”

“I have a plan now”

“Good ideas and I will follow the clues. He said he would get back to me.”

“I did not bring any of my records as I did not know that this service was to be offered.”


A few suggestions were also made by the professionals who participated:

  • Be sure that the APG booth in the vendor area has a clear understanding of the sign up process. Several attendees went there before our scheduled Road Show sign up time and the vendor booth did not know the Road Show process.
  • The physical set up of the consultation area should include a place for the consulters to sit and fill out their evaluation before they leave. (This would prevent some of our evaluations getting mixed in with the end of conference evaluations. It would also ensure more evaluations are completed.)
  • During consultations, the check in table should not be in the same room. Perhaps a table outside the meeting room door would serve as the In/Out location.
  • Even though there was only one written comment about advance notice of our Road Show, several verbal comments were made that more ‘advance PR’ may have brought more participants.

My suggestion: When the attendees sign up for the conference, either a written or e-mailed notice could be sent announcing the Road Show. That way everyone could prepare what they need to bring for their consultation.

14 November 2008

APG Florida Chapter Annual Meeting

The meeting began at 12:03 p.m. in the Phoenix meeting room of the Sheraton Orlando-North Hotel in Maitland, Florida, during the 32nd Annual Conference of the Florida State Genealogical Society, Inc. President Alvie Davidson presided.

The following members were present: Jack Butler, Pamela Cooper, Cindy Davis, Juanita Friedenberg, Amy Giroux, Bonnie Kohler, Marta Metcalf, Donna Moughty, Gladys Paulin, Jackie Reiss, Dick Robinson, and Ann Staley. Sheryl was a visitor.

The minutes of the September 25, 2008, teleconference were discussed. A copy was not available, but members acknowledged receipt of copies prior to the meeting.

The need for a new APG Florida Chapter banner, due to the APG logo change, was discussed. Alvie will consult with Jean Kelley about getting a replacement banner.

Alvie Davidson reported that support of KGROW (Keeping Genealogical Records Open Work Group) has been taken up by the Association of Professional Genealogists national organization.
Dick Robinson resigned as the newsletter editor due to work demands. Jack Butler agreed to take over the duties of editor.

Meeting places for 2009 were discussed. The proposed schedule is February 7, Bartow, Polk County Library, Joe Spann to talk about the Florida Railroad; May 2, Vero Beach, Indian River County Main Library, topic to be decided; August 1, Gainesville, Gainesville Public Library, Bobby Powell to talk about the library collection and possible tour of the PKYonge Library.

Election of officers for 2009–2011 was held. Bonnie Kohler was elected Secretary; Juanita Friedenberg was elected Chapter Representative.

The meeting was adjourned about 12:30 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,

Bonnie Dunphy Kohler, Member

25 September 2008

APG Florida Chapter Teleconference Meeting

The APG Florida Chapter held its meeting on 25 September by teleconference.President Alvie Davidson arranged for and presided over the teleconference at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 25, 2008.

The following members were present: Amy Larner Giroux, CG; Bonnie Kohler; Ann Staley; Cindy Davis; Debbe Hagner; Gladys Paulin; Juanita Friedenberg; and Dick Robinson.

The APG Florida Road Show for FSGS was discussed. Alvie stated that Ken Macomber, who had organized the Road Show in the past, had given him a file that contained the forms and procedures for the Road Show. In turn, Alvie distributed the file to the participants of the teleconference. Alvie described the Road Show and asked for someone to run it at the FSGS conference in November.

Gladys Paulin described the procedure as the patrons filling out a questionnaire for the Road Show on Friday and then being assigned a 15 or 20-minute time slot for consultation on Saturday. APG Florida Chapter member Road Show assistants assigned the patrons to the professionals.

Juanita offered to help. Cindy said she would organize the Road Show. Ann Staley said she was not available to help because she was assisting with organizing the conference.

Alvie said he would be available to staff the APG Florida Chapter booth most of the time. He said he needed a couple of other people to assist him. Juanita said she would help.

The APG Florida Chapter annual meeting/luncheon was discussed. The meeting will be held at the FSGS conference on Friday in one of the session rooms. Ann Staley said a session room would be available, as room availability was built into the conference contract. Alvie said he would make arrangements for the lunch.

Debbe stated that not everyone who desired a consultation at the Road Show could be accommodated last year. Cindy said that the Road Show booth could be available on both Friday and Saturday. Gladys reminded her that the consultants needed some time to prepare for some of consultations. It was agreed that the questionnaires would be filled out on Friday, and the appointments would be on Saturday.

Cindy stated that the consultations would be promoted on Friday, to facilitate more appointment slots being filled on Saturday.

Alvie said he would be available for genealogy research questions at the APG Florida Chapter booth.
Cindy will e-mail members about the Road Show arrangements.

Alvie will e-mail members regarding the lunch.

Amy stated that 26 members had paid dues. Gladys added that the dues were for year 2008.

Offices up for re-election in 2008 are Secretary and Chapter Representative.

Alvie asked for volunteers for the nominating committee. Bonnie, Dick, and Juanita volunteered. Bonnie was assigned chairman.

