U.S. Social Security Records for Genealogists
Social Security Death Index (SSDI) Introduction
Many people who live in the U.S. have a social security card issued by the U.S. government. A person was registered when he or she filled in an application form supplied by the Social Security Administration and was given a card showing his or her own social security number. The family of a deceased person could claim a small monetary benefit if the deceased had a social security number and the death was reported to the administration.
The Social Security Death Index lists people who died between 1962 and the present (there are some earlier entries dating from before 1962). It includes only the names of deceased individuals whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration.
SSDI on the Internet (free sites)
The index is online on several different sites. The following sites have the SSDI online for free:
- click on the Search tab and then choose the Social Security Death Index database from the left side of the screen.
- 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 including a few that are not listed here.
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.
The SSDI typically has the following information on the individuals:
- 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
Obtaining Additional Information Beyond 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 (http://ssdi.rootsweb.com) 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 is USD $27 per record when the Social Security Number is known, and USD $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.
You can also obtain copies of your ancestor's SS-5 application by:
- Print Form SS-711 “Request for Deceased Individual’s Social Security Record.” found at http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-711.pdf.
- Call your local Social Security office and request a copy of Form SS-711.
SS-5 Application Contents
The SS-5 application is important to a family history researcher because of the detail it provides. The SS-5 application contains the following information:
- Applicant's full name
- Age at last birthday
- Date and place of birth
- Father and mother's full name (including the mother's maiden name)
- Date signed and applicant's signature