501 (c) (3) Status Approval for The Family History Guide

501 (c) (3) Status Approval for The Family History Guide


The official FamilySearch training partner, The Family History Guide, has achieved IRS 501 (c) (3) status. This means that anyone donating money to support this fabulous, genealogical training and now, charitable resource, can get a corresponding deduction from their Federal income taxes.

By keeping the website free, the developers hope to fulfill their mission to get more people involved in family history by providing training and research guidance on a major scale with a free website. Up to this point, the website has been self-funded with all the support coming from the people who have developed and maintained the website so far.

The Family History Guide has been vetted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made available to over 5,000 Family History Centers throughout the world and on LDS.org. The Family History Guide already has users in over 150 countries and most recently released training paths for MyHeritage.com, Findmypast.com, and Ancestry.com, as well as maintaining its support for FamilySearch.org. This week they are rolling out a national pilot project to recruit, train and utilize Regional Training Specialists to serve in specific geographic regions throughout the United States (initially). These individuals will extend the reach and facilitate quality training and presentations for the website.

The actual entity that supports the website is The Family History Guide Association
http://thefhguide.com/association.html
There are links on the Association’s website to an explanation about how to donate.





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Revisiting Search Engines for Genealogy

Revisiting Search Engines for Genealogy


Over the years, I have from time to time examined the relative search capabilities of the various search engines available to genealogists and the rest of the world for that matter. I have varied the methodology and search criteria and without fail have always come up with similar results. But since I had not done this for quite a while, I decided it was time to check and see if I might get any different results.

During that same time period, the dominance of Google Searches has increased dramatically. As I noted in a recent post, Google presently has about an 86% market share worldwide. Here is a graph showing that dominance.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-share-of-search-engines/

One reason that this is an interesting statistic is that many of the computers sold come with preloaded software and give a preference to another search engine, most commonly, Microsoft’s Bing. Apparently, users switch to Google. There are four search engines in the above graph. The fourth one is Baidu,  a Chinese search engine. However, if we look at the statistics for the United States, the differences are not quite so dramatic.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/269668/market-share-of-search-engines-in-the-united-states/

I think that if this particular study targeted genealogists, my impression is that the differences would be even less. I find a significant number of genealogists using search engines other than Google. Product selection is based on a huge number of criteria. Why people use a certain product is often based merely on the fact that it was the first product that they used. It is also a question as to why one product so dramatically dominates an entire market. This is the case with Google. From my perspective, I use Google almost exclusively because I get the most pertinent results from my searches. For example, already this morning while writing I have done around 70 searches.

I am fully aware that some people who use other search engines have specific reasons why they choose to do so. But I’m also aware that most people I deal with simply do not think about it. I’m also aware that many people would not know how to change their search engine even if they wanted to do so. By the way, you can find instructions about changing your search engine by doing a search. For example, searching for “change my search engine to Google” or some other search.

One problem with trying to show different search capabilities that developed during my past attempts was the fact that Google records all of the searches made and if I repeat a search I will get different results than if I make a search that has not been made previously. If you do a search repeatedly, Google will note the fact and provide results that are more targeted each time you do the search.

If you have difficulty finding the results of your searches, perhaps you need to learn different search techniques.

But I am going to do a search on the name of an ancestor that I commonly use as an example. Here are the results:

  • Google: 498 results in .5 seconds
  • Bing: 759,000 results with no time specified
  • Yahoo: 767,000 results with no time specified
  • AOL: 746,000 results with no time specified 
  • Ask: 9 results with time specified

In the past, the results showed a clear advantage in using Google for doing searches. But now, because of the targeted searches returned by Google, the differences are more in the quality of the items returned rather than sheer numbers. I think all of us could agree that having hundreds of thousands of results is really not very helpful. What I do suggest is that individuals review their ability to produce any results from searching online and get help if they feel frustrated in their ability to find meaningful results. I also suggest trying a variety of search engines to get a feel for their responses. You can do searches in various search engines by simply searching for the names and going to their individual websites. For example, if you search for “Bing.com” you can make a search using Bing.





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Genealogy in the Abstract

Genealogy in the Abstract


http://www.mdpi.com/journal/genealogy

In our cloistered world of “family history” and genealogy, we seldom realize that from an academic and philosophical standpoint, genealogy is a rather controversial and far-reaching concept and discipline. Shown above is an online an open access journal published by MDPI.com. The journal is described as follows from its website:

Genealogy (ISSN 2313-5778) is an international, scholarly, open access journal devoted to the analysis of genealogical narratives (with applications for family, race/ethnic, gender, migration and science studies) and scholarship that uses genealogical theory and methodologies to examine historical processes. 