The deadline for nominations is 30 days in advance of the annual meeting. Consent of the nominees is required by two weeks prior to the meeting.

Returning to the topic of the Road Show, the following members offered to be consultants: Gladys, who said she would also relieve Alvie in the APG booth; Ann; Debbe; Dick; and Alvie.

Debbe asked if the consultants were permitted to attend any of the presentations. Ann replied that only those who paid to attend the sessions were permitted to attend.

Amy asked Ann if the lecture schedule had been set. Ann told Amy the times she would be speaking. Ann said that Ann Osisek would be publishing the lecture schedule.

Alvie said he would get some help with the APG Florida Chapter booth and that he would send details in e-mail.

Debbe commented that she didn't feel that anyone staffing the APG Florida Chapter booth should sell any of their products there. She thought it was okay if someone displayed their business card. The comment was made by Alvie and/or Gladys that our chapter did not have a tax exempt number, and there should be no selling at the booth.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:37 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Bonnie Dunphy Kohler

01 September 2008

Scheduling Problems Leads to Discussion of New Meeting Technologies

Difficulties in scheduling the regular August meeting led to consideration and discussion of alternative meeting technologies. Alvie Davidson suggested a video conference call using Skype video, or, failing that, a teleconference using Skype. Skype is a system that allows, after downloading the Skype software, free voice and video calling, IM and SMS on a wide range of operating systems and mobile devices.

Skype is a for-profit company, to be sure, but they have very cleverly introduced their VOIP communications system to the world of the internet by allowing free download of their software and free use of it to make Skype to skype calls. Their profits are made through the growing number of Skype to non-Skype phones and through their partnerships with companies such as Verizon, Panasonic, LG, and Samsung, among others. Unfortunately, too few members had the technology to allow its use for the meeting under discussion, but it looks worthy of consideration for future use.

Alvie Davidson, through his work with the Records Preservation And Access Committee, and Jack Butler, though his day job, have had extensive successful with meetings via teleconference, and Alvie suggested using that system for the meeting in September. Alvie will set it up and will email everyone with a telephone number and code to be entered so that members can join the conference call.

It seems likely that these technologies and others currently being developed or improved will eventually play a significant role in our business - routine communications, remote meetings, and even remote presentations/lectures. The technology train is picking up speed - it is time that we consider getting on board.

14 April 2008

NEXT MEETING: Electronic Genealogy

We will hear all about electronic genealogy in Tallahassee on Saturday, May 3. Deanna Ramsey, vice president of programs for the Tallahassee Genealogical Society, will give the presentation, "Gadgets for the Family [and Professional] Genealogist," at 10 a.m. in the Arts Learning Gallery (1st flooor) at the Florida State Library and Archives building.

Chapter Vice President Jack V. Butler, who will lead the meeting, says that this is the Chapter's first meeting in Tallahassee and hopes distant members will car pool to the event.

Jack will encourage Chapter members to join the Florida State Genealogical Society for its publications and annual meeting registration discount as well as interesting FSGS members in APG. If you would like to tour the Florida State Library and Archives, please let Jack know in advance so he can arrange a tour.

If you need more details about the meeting, contact Jack. He encourages meeting attendees to research at the facility and visit the Museum of Florida History on the ground floor. The state library and archives are open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the museum from 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. on Saturdays.

13 April 2008

Who's got a program and site idea for the next meeting?

President Alvie L. Davidson, CG, is taking ideas for a program and site for the next meeting, usually held the first Saturday in August.
Here are the 2008 meeting locations and dates:
  • Bartow (central Florida), Feb. 2;

Tallahassee (north Florida), May 3;

Open, possible Aug. 2; and

Chapter annual meeting during the Florida State Genealogical Society annual conference in Maitland (north of Orlando), Nov. 14-15.

13 April 2008

Chapter's shining project debuts: A national position paper on records access and ID theft

After months of work and review, the Florida Chapter's showcase position paper, "The Case for Open Public Records," was released on March 21. APG headquarters issued a press release, "Genealogists Push for Open Records," and the complete text of the paper. APG asserted, "There is no proof that open records significantly contribute to ID theft or terrorism."

The document was covered by major genealogical media, approved by the Records Preservation and Access Committee (of the National Genealogical Society and Federation of Genealogical Societies), and praised by APG President Jake Gehring.

Writing in the March issue of the APG Quarterly, Gehring said, "... let me congratulate and thank the members of the 'Keep Genealogical Records Open Workgroup' (KGROW) and the Florida Chapter of APG for their significant and speedy work this last year to draft a position paper on open public records. Their work has really improved our ability to respond effectively to legislative issues as they arise." The position paper was posted on the APG website and RPAC website.

The position paper was prepared by KGROW, made up of three Florida Chapter members and two other experts. They are: Jean Foster Kelley, CG, co-chair; Richard F. Robinson, co-chair; Alvie L. Davidson, CG, information officer; Melinde Lutz Sanborn, FASG, Greater Boston Area Chapter; and Fred E. Moss, JD, LL.M., a legal advisor to FGS. KGROW disbanded when its position paper was made publicly available.

13 April 2008

About our members....

