United States Social Security Death Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.


Record Description

The "Social Security Death Index" consists of an online searchable database. It only includes the names of deceased individuals whose deaths were reported to Social Security.

This index is a master index file of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration. It has been kept since 1962, when operations were computerized. The index includes about 50 percent of deceased persons from 1962 to 1971 and about 85 percent of the deceased persons from 1972 to 2005. It also includes a few deaths from 1937 to 1961. Current as of September 30, 2012.

The Social Security Administration provides an extract from its file for distribution through the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service. Because this extracted file deals with deceased persons, the information is considered to be public domain. Several organizations have purchased this file and posted it to their Web sites.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org. Source citations include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

"United States Social Security Death Index
FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. 

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

The index includes the following information:

  • Name of the deceased (Married women are usually listed by their married name.)
  • Birth date
  • Death date
  • State or territory where the Social Security number was issued
  • Death residence zip code and corresponding localities (this in not necessaily the place of death, it is the last place of residence that the SSA has on file)

How to Use the Record

When searching the index it is helpful to know the following:

  • The place where the death occurred
  • The approximate date of the death
  • The name of the deceased

Search the Collection

Follow these steps to use the index:

  • Enter your ancestor’s first and last names in the appropriate fields. Be aware that married women are usually listed under their married names.
  • Enter a birth year or death year. For common names enter a year range.

If there are no results, try variant spellings of the names.

Follow the additional instructions on the screen for search tips and to learn how to request a copy of the person’s original application.

Compare the information in the index to what you already know about your ancestor to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

Using the Information

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example:

  • Use the death date and place to obtain a death certificate. The death certificate may lead you to mortuary, funeral, or church records
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find your ancestor’s birth records and parents' names.
  • If your ancestor was born before 1940 you can use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence to locate other family members, church and land records.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Married women are usually listed under their married name.
  • The place listed may not be the death place. It is place where the death benefit paid by Social Security was sent.
  • The information in the records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.
  • If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • The index only includes the names of deceased individuals whose deaths were reported to Social Security.
  • Surnames longer than 12 letters are truncated to 12 characters. You may need to retry your search using only the first 12 letters of the name.

You may also want to do the following

  • Search the index to see if other family members are also listed. These might include the father, the mother, brothers, and sisters.
  • Search the index to see if earlier or later generations are also listed. These might include aunts, uncles, grandparents, or children.

Disclaimer from the National Technical Information Service website, provider of the Social Security Death Index:

"The products advertised on this website contain the complete and official Social Security Administration (SSA) database extract, as well as updates to the full file of persons reported to SSA as being deceased. SSA authorizes the use of this database as a death verification tool, but notes that the Death Master File (DMF) may contain inaccuracies. Thus, SSA cannot guarantee the accuracy of the DMF. Therefore, the absence of a particular person on this file is not proof that the individual is alive. Further, in rare instances it is possible for the records of a person who is not deceased to be included erroneously in the DMF."

General Information About These Records

The administration was created in 1936 and began issuing Social Security numbers to track the earnings that workers reported for retirement benefits. In 1961, the Internal Revenue Service began using Social Security numbers to identify taxpayers.

The death date, residence at time of death, Social Security number, and state of issue are usually reliable since it comes directly from the Social Security Administration’s master file. However, realize that errors may have occurred when the information was originally entered. Information listed for the name and birth date was provided by an informant and may be inaccurate.

Related Websites

Searching the Social Security Death Index

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections


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