Open Access – free for readers, free publication for well-prepared manuscripts submitted in 2017.
Rapid publication: manuscripts are peer-reviewed and a first decision provided to authors approximately 34 days after submission; acceptance to publication is undertaken in 7 days (median values for papers published in this journal in first half of 2017).

It is published online by MDPI. Here is a short summary of that publishing company:

MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute) is an academic open-access publisher with headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. Additional offices are located in Beijing and Wuhan (China), Barcelona (Spain) as well as in Belgrade (Serbia). MDPI publishes 182 diverse peer-reviewed, scientific, open access, electronic journals, including Molecules (launched in 1996; Impact Factor 2.861), the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (launched in 2000; Impact Factor 3.226), Sensors (launched in 2001; Impact Factor 2.677), Marine Drugs (launched in 2003; Impact Factor 3.503), Energies (launched in 2008; Impact Factor 2.262), the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (launched in 2004; Impact Factor 2.101), Viruses(launched in 2009; Impact Factor 3.465), Remote Sensing (launched in 2009; Impact Factor 3.244), Toxins (launched in 2009; Impact Factor 3.030) and Nutrients (launched in 2009; Impact Factor 3.550). Our publishing activities are supported by more than 15,700 active scientists and academic editors on our journals’ international editorial boards, including several Nobelists. More than 263,500 individual authors have already published with MDPI. MDPI.com receives more than 8.4 million monthly webpage views.

These articles would only be of interest to those who are concerned about the position of genealogy in the larger academic community. I have written on this subject a number of times in the past but not recently. A good introduction to the subject and the scope of the articles is the article entitled,  “What is Genealogy? Introduction to the Inaugural Issue of Genealogy” by Phillip Kretsedemas, Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125-3393, USA. Here is a quote from his article:

As a result, the genealogical method can be used to dissolve standards of truth that have been posited as timeless and universal (this is its non-teleological moment). And after it has established the fluid and contingent nature of truth it can go on to fashion narratives that are told from a specific cultural-historical locus (the point at which it re-engages teleology, with a small “t”). But again, this is where genealogies get into trouble with the modern paradigm of knowledge; because they draw attention to another disturbing truth. It’s not possible to cleanly separate the analysis of historical processes from the creative work that is used to steer history in new directions. The genealogist is always, at some level, participating in making the histories on which they are reporting.

If you would like to spend some time thinking about genealogy as a concept and as an academic subject you may find many of these articles interesting. 



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Refine Your Searches with Google Search Operators

Refine Your Searches with Google Search Operators


Searching online using Google Search becomes almost automatic over time. But unless you become aware of some of the additional tools available from Google, you may be driving in first gear without knowing how to shift gears.

Searching is the lifeblood of genealogists. Every time we sit down to find our ancestors or relatives, we are searching. How we search changes as we learn more about what we are trying to accomplish, but we can get to the point where we are stalled in our search efforts both by the availability of records and by our own limitations in understanding more effective ways to search. Online searching is a learned skill. No one is born with online searching skills. Everyone has to learn how to do effective searches.

First a word (really lots of words) about browsers and search engines. Browsers are the programs that run on your computer or other devices that connect you to the internet. Some common browsers include Chrome, Internet Explorer (now obsolete), Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Edge. There are dozens of other browsers out there. See Wikipedia: List of web browsers. Google’s Chrome browser has well over half of all the market share for browsers worldwide. None of the others garner more than about 12% with Safari in second place and the other down in very low percentages. See Statcounter.com: Brower Market Share Worldwide. If you purchased a Windows-based computer, you probably inherited a Microsoft browser and have never changed. I usually have four browser programs on my computer and can switch between them if I encounter an issue with a website not functioning or displaying properly. There is a good reason for Chrome’s popularity: it works and has a huge number of add-ons and extensions.

What about search engines? A search engine is a web-based program that uses your browser to search for information from websites on the internet. Search engines are browser independent so you can use any browser with any search engine. Google Search is the most popular browser in the world and has about an 87% market share in 2017. See Statista.com: Worldwide desktop market share of leading search engines from January 2010 to July 2017. There is always a reason for this kind of dominance. Microsoft’s Bing, the second most popular search engine has a 5.7% market share. If you are using one of the other search engines, such as Bing, Yahoo, AOL or whatever, you might consider doing your serious genealogical searches using Chrome with Google. Enough said at this point, but I do think it is time I came back to this subject. In the past, I have done test searches and reported the results to show what happens with several search engines. I will do that again when I finish this post.