Alvie Davidson, CG, and Ann Staley, CG, and others will attend the 30th NGS Conference in the States and Family History Fair in Kansas City, Missouri on May 14-17. Who else is going? Please post on the Chapter mailing list....

Member profiles will resume in the newsletter's next issue... Chapter members agreed at the Feb. 2 meeting to write a letter of support on behalf of the Polk County Historical Genealogical Society Library to Polk County commissioners. Librarian Joe Spann, a new member of the Chapter, reported that the library is in serious financial trouble. It is one of the largest regional research libraries on the East coast and has hosted several Chapter meetings.

Friday, March 19, 2010

8 February 2008

Florida APG Gets New-Logo, KGROW Document Gains Acceptance

At the February meeting, held at the Polk County Historical and Genealogy library in Bartow, Lake County, Florida, Chapter President, Alvie Davidson presented attendees with copies of the new APG logo and the new APG Florida logo. That new logo now adorns the top of this blog/newsletter.

Alvie and Jean Kelly passed along the news about the acceptance of our KGROW document by NGS, FGS, RPAC, and IAJGS. The indication is that Kathy Hinckley, Executive Director of APG is waiting for final approval by all APG Board members, following which the document will be published in a future issue of the APG Quarterly.

Following the business meeting ( see Minutes below), Jack Butler presented "Read all About it! Finding Kin in Early Newspapers."

Minutes of the 8 February Business Meeting:

The meeting was held at the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library, Bartow, Florida. The business meeting began at 9:00 a.m.

The new Board was introduced. Officers present: Alvie Davidson, President; Jack Butler, Vice-President. Other members attending: Jean Kelley, Dick Robinson, Gene Bremer, Donna Moughty, Gladys Paulin. Joe Spann, Librarian of the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library, attended as a guest.

The old minutes from 2007 were reviewed by Jean Kelley, including a review of the Board actions done via email for 2007. There were no Board meetings held in 2007, except for the annual meeting in November. The last Board meeting held, other than at the 2006 and 2007 annual meetings, was October 2006. Minutes of that meeting were approved by the Board via email vote on 1 November 2007.

Alvie Davidson handed out copies of the new APG logo and chapter logo designs and there was discussion of the new APG Florida logo.

The status of the KGROW document was reviewed. Alvie announced that the KGROW document has been approved by NGS, FGS, RPAC, and IAJGS. Kathy Hinckley, Executive Director of APG is waiting for final approval by all APG Board members. It will be published in a future issue of the APG Quarterly.

New Business: Alvie explained that because of budget cuts the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library is in serious financial difficulty, and would like our help. He introduced Joe Spann, Librarian, to explain the situation which is as follows: The Library is a department of the Polk County, Florida government, and Joe and the other library employees are county employees. With recent tax cuts and the prospect of future tax decreases, the Board of Commissioners has ranked the library as "low priority." The Library's budget of $37,000 has been cut by $50,000, with the excess $13,000 coming out of the library's reserve. Joe is asking that APG Florida Chapter write a letter of support to the Chairman of the Polk County Commissioners, stating how important the library is to the professional genealogical community.

  • Joe gave the following facts about the library:
    With over 68,400 items, it is one of the largest regional research libraries on the eastern seaboard and the library collection is one of the strongest in the US for South Carolina research.
  • It has over 10,000 patrons per year, 20% Polk County residents, 80% from outside the county email correspondence is skyrocketing with the reasonable cost of obituaries, providing 2 to 3 per day.
  • It does not accept income directly for itself, all profits go into the Polk County general fund.
  • Joe Spann, head librarian has been there 17 yrs; there are 3 other full time staff, all with tenure over 10 years.
  • Alvie suggested APG FL write a letter of support as Joe requested, and those members present agreed. Jack Butler agreed to write the draft. Alvie will contact Ann Staley, Chapter Representative, to send it to APG HQ and PAC for approval before it is sent to the Commissioners.

Future meeting places and future programs were discussed:

Alvie announced that Yolanda Lifter has resigned as program chair, and he is filling that position at present. He stated he would like to have the next meeting on May 3rd at the State Library in Tallahassee, and Deanna Ramsey will be asked to give a technology presentation. Jack Butler will co-ordinate with the library, and Deanna.

Alvie then asked for suggestions for future meetings. Jean Kelley suggested that it could be beneficial if we could coordinate our meetings in conjunction with local genealogical society's conferences around the state. For example, the Tallahassee Genealogical Society is having Megan Smolenyak in for a conference on March 3. If it had been known ahead of time, we could have had today's meeting next month in Tallahassee. Donna Moughty began looking up state wide conferences on the internet to see what was already announced, little was yet posted on the FSGS website. Gladys suggested it was too much to have a meeting in Oct and the annual meeting in Nov. Jean suggested perhaps combining the August and October meetings into one in September. Donna mentioned this was when the Florida Genealogical Society (Tampa) has an annual conference.

Discussion ended.
Meeting ended.

The program portion of the meeting was held upstairs in the 2nd floor meeting room. Members present were: Alvie Davidson, Jack Butler, Gladys Paulin, Gene Bremer, Jean Kelley, Donna Moughty , Karen and Mitch Brown Dick Robinson. Guests were Juanita Friendenberg, Tampa; Doug Barnett and wife, Satellite Beach, and Joe Spann, Bartow.

