Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
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For many genealogists, the Social Security Death Index is the first step to accurately identifying ancestors and mapping out an accurate portrait of their family history.
Use The SSDI Search For Family History Research
Social Security death records can help confirm the dates of birth and death of an ancestor, locate their last residence, and find out where an ancestor lived when their Social Security card was issued. Use these records to expand your family tree and uncover related family members. Combined with their newspaper obituary, you can find detailed and valuable information about your ancestors, such as their career, hobbies, civic associations, academic affiliations and a list of close relatives. This information provides more pieces of the puzzle for finding out more about your family history. And in some cases, the SSDI can often provide ‘cause of death’ report, which may help reveal or confirm possible examples of hereditary medical conditions that may run in the family.Family History Facts You Can Find In the SS Death Index:
- Name of deceased individual
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- Age at death
- State & zip code in which the Social Security card was issued
Why Use GenealogyBank's SSDI Collection?
- Our social security death index records are integrated with the other GenealogyBank online collections for the most robust family history research tool.
- Find an ancestors’ official death record and then uncover their life through details preserved in newspaper archives, such as their birth announcement, marital status, military records and more.
- A combined search of the SSDI and GenealogyBank’s newspaper obituaries can provide 98% of recent annual U.S. deaths.
- When you search for your ancestor by name, you’ll receive an integrated search result that includes the obituary or death record along with the same name that is in the SSDI database making it easier to verify if this is the same person.
Social Security Death Index Search Tips
- Name searches in the Social Security Death Index are processed against three fields of data—the first and last names of the deceased, and his or her middle initial or name.
- Only the first 10-12 letters of first names are shown in the death index records and only middle initials are recorded.
- To search for ancestors with names more than 12 letters use only the first 12 letters to avoid getting an incorrect not found error.
- Search for your married female ancestors by their married names vs. maiden names.
- Search by name variations and nicknames if you’re having difficultly finding your ancestors’ records.
- Refine your search by adding birth or death date years and/or zip codes.
- The death place in the SSDI may not be the actual place of death as it’s the last residence the Social Security Administration had on file.
- Use the Social Security Administration's or a local newspaper’s obituary to cross reference this information.
- Keep in mind that before Social Security numbers (SSNs) were linked to death records, someone might be missing from the index if the Social Security death benefit was never requested, there was an error on the form requesting the Social Security benefit, or an error was made when entering the information into the SSDI database. Read More
What is the Social Security Death Index?
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of people who had a U.S. social security number and whose death was reported to the Social Security Administration. If a death hasn't been reported to the SSA, it won't be in the Social Security death records even if the individual had a social security number.
SS Death Index records have been kept since 1962, but a small number of people who passed away between 1937 and 1961 are also included. The SSDI was created from the Social Security Death Master File, and it's very close to being a national death index for the U.S. Even though the SSDI doesn't contain every death that has happened since 1962, it does list many deaths from that year on, especially after the late 1980s. When you find a person in the US Social Security Death Index, you can find a copy of their SS-5 application, which is the form the person filled out when they applied for a Social Security Card.
A quick history of the Social Security Death Index
Since 1962, the Social Security Administration has used an electronic system or a computer for maintaining records of millions of deaths reported to them. Around 60 million deaths are listed in this database, placed in tape format, and not searchable by the general public.
All SSDI information in the United States comes from a single source – the records of the Social Security Administration. They include first and last name, Social Security number, date of birth and date of death, last residence zip code, and zip code of the lump sum payment recipient.
As it happens with any electronic data, there were problems in the original database, and some of those errors continue to flow through all versions of the SSDI. For example, the Social Security Administration database allows only nine letters for the first name and twelve letters for the last name. If the person had a name or surname longer than that, the remaining letters would be left off.
Data entry errors also occur. If you search for someone by their name and birth date, it's sometimes best to start with their first name only. Then, include additional details and information to narrow your search.
Why is it important?
By finding a person's death index, you will usually discover facts about them that you may not have known before. You can use the facts you gather from the SSDI to start a more detailed investigation and uncover many new interesting things about your ancestors.
From the SSDI, you may learn a birth date or the state in which the Social Security card was requested – or at least where the card was mailed. After you discover which state your ancestor lived in, you can then look for census records or birth certificates in that state to discover more.
- After finding your relative or ancestor, there are several paths to take to further your investigation:
- Since you have a death date and a location of residence, you can look up local newspaper archives for obituaries or life event announcements. You may request a death certificate or obtain records from the funeral home in that location if they have any.
- The SSDI also often reveals the location where the deceased's lump-sum distribution was sent. With this information in hand, you can search online phone directories and find the last name of the person you believe received those benefits. It can lead to a valuable contact that may reveal a lot about your relatives.
- Request an SS-5 using the SSDI to discover more detailed information about the person that interests you.
What can an SSDI search be used for?
You can use the SSDI as a starting point for a more profound search for your ancestors. If you’re wondering, "How do I access the social security death index?" you should know it's the easiest thing in the world. All you need to do is type your ancestor's name and a few more details about them above, and let our ancestry finder do the rest for you.
After using the Social Security Death Index to request a copy of the person's application for a Social Security Account Number (SS-5), you will learn tons of new information. The SS-5 usually contains the following information:
The social security index document also contains the applicant's original signature and the application date.