Google has several “search operators” which include special typographical symbols or commands that enhance or focus your searches. Google Search Help has a web page called “Refine web searches” that lists some of the commands and symbols available. I suggest looking through the list and selecting a few such operators to add to your search arsenal. I frequently use phrases in quotes to search for individal’s names. Some people frequently use wildcards. I also use the command define: to define words and phrases.

There is also a list of search operators, power tips and other useful information on the MIT Libraries website in an article entitled, “Google Search Tips: Getting Started.” One comment, however, is that the “+” or plus sign has been removed from Google’s search operators. It has been deemed unnecessary.

I use very few search operators because I rarely need them. I have noted in several posts and presentations, that I can usually make a number of searches and find what I need in the time it takes to construct special formulaic searches.



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Ending Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments Will Hurt Older Adults

Ending Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments Will Hurt Older Adults



Federal subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), have been critical to ensuring that over 2 million lower-income adults ages 50 to 64 who purchase coverage through health insurance Marketplaces can afford health care.[1] Despite the subsidies’ crucial role, the Administration announced yesterday that it will terminate payments for CSRs. The announcement—which comes less than 3 weeks before millions of Americans who buy insurance on the individual market start shopping for 2018 health coverage— is bad news for older adults and people of all ages.

That’s because the move could leave people facing significantly higher premiums and fewer plan choices—regardless of their income or whether they get CSRs.

What are cost-sharing reductions?

The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) better known premium tax credits help reduce the cost of monthly health insurance premiums for lower- and moderate-income individuals. CSRs address the other major expenses that can prevent people from being able to afford health care: out-of-pocket costs for health care services, such as deductibles, coinsurances and copayments. CSRs are available to lower-income people, with individuals of more modest incomes receiving greater subsidies.[2]

CSRs are critical to making individual health insurance affordable for people with lower incomes. This is especially true for lower-income older adults because over a third of the people enrolled in CSR plans are ages 50 to 64.[3] What’s more, older adults typically face higher out-of-pocket medical expenses and cost-sharing because they are more likely to have chronic conditions and health care needs. You can learn more about CSRs here.

Eliminating CSR payments will lead to significant increases in premiums.

Without the federal CSR payments, insurers will have to absorb an estimated $10 billion in costs.[4] A recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that silver plan premiums would jump 20% next year and 25% by 2020 without the federal CSR subsidies.

Due to uncertainty in recent months over the continuation of CSR payments, insurers in some states have already factored premiums increases into their 2018 rates. Other insurers will likely increase premiums in order to account for this loss in federal payments.

Premium increase will hit middle-income people the most – especially those who do not receive premium tax credit subsidies, or who are only eligible for limited tax credits.

The CBO also expects that controversy around CSR payments will encourage some insurance companies to stop offering coverage altogether or deter them from entering the Marketplaces—leaving consumers with fewer, or potentially, no plan choices.

Terminating CSR payments would increase the federal deficit.

If you think stopping CSR payments would save federal dollars, think again. Doing so would actually increase the federal deficit by $200 billion, CBO estimates. This is because the government is required to fund premium tax credits for lower-income enrollees, and the premium increases resulting from ending CSR payments would mean the government must spend billions of dollars more in premium tax credits to lower those premium costs for lower-income enrollees.

Eliminating CSRs altogether would make health care unaffordable for lower-income older adults.

Recent proposals to replace the ACA would have eliminated cost-sharing reductions altogether. Without CSRs, lower-income older adults would face steep increases in their medical bills—putting needed health care services out of reach for millions. We estimate that eliminating CSRs would mean lower-income persons could face as much as $5,600 more in out-of-pocket costs for copays, co-insurances and deductibles.[5] For someone earning $18,000 annually (about 150% of FPL), that’s nearly one-third of their income!

Here’s the bottom-line: Cost-sharing reductions are a critical financial protection for lower-income Americans, including many older adults. Terminating CSR payments will disrupt efforts to ensure a stable individual health insurance market and actually end up costing the government more.

