Order Your Ancestor's Social Security Application

                      Often forgotten to acquire for your vital records’ files on members of your ancestral family are those who did fill out an application for Social Security Card in the United States.

In the mid-1930s when Social Security was first instituted, many adult men and women signed up for this innovative retirement income assurance program. Since it was brand new, people were not issued Social Security numbers at birth as they are now. They had to apply to the program. Once they applied and were approved, they would be issued their Social Security number and card.

Men and women who were working, married women who hoped to use their spouse’s benefits one day, and women who were applying on behalf of a deceased spouse who had worked were all eligible to apply for the Social Security card.

These early applications for Social Security cards still exist and are valuable pieces of genealogical information. You can actually order the earliest applications from the 1930s and 1960s. These forms are known as the SS-5 forms, and you can order one for any person, as long as they are deceased. The SS-5 applications are provided to U.S. citizens by the Social Security Administration under the Freedom of Information Act. You must provide proof the person is deceased (death certificate or obituary) unless that person would now be 120 years old or older. Yet you can get a copy for a relative if they provided written consent.

From the Social Security web site are the directions for ordering a copy of an ancestor’s application. You can get a photocopy sent via regular mail service or you can order a digital copy that would be emailed. The fee varies depending on which type you order.

All types of very interesting information can be found on those early applications. Of course their name at the time they applied. For ladies, it could be their maiden name or a married name they held then. Keep in mind their married name could have changed over the years. You can also get the person’s parents’ names and birthplaces but you must provide proof the parents are deceased. If you are missing a relative’s parents’ names this could really help.

What an ancestor’s occupation and who they worked for is great to have which is on the application. Another benefit is your ancestor’s full signature.

Use the online FamilySearch.org site to see if there is a listing of the S.S. Death Index for your ancestor. It covers up to Feb. 2014. Ancestry.com site for the S.S. Death Index goes to March 2014.

Photos: Social Security Card; 1951 S.S. Application for Daley Schmitt; and an example of a death certificate.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

History of Social Security Cards

Social Security Death Index

What Not to Share about Ancestors


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