Jack Butler gave a presentation titled "Read All About It" "Finding Kin in Early Newspapers.

After the program we had lunch together at Perkins restaurant.

7 January 2008

NEXT MEETING: Hear all about it

Jack Butler

You won’t “read all about it” here. Instead, you’ll have to come to our next meeting in Bartow on Feb. 2 to “hear all about it.” Vice President Jack Butler's presentation is “Read All About It! Finding Kin in Early Newspapers.”

The Saturday will start with our board meeting at 9 a.m., Jack’s talk at the general meeting at 10, followed by an option lunch with colleagues at a nearby restaurant. Members and guests are welcome to attend all three events. President Alvie Davidson asks members to bring ideas for programs and other chapter activities to the general meeting.

The board meeting and program will be held at the
Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library, 100 East Main Street, Bartow (Phone: 863- 534-4380). The Library promotes its genealogical and historical collections as one of the largest in the Southeast U.S. After lunch, you may want to do some research or looking around in the library. It is open until 5 p.m.

One of the little used sources in genealogy research is early American newspapers. "They not only tell us where our ancestors were born, married, and died, but also how they lived," said Butler.

Jack will tell us what we can find in the early newspapers and where to find the newspapers. As more old newspapers are digitized, they are much easier to search. He was selected to deliver a similar talk at the Florida State Genealogical Society annual conference in Orlando last November.

A former college instructor, Jack is publications coordinator and board member of the Tallahassee Genealogical Society and editor of its quarterly magazine, The Tallahassee Genealogist.

7 January 2008

Our president says: 'I want everyone to feel that our meetings are worthwhile'

By Alvie L. Davidson, CG

I first want to say that I deeply appreciate the membership electing me president of APG Florida. I promise I will do my very best to maintain the chapter as one of the best in APG and provide members with valuable networking and learning opportunities.

Everyone should try to attend our first meeting of the year on Feb. 2 at the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library, 100 East Main Street, Bartow. Our new vice president, Jack Butler, will reprise his FSGS conference talk, “Read All About It.” This will give our members an opportunity to hear a very fine talk that they may have missed and to get to know Jack better. Bring any ideas you have for meetings or to improve our Chapter. Please see a previous article in this edition for more details on this meeting.

Secondly, I want to keep our meetings interesting so everyone will feel they were very worthwhile. I would also like to vary the locales of our meetings more. We have not had a meeting in Tallahassee, so I would like to have one there at the Florida State Library, possibly on 3 May. This might seem a bit far for some to travel, but we can arrange car pooling. What better way is there to network with colleagues, attend an informative meeting, and maybe do some research?

/ January 2008

Members hold annual meeting, Road Show consultations at FSGS conference in Orlando

Amy Giroux and Donna Moughty run our vendor booth while Dick Robinson and Yolanda Campbell Lifter (distant cousins) operate the desk at the Road Show
[Photos by Melody K. Porter (booth) and Ken Macomber (Road Show)]

You could find Chapter members everywhere at the Florida State Genealogical Society conference in Orlando last November. They were organizers, officers, speakers, attendees -- and even door prize donors. The Chapter also held its annual meeting during the conference and ran its APG Florida information booth.

But one of the most appreciated events was the Chapter's second annual Road Show, where 11 members helped attendees one-on-one with genealogical problems for free.

The four-hour show was another great success, according to its chairman, Ken Macomber, CG. He said the feedback was "extremely positive." All participants who completed feedback forms indicated they would like to attend the event again in the future. One person commented, "...this is a great thing to offer."
Members who provided advice were: Jack Butler; Pam Cooper; Alvie Davidson, CG; Sherril Erfurth; Amy Giroux, CG, CGL; Debbe Hagner, AG; Yolanda Campbell Lifter; Ken Macomber, CG; Donna M. Moughty; Gladys Friedman Paulin, CG; and Richard Robinson.

31 October 2007

Year's finale at FSGS conference

The last official gathering of the Chapter this year will be at the Florida State Genealogical Society (FSGS) conference in Orlando on 9-10 November.

We will hold our annual meeting, run our Ancestor Road Show consultation service, host a vendor booth, and champion four members who are conference speakers. Chapter Secretary Ann Mohr Osisek is president of FSGS and Chapter member C. Ann Staley, CG is the "retiring" conference chair. This is the biggest learning and networking Florida genealogical event of the year

The FSGS 31st Annual Genealogy Conference will be held at the Sheraton Orlando Downtown Hotel on beautiful Lake Ivanhoe (see links for details). Featured speakers are nationally-recognized experts Thomas H. Shawker, MD, who will speak on DNA in genealogy, and Patricia O'Brien Shawker, CG, who will talk on NARA records. Seven other speakers will present, including four Chapter members:

Osisek: "Out of the Census Into the Bookstacks: Using Library Resources Including State Archives" and "'Local Logic' -- Using Local and County Histories"

Alvie L. Davidson, CG: "Little Known Sources in the 20th Century" and "FLORIDA - The Original South"

Jack Butler: "Read All About It! Finding Kin in Early Newspapers" and "Finding Kin in the Territorial Records"

Donna M. Moughty: "Jumping the Pond: Finding the Origins of Your Immigrant Ancestor" and "Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are! Hide and Seek on the Internet"

The Florida Chapter's annual meeting will be held at noon, Friday, 9 November. The agenda includes introductions, a short business meeting, and a few words from outgoing president Jean Kelley, CG. Visitors are welcome to attend. Pre-ordered lunches will be delivered to the meeting room. Details on the location of the meeting and ordering lunches will be posted/announced later.

