Social Security Death Index and S. S. Records

Social Security Records and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) are great resources for investigating about your more recent ancestors. It was August 1935, when the first Social Security applications were filled out in the United States. The cards with a person’s name and social security number were then issued in early 1936. Years later 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. Newborn babies were starting to receive a social security number by the 1980s.

The first three numbers of a social security number refer to which state the applicant lived in when he or she had their card issued. With knowledge of an ancestor’s social security number, at least the first three numbers, offers the information of where a relative once lived.

With a copy of the social security application filled out by the actual relative or family members will provide the applicant’s full name, a woman’s maiden name, their date of birth, place of birth, parents’ full names, their residence when the application was filled out, the individual’s sex and race along with the name and address of the applicant’s employer. The date the application was filled out and signed by the applicant will also be present, which makes it an important record.

The Social Security Administration can provide a researcher with a copy of the application. To request a copy, form SS-5 would be filled out and a fee of $27 is collected by the Social Security Office. The fee is $29 if the social security number is unknown. The form would be mailed to the Social Security Administration, OEO FOIA Workgroup, 300 N. Green Street, P.O. Box 33022, Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022.

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI), is also known as Death Master File. The SSDI has names, birth and death dates of individuals with Social Security numbers whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration. Not all deceased individuals are listed, in fact, generally just those who died after 1962 are listed.

The index is a good starting point even if you are not such when an ancestor died. Search by full name and add the state you believe the ancestor last lived in. Once you come up with a few possibilities you should be able to narrow down the listing based on birth dates and the state in which the social security was issued.

If nothing is found, it might be the ancestor was self-employed or never applied for a social security card. In the early years it was not required, especially if a person was not working for someone else.

Try an alternative spelling or version, especially for a given name. The family may have always known an individual as Jack, but for the social security forms it had to be the legal name of John. Surnames also vary especially in the form of punctuation, like “McCory”. Try searching using this spelling “MCory”, leaving out the apostrophe or the extra letter ‘c’.

The SSDI is kept by the Administration up-to-date, only a few months behind the present date. Even those Americans who died overseas, so long as the Administration was notified, their names will appear on the index. It can be accessed online with several different genealogical sites. One is the FamilySearch site. Any errors concerning information, with proof, can be sent to the Social Security Administration.

All direct and indirect ancestors, who have died in the last 50 years, should be checked in the Social Security Death Index.

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