Document Detective: Social Security Application Form SS-5
6/11/2014
See how to find your ancestor's Social-Security Application form, or SS-5, and what you'll find on it.
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act Aug. 14, 1935, the US government began providing financial benefits to eligible retirees and the unemployed, and a lump-sum benefit at death.
 
Payroll taxes, first collected in 1937, funded the payments. Program participants had to register with form SS-5, Application for Account Number. Officials verified ages with a birth certificate, if one existed. But more often, they used Soundex and Miracode cards—which bore names and ages—created from 1880 to 1920 US census records. (These cards help you find variant surname spellings in the census.) The three-digit number next to the surname is the numeric portion of the Soundex or Miracode number: M-635, in this case. Like any record, the SS-5 may contain errors—the mother’s surname here should be “Bodie”—so compare the data against other sources.