Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is prepared by the US Government Social Security Administration and made available to various groups, including the Family History Library, to use for genealogical purposes. The U.S. Social Security Death Index is an Internet file that contains records of deaths that were reported to the United States Social Security Administration. Most records start in 1962, but the file does contain a few records of deaths from 1942 until 1961.
Locations of the Database
The Social Security Death Index contains records of deaths reported to the Administration from 1936 on. There are several sites on the Internet that have the Social Security Death Index:
- Family Tree Legends
- New England Historic Genealogical Society
- GenealogyBank [updated weekly]
Each website offers different search features. Using Stephen P. Morse's web site SSDI web site allows you to search all SSDI websites by typing the information once and switching between the different sites.
• Steve Morse Website: http://www.stevemorse.org/index.html
• Steve Morse SSDI Website: http://www.stevemorse.org/ssdi/ssdi.html
• Steve Morse SSDI - FAQs: http://www.stevemorse.org/ssdi/faqi.htm
The Social Security Administration updates the Death Index monthly. Every site does not update their database every month. Therefore, what you find at one site may not be available at another site.
Information contained in the SSDI
The Social Security Death Index shows the list of people who died between 1962 and the present. It includes only the names of deceased individuals whose family received a monetary benefit. The following information is included:
- Day, month, and year of the death
- Social Security number
- State where the number was issued
- Last zip code of residence or zip code where the death benefit was sent
How to use the SSDI
Suggestions about using the SSDI in family history research can be found at several websites. Check the following to read more about using the Social Security Death Index: (note that the URL's are long, therefore the option to click on it, instead of typing in the complete web site address.
1. Dear Myrtle: http://www.dearmyrtle.com/05/0517.htm
2. Dick Eastman's article "Using the Social Security Death Index" at Ancestry.com - http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=4313&o_xid=0022478094&o_lid=0022478094&o_xt=22478094
3. George G. Morgan's article "Using Social Security Number Application Forms for Genealogy" at Ancestry.com click here or type the URL http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=919&o_xid=0022478094&o_lid=0022478094&o_xt=22478094
4. George G. Morgan's article "Even More About Social Security Records" at Ancestry.com.
5. George G. Morgan's article "Using the Social Security Death Index" at Ancestry.com
6. Kathi Sittner's article "U.S. Social Security Death Index" at Ancestry.com
7. Ancestry.com Quick Tip "Social Security Index A Useful Search Tool
8. Ancestry.com Quick Tip "Cross-Checking to Save Money with the Social Security Death Index"
9. DeathRecords.net web site http://www.death-records.net/ssdi.htm
10. The SS-5 Form - Michael John Neill's website
11. SSDI Guide - RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees
12. How to use the SSDI - by Kimberly Powell
13. Additional Articles about the SSDI - ProGenealogists.com
14. CyndisList for US Social Security: http://www.cyndislist.com/socsec.htm
15. FamilySearch.org Tips on Searching SSDI: click here
16. The official website of the U.S. Social Security Administration http://www.ssa.gov/
17. The History of Social Security http://www.ssa.gov/history
18. Social Security Administration's guide to ordering your ancestor's application www.ssa.gov/foia/foia_guide.htm
Obtaining More Information from the SSDI
When you find an individual in the Index, you can request a full copy of their application, which is known as a SS-5. RootsWeb has made the process easy. After completing a search, you will find a link in the "Tools" column labeled "SS-5 letter." By clicking on the link, you will find a form letter with the name, Social Security Number, and pertinent dates from the Death Index already filled in. You will need to do the following before mailing the request to the SSA:
• Add your personal contact information to the letter. Add your name, address, and daytime telephone number.
• Include a check or money order made payable to the Social Security Administration. The SSA also accepts MasterCard, Visa, and Discover credit cards. Include the card number and expiration date if you are using a credit card.
The current fee (February 2008) is $27 per record when the Social Security Number is known, and $29 when the number is unknown or incorrect. You are charged the fee even if the SSA is unable to locate any information on the person.
It may take up to six months to receive a report, so please be patient. RootsWeb has no way to expedite your order, or to determine when it will be sent.
Release of Personal Information
Individuals concerned about the release of personal information of those who have died may be interested in the following information from RootWeb or Wiki.
Question. The SSDI (Social Security Death Index) at various locations on the internet includes the Social Security numbers of my deceased family members. Won't this put them at risk of having their identities stolen?
Answer. On the contrary, the publishing of the Social Security numbers and names of deceased individuals enables businesses and other interested parties to verify whether or not a Social Security number is active or whether the account holder is deceased. This actually serves to prevent identity theft by publicly posting a list of deceased individuals. Social Security numbers are not re-used.
Given the growing problem of identity theft and the importance of the Social Security Number as a personal identifier in the United States, it might seem unusual that these identifiers are released publicly. The principle involved is that living persons have a right to privacy which includes the right not to have their Social Security Number revealed, but once a person dies they lose their right to privacy and therefore the United States Department of Social Security can reveal their number and report their dates and places of birth and death.