1 November 2007

Helping solve "brickwall" problems

For the second year, Chapter members will help FSGS conference attendees solve their "brickwall" or other tough research problems.

The event, Ancestors Road Show, was very popular last year, serving 53 attendees.
Ken Macomber, CG, Road Show chair and Chapter vice president, says he could use more volunteers.

Consultants will assist three people an hour, each for 15 minutes. Macomber says the time was expanded to 15 minutes this year to allow for deeper consultations. Registration for the event will be Friday, Nov. 9 from 1:15-5 p.m. The consultations will be Saturday, Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Chapter will also host a vendor booth at the conference. Contact Chair Alvie L. Davidson, CG, if you would like to help staff the booth.

31 October 2007

Election closes Oct. 31

Our officers standout from the crowd

Chapter members are now voting for a new president and vice president for the Chapter for 2008-2009. Ballots, mailed to all members, must be returned by Oct. 31 to Linda Perdue, elections co-chair with Jean Foster Kelley, CG.

Members running unopposed are Alvie L. Davidson, CG, Lakeland, for president; Jack Butler, Woodville, for vice president; and incumbent Amy Larner Giroux, CG, CGL, Orlando, for treasurer. A new Chapter representative to the parent organization will be appointed for the remaining year on the term of Davidson. Ann Mohr Osisek, Maitland, will complete her two-year term as secretary in 2008.

Biographical statements provided by the candidates follow:

President: Alvie L. Davidson, CG, Lakeland, Florida
Alvie L. Davidson, CG, retired from Naval Intelligence in the U.S. Naval Reserve after 22 years of service. Since then he has been a Florida state licensed private investigator, specializing in missing persons and genealogical applications of investigations. Alvie is a Certified Genealogist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, Washington, DC. He is an alumni of the National Institute on Genealogical Research, Washington, DC (1998 & 2007); and the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama (1999 and 2000). He is the founder (1981) and President Emeritus of the Imperial Polk Genealogical Society, Lakeland, Florida. Alvie currently serves as Chairman of the Polk County (FL) Historical Commission. Alvie is currently on the teaching alumni of Samford University’s IGHR classes each year. Alvie is author of “Florida Land - Records of the Tallahassee and Newnansville Federal Land Office 1826-1892” (Heritage Books, Bowie, MD 1988) and has published articles in The Genealogical Helper. He has lived most of his adult life in Central Florida, currently residing at 4825 North Galloway Road, Lakeland, Florida. Additional information can be found at Alvie is currently serving his third elected term on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Vice President: Jack Butler, Woodville, Florida

Jack Butler is a former college instructor who is now a professional genealogist, lecturer, and writer. He is a member of APG, FSGS, ISFHWE, NGS, and NEHGS. He is a board member of his local Tallahassee Genealogical Society and is editor of its quarterly magazine. A frequent contributor to The Florida Genealogist, Jack is preparing his portfolio to submit to the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

Treasurer: Amy Larner Giroux, CG, CGL

Amy Larner Giroux, CG, CGL, is a professional genealogical researcher, lecturer and writer, specializing in New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley. She is an award-winning author with articles published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Record, the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly and other publications. Amy is a Trustee for BCG, faculty member of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, and treasurer of the Florida Chapter of APG. She is webmaster for BCG, APG, and the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History.

31October 2007

President's Column: My last…Already!

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Jean's two-year term as Chapter president comes to an end Dec. 31, 2007. On behalf of all Chapter members, thank you for your admirable service. She kept us organized and informed and initiated the KGROW project on identity theft and genealogy (see related article).]

Our chapter is gearing up for the second annual Ancestor Road Show. Last year was the premier, and it was very well received. We helped over 50 conference attendees discuss their “brick wall” problems with a professional. To make this year’s Road Show equally successful, we need more members to volunteer as consultants. Please contact Ken ( to volunteer.

In August I sent out emails asking for chapter members’ opinions on the new green logo design the national group was proposing. At the Board meeting in August, Ann Staley reported the response was resoundingly negative to the green design. Currently the issue is still under review, with no new information .

Our annual meeting will be Friday, November 9 at the FSGS conference in Orlando. Details are still pending. Watch the mailing list for updates.

Lastly, the chapter is holding elections for president, vice-president and treasurer through Oct. 31. I wish much success to the new board, a very accomplished group of professionals.

This will be my last President’s column. Thank you to all Chapter members for your support and help over the past two years. Best wishes to the new board.


31 October 2007

What's in it for me?

Our Chapter can help you...

prosper, and
grow in family history

Imagine yourself working as a professional genealogist... researching your own family or taking on clients for pay... getting paid for what you love to do... networking with colleagues... achieving your dreams!

