United States Social Security Death Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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United States Social Security Death Index .
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- 1 What Is in the Collection?
- 2 Collection Content
- 3 What Can This Collection Tell Me?
- 4 How Do I Search the Collection?
- 5 What Do I Do Next?
- 6 Citing This Collection
- 7 How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?
What Is in the Collection?
The "Social Security Death Index" is an online searchable database. This index is a master index file of deceased individuals whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. It has been kept since 1962, when operations were computerized. The index includes a few deaths from 1937 to 1961, about 50 percent of deceased persons from 1962 to 1971, and about 85 percent of deceased persons from 1972 to 2005. Records for the most recent 3 years are not available.
Married women are usually listed in this index under their married name. Last names longer than 12 letters are shortened to 12 characters. The death place listed is not necessarily the place of death, it is the last place of residence that the Social Security Administration has on file. When two geographical divisions are given they represent County/State as opposed to City/State. For example Jefferson,Texas refers to the county of Jefferson not the City of Jefferson. If a town name of last residence is not listed, it may be found by use of the Zip code. The death date, residence at time of death, Social Security number, and state of issue are usually reliable information since the information 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.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) 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 SSA 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 in the public domain. Several organizations have purchased this file and posted it to their websites.
The follow is a disclaimer from National Technical Information Service.
- "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."
For additional information about the index please visit the website for the National Technical Information Service.
What Can This Collection Tell Me?
The index includes the following pieces of 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 necessarily the place of death, it is the last place of residence that the Social Security Administration has on file.)
How Do I Search the Collection?
To search the index it is helpful to know:
- The name of your deceased ancestor.
- The place where your ancestor died.
- The approximate date of the death.
Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. For common names enter a year range. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or 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.
- Married women are usually listed under their married names.
- Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
For tips about searching on-line collections, see the wiki article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.
What Do I Do Next?
When you have located your ancestor’s in the Social Security Death Index, 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.
I Found Who I Was Looking For, What Now?
- Use the death date and place to obtain a death certificate. The death certificate may lead you to mortuary, funeral, or church records. Follow the additional instructions on the screen for search tips and to learn how to request a copy of the person’s original application.
- 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.
- Married women are usually listed under their married name.
- The death place is not necessarily the place of death, it is the last place of residence that the Social Security Administration has on file.
- When 2 geographical divisions are given they represent County/State as opposed to City/State. For example Jefferson,Texas refers to the county of Jefferson not the City of Jefferson.
- Using the Zip code of last residence helps determine the town.
- 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.
- 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.
I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For, What Now?
- Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
- Look for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
- Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.
Citing This Collection
Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.
- “United States Social Security Death Index.” Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2017. Citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):
How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?
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