Social Security Info
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Rationale for Publishing
Social Security Information
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The Social Security records are a useful source of genealogical information on Americans who have died since 1962. It is available online to individuals from several sources, including Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

Source of information. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has created the Death Master File (DMF) from internal SSA records of deceased persons possessing social security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the SSA. Often this was done in connection with filing for death benefits by a family member, an attorney, a mortuary, etc. SSA then makes this information available to organizations who would like to use it internally or to publish it as a Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

Why does SSA publish this? Aren't Social Security Numbers (SSNs) confidential? Actually, the publication of death records with Social Security numbers is done by the US government to combat fraud, not facilitate it. All financial institutions and other credit issuing organizations are encouraged by the government to subscribe to the updated DMF in order to detect possible fraudulent activity associated with  deceased people.

Who is included?  As of February 2007, the SSDI contained over 81 million records. About 98% percent of the people in the SSDI died after 1962, but a few death dates go back as far as 1937. Because legal Aliens in the U.S. can obtain a Social Security card, their names may appear in the SSDI if their deaths were reported. Some 400,000 railroad retirees are also included in the SSDI. If someone is missing from the list, it may be that the benefit was never requested, an error was made on the form requesting the benefit, or an error was made when entering the information into the SSDI.

What facts are included? This file includes the following information on each decedent, if the data is available to the SSA: First and last name, Social Security number, state and date issued, birth date, death date, and places of last residence and final benefit.

How genealogists and family members can use. The Social Security number is often a piece of information genealogists don't have. This number can enable you to order the individual's Social Security application or claims file, leading to a discovery of a birth place, a maiden name, or parentsí names. Finding a birth and death date and Social Security number can help in a request for a death certificate or obituary. The SSDI can provide clues to the person's residence when he or she first received a Social Security card, or to a possible last residence. It can provide a clue about where the lump-sum distribution beneficiary lived. SSDI searches can help fill in the gaps on collateral lines, especially for somewhat unusual surnames.

Accuracy. The absence of a particular person in the SSDI is not proof this person is alive. Additionally, there is a possibility that incorrect records of death have been entered on the DMF. The Social Security Administration does not guarantee the accuracy of the file.

Ordering a Copy of the Social Security Application Form (SS-5). The Social Security Administration makes copies of the original Social Security application form (the SS-5) available to third parties who request information on a deceased individual. A form to request a copy is available on SSA's website. The current charge is $27.00 for a copy if the SSN is known. (Download request form)

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Last Revised: 02 Jan 2015

 
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