Social Security Records Assist Your Family Research

When becoming skilled about anything, learn first about its meaning and components. We all think we know what are ’Social Security Records’ but there is more to the rest of the story. It all begins when an individual first applied for their Social Security card. This new social government program did not become law until August 1935, so all information contained in the Social Security Records is from 1935 forward. The initial cards with an individual’s number were issued in 1936. By the 1960s, social security numbers were starting to be used for all types of identification, including in the military and the Internal Revenue. In 1972, legally registered immigrates / aliens were issued social security numbers. By the 1980s, even newborn babies are issued a social security number.

Up until 1972, the first three numbers of a social security number were an indicator of which state the applicant lived in when he had his card issued. After 1972, the first three numbers only indicate the mailing zip code to where the card was sent. Knowing an ancestor’s social security number, at least the first three numbers can help provide an idea of the region of the country they once lived.

One of the first items a family researcher will want is a copy a deceased ancestor’s original application of a social security number (form SS-5). Here is the link to request a copy of that original application. Form SS-5

Any family researcher will find the information provided directly by the actual ancestor invaluable. On the simple application would be the applicant’s full name, a woman’s maiden name, date – place of birth, parents’ full names, the individual’s sex and race, their residence when the application was filled out and name – address of the applicant’s employer. Since this was a very important vital government record it is less likely there was any fibbing about names and dates, so a good documentation for your files.

The Social Security Administration also manages the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), also known as Death Master File. So the SSDI is a great source to first check for a listing of an ancestor, it does not contain all individuals with a SS number who have died in the last 60 years. However, if you were unsure of a death or birth date and did locate a listing for an ancestor, it can help lead you in the right direction, even to where their last residence was to receive SS benefits. If you didn’t have the social security number the index can provide that also. You search by full name and add the state you believe they last lived in or if known the state they lived in when they were issued their social security number. The SSDI is updated but is about six years behind the present date. For example, right now it is updated to February 2014. he database for the SSDI is free with

So the Social Security Records can truly serve as a gold mine of new information that each genealogist will want to explore. Remember to check direct ancestors’ siblings, aunts, uncles, etc. You never know what can be uncovered.

Photos: Raymond Brecker SS Application in 1936; Mary Muir SS Application in 1947; and Harry Kershaw SSDI.

Related Blogs:

Details on SS Applications

What NOT to Share

Identity Theft

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