One of the free resources weve recommended for years to search the online Social Security Death Index (SSDI) has been taken offline.
RootsWebs SSDI database is no longer available, with a message that
Due to sensitivities around the information in this database, the Social Security Death Index collection is not available on our free Rootsweb service but is accessible to search on Ancestry.com.
The SSDI is a database of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration, for the most part since 1962. A subscription is required to use Ancestry.com’s version of the SSDI, and genealogists including Randy Seaver and Sheri Fenley report that Social Security numbers aren’t provided for deaths within the past 10 years.
You might think genealogists wouldn’t be concerned with such a recent death, but someone who died in 2002 might’ve been born in 1920, and his or her application for an SSN (called an SS-5) could name parents born in the 1800s. Plus, the SSDI is useful for tracing family lines forward in time to find distant cousins.
If you don’t have a deceased person’s SSN, you still can request his or her SS-5. You’ll need to provide a birth date, any other names the person used, and the parents’ names, and pay $29 instead of $27. You now can request an SS-5 online.
The “sensitivities” RootsWeb refers to are likely related to a recent news story about criminals using SSNs of deceased individuals to commit tax fraud. (Couldn’t the IRS prevent this by comparing SSNs on tax forms to numbers in the SSDI?)