Searching Social Security

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

Did you know FamilySearch <> has its own version of the US Social Security Death Index (SSDI)? This index contains records of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) from 1936 on. Most entries are from 1962 or later, but the index encompasses some people born as early as the late 19th century. The SSDI is a useful tool to find birth and death dates, as well as a last place of residence — which can help locate a death certificate or obituary.

Searching FamilySearch’s SSDI is flexible. Even if you’re unsure of an ancestor’s last name, to use an extreme example, you can enter just a first name and find, say, all the people named John born in 1895 whose Social Security numbers were issued in lowa. Or enter a last name and a death date to find, for example, everyone with a Social Security card and the surname Graham who died in 1942. The search will even ferret out similar spellings.

The SSDI tells you the place where the death benefit payment was sent, which is a potential lead to living relatives. Because the SSDI also lists where your ancestor was living when issued a Social Security number, you may be able to trace that person to his or her state of birth. Once you locate a Social Security number, you can write to get even more information from the SSA. If you can’t find your relative in the SSDI, keep checking — the database is updated periodically. You’ll find other versions of the SSDI at RootsWeb <” target=”_blank”>>, and Family Tree Legends <>.
From the January 2004 Family Tree Magazine.