Now, with the support of the Florida Chapter of APG, you can:

  • Grow and become more successful in genealogy researching, lecturing, writing or a related field

  • Advance your professional standing

  • Learn and develop skills

  • Achieve personal satisfaction

  • Get more job referrals and leads.

Chapter members enjoy:

  • Local and statewide meetings and programs

  • A quarterly online newsletter, The Sun

  • Online and printed membership directories

  • An e-mail list for news and networking.

Florida has some of the outstanding genealogists in the nation -- and they are members of the Florida Chapter. Envision yourself learning and sharing ideas with the masters....

31 October 2007

Dues are a bargain

Chapter Treasurer Amy Larner Giroux, CG, CGL, and Membership Chair Debbe A. Hagner, AG, are now collecting dues for 2008.

Member renewals are just $10. New members pay $20 for the first year only. Members who attend the FSGS conference in November started a tradition in 2005. They brought a check to pay the next year's dues. Be sure to bring one if you'll be at the conference in Orlando on Nov. 9-10 and give it to either Amy or Debbe. Don’t miss out associating with colleagues in the Sunshine State. Make out your check (payable to Florida Chapter of APG) right now.

30 October 2007

Genealogy groups applaud our position paper on identity theft

A Chapter-sponsored position paper (see THE SUN, JULY 2007) to gather support to keep genealogical records open is getting favorable comments from genealogical organizations that have informally reviewed it.

The paper, prepared by Keep Genealogical Records Open Workgroup (KGROW), has been reviewed by the major genealogical organizations. Based on suggestions, KGROW will revise the document and ask the organizations to formally support it.

Founding members of KGROW are Co-Chairs, Jean Foster Kelley, CG, Tampa, Florida, Richard F. Robinson, CG, Boynton Beach, Florida; and Information Officer Alvie L. Davison, CG, Lakeland, Florida; Melinde Lutz Sanborn, FASG, Derry, New Hampshire; and Frederick E. Moss, JD, LL.M., Plano, Texas.

Big annual networking roundtable 4 August

Genealogists love to network. Why? You can only learn so much from printed materials. So they grow and develop new skills by listening to tips and techniques from colleagues. Recognizing the value of sharing with others, the Chapter is again holding its Big Annual Networking Roundtable in Bartow, Florida on Saturday, 4 August.

The meeting promises to be chock full of ideas you can use to be a more effective researcher or break down brick wall problems, according to program chair Yolanda Campbell Lifter. She suggests that each member bring at least one item to tell the group.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, 4 August 2007 at the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library, 100 E. Main St., Bartow. It will be preceded by a Chapter board meeting at 8:30 a.m. and followed by an optional lunch at a nearby restaurant. Members and guests are welcome to attend all events. The library has one of the largest genealogical and historical collections in the Southeast, so you might want to fit in some research after lunch. The library normally closes at 5 p.m. But call ahead for any schedule changes at (863) 534-4380.

"Our roundtable discussions of professional issues, websites, resources, and other topics have been some of our most lively meetings with everyone participating," says Chapter president Jean Kelley, CG. Some of the tips given have been worth hours of driving to the meeting, other members have said.

Lifter suggest that you talk about tips, successes, and problems in areas such as conferences, classes, articles, books, databases, websites, research, organization, business, organizations, or goals. Or, she says tell us "How have you grown as a genealogist over the past year?"

11 July 2007

Chapter members fight for open public records

Three Chapter members--Jean Kelley, Dick Robinson, and Alvie Davidson--have helped create the Keep Genealogical Records Open Workgroup (KGROW) to prepare a position paper on why public vital records should be kept open and access unrestricted. The press release below announces the formation of the group.


For more information, contact:
Alvie L. Davidson, information officer
4825 N. Galloway Rd
Lakeland, FL 33810-6722
Day phone: (863) 858-6745

Genealogists fight closing of public records
as guise in war against ID theft and terrorism

A group of genealogists announced today that they have begun a project to educate governmental leaders and the public that closing or restricting access to many public records will have little impact on preventing an enormous identity theft problem or terrorism attacks in the United States.

“Federal and state governments have been closing or trying to close many public records or limiting the public’s access to them, especially vital records--birth, marriages, and deaths,” explains Jean Foster Kelley, CG (Certified Genealogist) of Tampa, Florida. “They want to protect people’s privacy, prevent identity theft, and prevent terrorism,” she says. “But we find there’s no evidence that open public records contribute to identity theft or terrorism to any measurable degree."

Instead, she says, restrictions actually prevent many genealogists, news people, and others who have legitimate reasons to see the records from freely viewing them.

She says she and four other genealogists formed the Keep Genealogical Records Open Workgroup (KGROW) to prepare a position paper to combat the “war on public records” movement that has swept the country since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The group plans to solicit support for its paper from the Association of Professional Genealogists, the news media, and other organizations later this summer and fall.

Kelley is co-chair of KGROW along with Dick Robinson, CG (Certified Genealogist), of Boynton Beach, Florida. Other members are: Alvie L. Davidson, CG (Certified Genealogist), Lakeland, Florida; Melinde Lutz Sanborn, FASG (Fellow, American Society of Genealogists), Derry, New Hampshire; and Frederick E. Moss, JD, LLM, Plano, Texas. KGROW is a project of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). APG is the world’s leading professional genealogical organization of some 1,700 family history and related professionals.

