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logoProformat News                  ISSN 1833-9514
No 16
June 2007


June seminars

There are no seminars scheduled for June.

FamilySearch expansion plans
The LDS Church has announced its plans program to increase public access to worldwide collections of genealogy material. For the first time FamilySearch will provide free services to archives and other records custodians who wish to digitise, index, publish, and preserve their collections. The program expands FamilySearch's previously announced decision to provide online access to over two million rolls of unreleased microfilm preserved in the Granite Mountain Records Vault.

Privacy and ID theft

The recent report in Proformat News about the New Zealand Parliament planning to restrict access to BDM records 100 years for births, 80 years for marriages, 50 years for deaths has prompted me to write the following...
BDM certificates and their role in privacy and identity theft
The embargo on access to modern records held by BDM Registries across Australia has to be one of the greatest impediments to progressing family history. It is a well-known fact that finding your cousins is one of the most fruitful ways of developing your family tree. Knowledge and artefacts may have travelled down another branch of your family tree. However, when you try to travel down that branch following the paper trail you will come to an abrupt halt sometime in the twentieth century as far as BDM records are concerned.
In South Australia the embargoed periods for these records are:
       Births: 75 years
       Marriages: 60 years
       Deaths: 25 years

In this issue:

• June seminars
• FamilySearch expansion plans

Privacy & ID theft

Delving into old family photographs


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However, the Registrar has elected to not release indexes and has effectively extended the embargoed period:
       Birth Indexes: to 1928 (effectively now 79 years closure)
       Marriage Indexes: to 1937 (effectively now 70 years closure)
       Death Indexes: to 1972 (effectively now 35 years closure)
There is a move in Australia for all states to have a uniform embargoed period and the consensus seems to be favouring greater closure periods than those that currently operate in South Australia and hence the increase in the embargoed period by stealth. You can see the embargoed period for all Australian states at:
The bottom line is that tracing cousins born after 1928 or finding the married name of females after 1937 is difficult. While there are a few ways that may possibly get you around this barrier, they are not always able to produce a result, can be very time consuming, and may involve considerable expense.
Why are these embargoes in place? You will usually hear two related explanations—privacy and/or identity theft.
Frankly the issue of privacy is a furphy. The events of birth, marriage and death are very public at the time they occur. Indeed many people proclaim them in newspapers and conduct public celebrations to mark them. Many agencies hold these records and they are freely available to the public. For example the SA Supreme Court itself sees no need to keep information about Grants of Probate from the public. The SA Lands Titles Office has no problem sharing marriage and death records it holds in relation to land transactions. Newspapers and their personal columns are readily available in the State Library of SA. If we really think births are private, then why can anyone buy my 86-year-old mother’s birth certificate? Do the elderly have less need for privacy?
Identity theft is another matter. Identity theft is the theft of personal information that is then used to commit a crime. There is no doubt it is a major concern for all in the community. But the question I (and others) ask is—is the public access of BDM certificates resulting in identity theft? If it is, then why is it not a problem in England where these certificates are readily available to the recent past? Where is the evidence that criminals are buying these records to create this fraud? If we really think birth certificates are used to create false IDs, then why can anyone buy my 86-year-old mother’s birth certificate?
The next time I am in a library/archive poring over fiche I will look more carefully at my neighbour—maybe they are a master criminal extracting records for some devious plot. Frankly they would be better off stealing my wallet with its credit and health cards and driver’s licence! If you think through the process carefully, you will soon become aware of the difficulties a criminal will encounter if they use someone’s birth/marriage certificate to create a false ID and even if they did it with your records, the chances of it coming back to you are not good. What birth/marriage record reveals your current address and banking details? To open any new bank account in Australia requires the 100 Point Identification System and that means apart from the full birth certificate, the criminal requires a range of other matching records.
If they were serious criminals though, they would be using the wonderful resources of the Internet where everything is available if you know where to find it and have the money to pay the fee. According to a recent NBC Dateline report, a few dollars will buy you someone’s name, address, credit card number together with its pin number. These items do not come via the purchase of BDM certificates; they come via hackers breaking into computer systems with inadequate firewall protection. Now and then you will hear of some major institution having its records stolen in this way, but in effect the most vulnerable computers are those sitting in private homes.
In closing, if you are concerned about these restrictions to BDM records, then be aware that many other institutions holding records are considering their access policies. The movement is gathering pace in North America and before long we can expect the issue to be raised here in Australia.

Delving into old family photographs
pt 3
To identify a photograph and thus date it requires the researcher to undertake the following detailed examinations. In past issues we dealt with:
1. Determining the type of photograph.
2. Analyse the mounting board itself.
3. Examine the back of the mount for printed information.

In this edition we will examine the fourth step in dating a photograph:
4. Examine the composition of the image—the pose and background.

How the subjects are posed and the way the Victorian photographer used various pieces of furniture and other artefacts together with a backdrop can also determine the era as the composition of photographs were very much determined by the fashion of the day.
Due to the technical immaturity of the process, the bulk of nineteenth century photographs were taken indoors although the trend towards outdoor photography increased as we move towards 1900.

1860s substantial pieces of furniture; support aids employed; subjects seated/standing full length; neutral backgrounds with classical features like drapes, columns and arches
1870s very elaborate chairs often for leaning on; 3/4 length subjects; basic outdoor sets
1880s elaborate outdoor sets featuring rocks, fences, swings, etc; oriental themes
1890s exotic sets; vignettes (head and shoulders) very popular; pot-plants featured; bicycles popular

The following examples typify each decade:

PuttickE  JaunayB&F
Arthur McCorkell—solicitor husband of Jane Gilmour.
Esther Puttick nee Smith wife of John Henry.  Blanche & Louis Frank Jaunay in Brisbane QLD.  Frank Cunningham Jaunay.

To be continued in the next issue when we will detail the costume of the subjects depicted in photogrpahs.

Note: All photographs displayed are from the family albums of Graham Jaunay. They are currently subject to copyright.

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