 

 

Jane Sung is a senior strategic policy adviser with AARP’s Public Policy Institute, where she focuses on health insurance coverage among adults age 50 and older, private health insurance market reforms, retiree coverage, Medicare supplemental insurance and Medicare Advantage.

 

 

 

Olivia Dean is a policy analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute. Her work focuses on a wide variety of health-related issues, with an emphasis on public health, health disparities, and healthy behavior.

 

 

 

 

Claire Noel-Miller is a senior strategic policy adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she provides expertise in quantitative research methods applied to a variety of health policy issues related to older adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Urban Institute, 2017 Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model, data for 2016 enrollment.

[2] Cost-sharing reductions are available for people who earn between 100% and 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL). In 2017, this corresponds to incomes between $12,060 and $30,150 for an individual and to incomes between $24,600 and $61,500 for a family of four. Only people enrolled in Silver plans (which pay for 70% of total health care costs on average) are eligible for cost-sharing reductions.

[3] Urban Institute, 2017 Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model, data for 2016 enrollment.

[4] Total CSR payments in 2017 are estimated at $7 billion.

[5] For people with incomes between 100-150% of the federal poverty level, or between $12,060 and $18,090 for an individual. Estimates are based on 2017 federal poverty levels and out-of-pocket limits.



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Expect More Scams This Medicare Open Enrollment


Photo Credit; iStock/JimVallee

Beginning on Oct. 15 and running through Dec. 7, Open Enrollment for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans has always been prime time for fraudsters to steal money and identity theft-worthy information from beneficiaries.

But this year, scammers with a nose for news may sniff out even more unscrupulous opportunities than usual. Reasons:

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced it will begin mailing out new cards in April 2018 to replace those with the recipient’s Social Security numbers. Designed to help curb identity theft, these new cards will have a unique, randomly assigned 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) comprised of numbers and uppercase letters – and not your SSN. Along with that Sept. 12 announcement getting plenty of media attention, television ads have begun publicizing the new cards with the tagline “Guard Your Card.”
  • Headlines-making hurricanes Harvey and Irma could play a role. In the past, following natural disasters scammers posing as Medicare and Medicaid employees have been known to call those living in impacted areas to falsely claim that new, weather-resistant “plastic covered” cards can (or must) be reissued.
  • As efforts continue to repeal and replace Obamacare, so does confusion over the future of health insurance and Medicaid. (Confusion can be a fraudster’s best weapon.) And with growing talk of moving control of Medicaid funds to states, scammers may add another role to their imposter repertoire – that of self-described state health officials or middlemen navigating new insurance plans and initiatives.

Each scenario paves the way, even more than usual, for scammers to capitalize on the most common con: Phone calls, emails and front-door visits from self-described CMS employees who solicit sensitive information – including Social Security numbers – under the guise it’s needed to “verify our records” for a new card or not lose benefits. With the hurricane scams, fraudsters have also angled for $50 or so for the supposed plastic-encased replacement, requested via automatic withdrawal to gain access to recipients’ bank or credit card accounts.

Other scams already in the works, according to the Better Business Bureau, adding to the timeless trickery of classic Open Enrollment schemes:

  • Bogus claims that Medicare and other health plans are issuing new cards – but they cost about $300.
  • Phone calls that you’re entitled to a refund from last year’s premiums, coverage or drug costs – but the phony payback must be a direct-deposit, another way scammers can siphon bank and credit card accounts.
  • Offers for “new,” “replacement” or “supplemental” coverage that may be fake or substandard – but require upfront payment.

What to know:

  1. You don’t need to do anything to get new Medicare MBI cards, issued beginning this Spring and continuing through April 2019.

 

  1. Official correspondence regarding Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance is always mailed. Unless you initiate a phone call or write an email asking for a response, don’t expect to be contacted those ways – or with a front-door visit.

 

  1. Never provide personal information – including your birthdate, MBI or other insurance account information and especially SSN – unless you initiate contact. Unless coming by mailed letter you can authenticate, don’t fall for any request seeking it, including those supposedly from the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service or other government agencies.
  2. Although new Medicare MBI cards won’t have SSNs, they still should be guarded to prevent medical identity theft. So only share your MBI with trusted healthcare providers and rather than routinely carrying that new card in your wallet, consider making a photocopy with some characters blackened out. This way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, your MBI is less likely to be used to medical care and prescriptions in your name.

 

For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and keep tabs of scams and law enforcement alerts in your area at our Scam-Tracking Map.

 

 

 



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