Since 2001, most states have tightened public record laws, and more records are threatened every year. A 2006 Associated Press survey showed that states passed 616 new laws restricting access to public information, including vital records, and approved 284 laws that loosened public records access.

10 July 2007

Identity thieves aren't stealing public genealogy records

Dick Robinson takes an extensive look at how and why lawmakers are closing and restricting the basic tools of genealogists--vital records, especially birth certificates. He concludes that new laws are just hampering genealogical researchers and not actually preventing identity theft or terrorism. This article originally appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of Digital Genealogist, available online by subscription.

Identity thieves aren’t stealing public genealogy records
Why are government officials trying to limit access to those records on and offline?

By Dick Robinson, CG
Copyright © 2007 by Dick Robinson. ALL RIGHTS Reserved.

Genealogical records are our lifeblood. Take them away or limit them, then we can’t research online or in person without difficulties. Restricted access to records is caused by poor funding, increased fees, missing or damaged records, or what some call just a knee-jerk reaction to protect privacy and help prevent terrorism.

Take a look at some headlines on “Public Records in Crisis” during the past year:

Massachusetts Vital Records May Be Closed
There Goes Your Privacy - One Byte at a Time
Access to Public Records Closes at a Frightening Rate
More on the “Ludicrous” Closure of South Dakota Public Records
Colorado Moves to Close Access to Public records

Restricting access to vitals

Many government officials around the country have been trying to restrict access to vital records. That includes birth, marriage, and death data online and in governmental offices. An Associated Press 50-state survey last year showed that 616 new laws restricting access to government records, databases, meetings, and other public information had been passed since Sept. 11, 2001. Only 284 laws had loosened access.

Closing or restricting access to records hampers genealogists. It creates a “widespread fear” of losing public records. Why? Many legislators and public officials believe that closing or limiting access to records will reduce identity theft and help prevent terrorism.

Big problem

ID theft is a big, serious problem. It claims more than 10 million victims a year, costing consumers and businesses $50 billion a year, according to the FBI, in time and money to repair credit records and restore peoples’good names. “Identity theft occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes,” says the Federal Trade Commission. That information includes credit card, Social Security and driver’s license numbers and other personal information. Many people commonly label vital record misuse as identity theft; others like to use a more specific term, such as birth certificate fraud.

Gen data the problem?

Does genealogical information really contribute to identity theft? Proponents of restricting records say studies show that easy access to vital records significantly contributes to identity theft that may lead to terrorism. But a number of genealogists say that’s not true. There’s no evidence that criminals are stealing data from public records. For the past 20 years, genealogist Richard Pence, former newsletter editor of NGS’ Computer Interest Group, has been challenging anyone to give him a documented case of genealogical data fraud. He says they may involve vital records or genealogies. The documentation may be police or court records or a verifiable news article. Over the years, he’s received “occasional nibbles” that didn’t meet his criteria.

Public officials are just jumping on a runaway band wagon. It started rolling after the terrorists’ 9/11 attack in New York City in 2001. The Millennium Plot terrorists obtained credit cards and drivers’ licenses with stolen data. Where are the facts connecting public vital records that genealogists use to identity theft? genealogists ask. Experienced genealogists never come to a conclusion without proper analysis of all the facts!

No evidence

Michael John Neill, a nationally-known genealogy researcher, speaker, and author says there’s no studies that show easy access to vital records significantly contributes to the identity theft problem.

Several reasons may be responsible for the belief that limiting access to public vital records may help prevent identity theft or even terrorism. Many legislators, even those sponsoring bills limiting access to vital records, don’t know all that’s in the bill and how it will affect genealogists. Sometimes when bills are passed, many governmental workers may misinterpret or not evenly apply law restricting public records.

A number of state legislators push for limiting access to vital records when they don’t really understand the situation, critics say. When an Indiana bill was filed last year to limit access to death information, Leland Meitzler wrote, “Another do-gooder congressman [legislator] has it figured that limiting access to death data is in some way going to protect folks from identity theft. It’s too bad that these legislators don’t take time to study the facts….before they try to show that they’re actually doing something in the statehouse.”

“Sadly,” says Pence, a former journalist, “it is the media. The media accepts at face value the cries of alarm from those who are making a living by scaring the bejabbers out of the public.” He cites what he believes is a flawed 2003 survey by the Federal Trade Commission that showed 27 million identity theft victims in the past five years.

Connecticut professional genealogist Dr. Robert L. Rafford blames a national association of state vital records offices for spreading misleading information about birth certificate fraud. He says the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems does not document its statement that implies that studies of the federal Inspector General “encourages change in access to birth certificates….” The 2000 study of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Offices of Inspector General reviewed previous federal reports on birth certificate fraud since 1976, with no mention of limiting access to them.

