It’s time to look up your 20th-century ancestors in the Social Security Death Index and request their Social Security number applications (SS-5s) if you haven’t already.
Threats to close the Social Security Death Index are resurfacing with a vengeance: President Obama’s budget proposal would give the Commissioner of Social Security license to grant or deny access to the SSDI and our ancestors’ SS-5 forms. It makes the records’ availability subject to a bureaucrat instead of the Freedom of Information Act.
Other genealogy bloggers have expertly explained why there are more effective ways to prevent tax fraud and protect the identities of taxpayers, while also meeting the needs of genealogy hobbyists and those who use Social Security records to identify survivors of deceased servicemembers and unclaimed persons. Read more from:
- Judy G. Russell at the Legal Genealogist (who also writes about the commissioner of Social Security’s ominous testimony regarding closing the SSDI)
- Dick Eastman at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter
I’ll explain what the SSDI is and why it’s important to genealogy: The SSDI is a computerized file of deceased individuals whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration. It contains mostly deaths from 1962 and later, though my great-grandfather who died in 1949 is listed.
You can search the SSDI on websites including FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com (which excludes recent deaths) and order your ancestor’s SS-5 for a fee from the Social Security Administration under the Freedom of Information Act.
Once you find an ancestor in the SSDI, you can request his or her SS-5, which requests parents’ names, among other information. This is the only record I’ve ever found giving my great-grandfather’s mother’s name.