Genealogy 101: Using the Social Security Death Index

by Meri Rees
Genealogy 101

The is a list of persons who had a Social Security number, who are deceased, and whose death was reported to the Social Security Administration. It has a few records of deaths prior to 1962 but is generally a listing of those whose deaths were reported to the Social Security administration after 1962. It is the closest thing we have to a national death index. The Federal Social Security Death Index is a valuable tool for genealogists. The index may yield the complete name, birth date and death date of the individual, the last place of residence, the social security number as well as the state it was issued in.

If you find a person in the Social Security Death Index that you feel may be the person you are researching you can order a copy of the Application for a Social Security Number (form SS-5). To obtain any information from SSA you will need to file a Freedom of Information Act Request.

The application is filled out by the applicant [or guardian if a minor] and may list the complete name, birthplace as well as the birth date, age at time of application, names of parents, address and phone number at time of application, sex, race and if the person has ever applied for a social security, railroad or tax account number.

The Social Security Death Index can be searched FREE at most genealogical records sites such as or . If your ancestor died before 1962 but you can’t find them in the Death Index and you believe they may have applied for a Social Security Card, you can still obtain a copy of their SS-5 (you will need to provide proof of death). The first SS-5s were used in late 1936. For details see… The Social Security Administration’s Guide to Freedom of Information Act Requests

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