Standard documents recommended

In the absence of studies linking public vital records and fraud, let’s also take a look at the classic example of identity theft and terrorism. The 9/11 commission extensively studied what could be done to prevent another terrorists’ attack. In its 585-page report, the main recommendation of the commission on identify theft was that birth certificates and drivers license formats be the same in every state. These documents are the bread and butter tools of identity thefts. Authorities often do not recognize fakes because there are so many formats used. What was not said is important for genealogists. They did not suggest that access to public birth certificates or other vitals records be restricted.

Doesn’t make sense

Further, genealogists complain that vital record restrictions just don’t make sense. Identity thieves typically steal credit card, driver’s license, and social security numbers of many people at once. They don’t try to get individual records like birth certificates through vital records departments, according to Neill. They don’t diligently search for vital records on microfilm like genealogists do. For thieves, it’s just not practical to spend hours getting copies of public vital records of their victims, says Neill.

Hackers, employees to blame

Instead, you often hear about computer hackers or some unscrupulous employee stealing valuable personal data. Rafford says he concludes from his research that “a tremendous percentage of identity thefts” are done by governmental, banking, and data processing employees who don’t need vital certificates. For example, the media reported in late March of this year that hackers stole 45.7 million credit card numbers from shoppers at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores. They also got numbers for drivers’ licenses and military identification cards of another 455,000 people.

ID theft stories foster warnings

Neill says that such stories foster warnings about protecting personal data. You may be advised to shred discarded personal information or never give personal data to unsolicited e-mail from financial institutions. “Rarely is one told to go to the courthouse and shred your birth certificate so someone cannot make a copy of it,” jests Neill. In fact, you likely won’t see any terrorists or identity thieves there either. They rarely, if ever, go to any of the 10,000 different agencies here that can issue birth certificates.

Causes of ID theft

It’s just easier to get doctored birth certificates or other fake documents at a host of websites. Thieves do not search your garbage for personal data as much anymore or steal wallets or purses as often. They can just get about anything they need online cheap. In secret chat rooms, they openly trade stolen data worldwide as it crawls by on stock-like tickers, reports MSNBC’.com’s “Red Tape Chronicles.” A related NBC Dateline investigation quoted an expert who said thieves pay as little as $5 to buy someone’s name, address, Social Security number, credit card number, and pin number.

Where do they get that data? Much of it comes from stolen laptop computers and from hackers who break into systems of large and small companies, says the expert. Identity theft today with computers appears to be much easier than ever before. So why would thieves resort to combing public vital records? Genealogists know how hard it is sometimes for them to confirm that they have found a certain person’s vital record. Imagine, says P
ence, how hard it would be for a crook who knows nothing about genealogy to coordinate data from vital records to commit a crime. Should online genealogists fear having their identity or personal data compromised? Pence answers, “It never hurts to be careful, but the danger of having one’s identity stolen is almost nonexistent.”

Stealing from the dead

Other ID thieves steal information about the dead. They can get names and addresses from obituaries. Then they buy their Social Security numbers and other personal data on the Internet for only $15 or so. With this information, they can get credit cards or open checking accounts or buy merchandise in the names of deceased people, according to scam expert Sid Kircheimer. Experts advise that you should not give the deceased’s day and month of birth (provide just the year) in obituaries and to notify credit agencies and credit card companies right after someone dies. Send them their death certificate, he advises.

Some people believe that genealogy websites contribute to identity theft. A couple of years ago the Utah attorney general claimed that family history websites were feeding ID thieves with social security numbers (SSN). But Pence says that that if someone used a SSN in the Social Security Death Index they would likely be caught by financial institutions who routinely check the same database.

What can be done

In today’s world, it is not clear what information is private. In genealogy, though, for people born since the last public U.S. Census in 1930, all data is usually considered private except the surname and gender. Pence advises never post online or give information to others about living people, including the importing and exporting of GEDCOM files.

Instead of restricting public records, Rafford recommends that government and private companies do a better job of policing its employees. He notes that many states have taken some action. States generally restrict birth records. Florida, for example, allows the child on the certificate or the child’s parent, guardian or legal representative to obtain birth certificates. All birth certificates become public record 100 years following birth.

Rafford’s state of Connecticut only allows members of approved genealogical societies who present photographic identification to see or receive birth records less than 100 years old. California issues birth and death certificates stamped “Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity.” Several years ago California took down its online index of vital records and prohibited its agencies from selling them. However, they had been widely distributed, and are sold today online by private companies, according to Pence. He says the sales have resulted no reports of fraud.

States are also trying to decide whether to provide public records online 24 hours a day or just when county courthouses are open. Florida temporarily banned court records on the Internet while the pros and cons were studied. States also must now follow the federal Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. It prevents most public access to birth and death certificates for 70 to 100 years. The law allows states to set up its own rules and decide whether to provide an exception for genealogical and historical societies.

“Family historians need to be on the forefront of making it clear to our elected officials that access to vital records is not the real problem,” Neill writes on his website. Other genealogists say why close or limit access to records and punish people who don’t misuse them? It will just hamper genealogical researchers and not stop identity theft.

Dick Robinson is a certified genealogist, personal historian, and author of books and national magazine articles. He is legislative chair of the Florida State Genealogical Society and Florida Liaison to the Records Preservation & Access Committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society. Robinson, a professional journalist who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, has written several articles on records preservation and access. He is the founding president of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.