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Taking a Stand in Genealogyland

by Kenneth H. Ryesky January 20th, 2014 3:37 am

"Just how tone deaf is the genealogical community?" asks Brad in his post of 16 January 2014, imploring the leadership in Genealogyland to take a stand against the misuse of public information for nefarious if not lethal purposes. My own posting of 7 January 2014 mentions a loophole in the latest Federal budget agreement's restriction upon Death Master File (SSDI) access; various members of the genealogical community are now pondering the prospects of at least some genealogists obtaining Commerce Department certification for the early access loophole.

As this posting is being written, the Commerce Department is working on its proposed regulations for the DMF early access program; these, we are assured, will soon appear in the Federal Register for public comment.

Many existing professional qualifications are accepted as valid credentials for various purposes by various governmental agencies. The Internal Revenue Service's Office of Professional Responsibility, for example, accepts bar admission or CPA certification as a valid credential for representing taxpayers in matters before the agency. Many government agencies, Federal and state, accept the Certified Professional Contracts Manager or the now superseded but grandfathered Certified Purchasing Manager designation as a substitute for some qualifying experience in procurement and acquisition jobs (my own C.P.C.M. and C.P.M. certificates gave me a fair degree of career mobility within the Department of Defense when I needed it, but lapsed after I transitioned from DoD to the IRS).

As with many other affinity groups, genealogists have elevated themselves to professional status through the use of the certification process. Now that Congress has tasked the Department of Commerce with overseeing a process for early DMF access certification, genealogists are pondering how their own certification credentials might be used to bootstrap their way to the coveted Commerce Department approval.

If professional credentials such as the Certified Genealogist title are to be accepted by the people in Commerce, then the CGs will need to clearly and visibly build confidentiality and ethics into their own certification program. Even more basic is the need to make the criteria for CG certification, including matters of ethics and confidentiality, open and transparent.

Which all brings us back to taking a stand in Genealogyland.

3 Responses to “Taking a Stand in Genealogyland”

  1. avatar Barbara Mathews says:

    It is good news that existing certifications are considered valid by the Commerce Department in other capacities. Your advice needs to be taken to heart here at the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

    We have a section on our website titled "How to Become Certified" that includes submission requirements, fees, an explanation of the portfolio judging process, and the judge's rubrics. In addition, the rubrics are based on the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, which is for sale at a moderate price. The details are at http://bcgcertification.org/certification/index.html

    The website also includes a study list, skill-building discussions, reprints of helpful articles, and a recorded seminar about applying.

    About the only thing that isn't transparent are the names of the anonymous judges.

  2. avatar Kenneth H. Ryesky says:

    Barbara, I say the following with the greatest of due respect for the Board for Certification of Genealogists:

    In the year 2000, the question "what does the genealogy profession have in comment with Target stores?" would have elicited looks of puzzlement. Now, the attenuation between professional genealogists and Target is not quite as distant, what with the personal information that each has in their respective databases.

    An outsider looking in (including but not limited to the Department of Commerce bureaucrat who makes certification decisions regarding early DMF access) needs to see more plain, straight-up, and in-your-face material addressing confidentiality and information security. I will suggest that the heightened hazards of the new environment in which we all must operate dictate a review, revisitation, and reworking of standards that were developed many years ago.

  3. avatar Barbara Mathews says:

    That topic would be a great addition to our website. We cover these issues both in our Code of Ethics and in our Standards manual. An "in-your-face" and hard-hitting discussion is lacking. But it can be articulated and added. Thank you for the feedback.

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