Open main menu

Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

Revision as of 23:24, 10 August 2012 by Janmcdermott (talk | contribs)
George Herbert Snell Social Security Card.JPG

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is prepared by the US Government Social Security Administration and made available to various groups, including the Family History Library, to use for genealogical purposes. The U.S. Social Security Death Index is an Internet file that contains records of deaths for those who had social security numbers and the death was reported to the United States Social Security Administration. Most records start in 1962, but the file does contain a few records of deaths from 1942 until 1961.


Estimates say approximately three percent of the reported social security numbers are in error. Until 1972, applicants were not asked if they had already been issued a number, nor were they asked for proof of identity. As a result, many persons now have more than one social security number.

Sometimes more than one person uses the same social security number. In 1938 the number 078-05-1120 appeared on a sample account number card used in wallets sold nationwide. Several thousand people mistakenly reported this number to their employers as their own. By the 1970s there were over 20 different "pocketbook numbers." This means many people used a wrong social security number, which was the same number other people were using.

Locations of the Database

The Social Security Death Index contains records of deaths reported to the Administration from 1936 on. There are several sites on the Internet that have the Social Security Death Index:

Each website offers different search features. Using Stephen P. Morse's web site SSDI web site allows you to search all SSDI websites by typing the information once and switching between the different sites.

• Steve Morse Website:

• Steve Morse SSDI Website:

• Steve Morse SSDI - FAQs:

The Social Security Administration updates the Death Index monthly. Every site does not update their database every month. Therefore, what you find at one site may not be available at another site.

Information contained in the SSDI

The Social Security Death Index shows the list of people who died between 1962 and the present. The following information is included:

  • - Day, month, and year of birth
  • - Day, month, and year of the death
  • - Social Security number
  • - State where the number was issued
  • - Last zip code of residence or zip code where the death benefit was sent

Information Not contained in the SSDI

The index does not contain:

  • Information about the person's spouse, parents, or children.
  • Birthplace information.
  • The person's entire social security file.
  • Information on living persons.
  • Information on those whose deaths were not reported to the Social Security Administration.

The index has no way to find the married name for a woman if you only know her maiden name.

Railroad and Government Workers

From 1937 to 1963, all railroad workers were assigned the area numbers (first three digits) 700 to 728. Since 1963, railroad workers have been assigned social security numbers according to where they live.

Federal and some state employees have their own retirement program and may not have received a social security number.

How to use the SSDI

Suggestions about using the SSDI in family history research can  be found at several websites.  Check the following to read more about using the Social Security Death Index: 

1. Dear Myrtle:

2. Dick Eastman's article "Using the Social Security Death Index" at -

3. George G. Morgan's article "Using Social Security Number Application Forms for Genealogy" at click here or type the URL 

4. George G. Morgan's article "Even More About Social Security Records" at

5. George G. Morgan's article "Using the Social Security Death Index" at

6. Kathi Sittner's article "U.S. Social Security Death Index" at

7. Quick Tip "Social Security Index A Useful Search Tool

8. Quick Tip "Cross-Checking to Save Money with the Social Security Death Index"

9. web site 

10. The SS-5 Form - Michael John Neill's website

11. SSDI Guide - RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees

12. How to use the SSDI - by Kimberly Powell

13. Additional Articles about the SSDI -

14. CyndisList for US Social Security

15. The official website of the U.S. Social Security Administration

16. The History of Social Security

17. Social Security Administration's guide to ordering your ancestor's application

Obtaining More Information from the SSDI

When you find an individual in the Index, you can request a full copy of their application, which is known as a SS-5.

You may request a copy of the application directly on line at Freedom of Information site. The cost is the same as below, you will need to use a credit card for the charge.

RootsWeb has made the process easy. After completing a search, you will find a link in the "Tools" column labeled "SS-5 letter." By clicking on the link, you will find a form letter with the name, Social Security Number, and pertinent dates from the Death Index already filled in. You will need to do the following before mailing the request to the SSA:

• Add your personal contact information to the letter. Add your name, address, and daytime telephone number.

• Include a check or money order made payable to the Social Security Administration. The SSA also accepts MasterCard, Visa, and Discover credit cards. Include the card number and expiration date if you are using a credit card.

The current fee (February 2008) is $27 per record when the Social Security Number is known, and $29 when the number is unknown or incorrect. You are charged the fee even if the SSA is unable to locate any information on the person.

It may take up to six months to receive a report, so please be patient. RootsWeb has no way to expedite your order, or to determine when it will be sent.

Release of Personal Information

Individuals concerned about the release of personal information of those who have died may be interested in the following information from RootWeb or Wiki.

Question. The SSDI (Social Security Death Index) at various locations on the internet includes the Social Security numbers of my deceased family members. Won't this put them at risk of having their identities stolen?

Answer. On the contrary, the publishing of the Social Security numbers and names of deceased individuals enables businesses and other interested parties to verify whether or not a Social Security number is active or whether the account holder is deceased. This actually serves to prevent identity theft by publicly posting a list of deceased individuals. Social Security numbers are not re-used.

Excerpt from

Given the growing problem of identity theft and the importance of the Social Security Number as a personal identifier in the United States, it might seem unusual that these identifiers are released publicly. The principle involved is that living persons have a right to privacy which includes the right not to have their Social Security Number revealed, but once a person dies they lose their right to privacy and therefore the United States Department of Social Security can reveal their number and report their dates and places of birth and death.

Research Tips

Tip 1. What if I can't find my ancestor's name?

Before concluding that your ancestor's name is not in the index, consider the following:

  • If you are looking for a married woman's name, remember it will most likely be listed under her last husband's surname, NOT her maiden name. If a woman was married more than once, check all married names.
  • The person may be listed with the first letter of his or her given name.
  • The person may have changed his or her given name or surname.
  • The person may have been known by or listed under a different name (for example, Buddy instead of Franklin) or by an initial.
  • Given names are searched by exact spelling only. Look for alternate spellings (for example, Elisabeth instead of Elizabeth).
  • Middle names are not used. If a person was named John Albert Ernest Bolton and went by Ernest, look under John Bolton or use the initial J. Bolton.

Note: If you do not find your ancestor on the first search, you may need to try all possibilities of the way the name could be listed.

Tip 2. Why isn't my ancestor's name in the file?

The following reasons may help explain why not everyone is listed on the Social Security Death Index:

  • The person did not receive a social security number. This includes railroad and other employees not part of the Social Security system in the earlier years.
  • The survivors did not report the death to the Social Security Administration.
  • An error was made in issuing or reporting the Social Security number.
  • The person died before about 1962, when the Social Security Administration began computerizing their records in ernest. A few prior to 1962 are included.

Question for experts: Did the SSDI start out only as an index to persons who died leaving a spouse to recieve the death benefit? AdkinsWH 21:11, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

Tip 3. Obtain the SS-5 form 

If you didn't find your deceased ancestor's name on the Social Security Death Index, you can still make a request for a photocopy of the SS-5 form. You will need to send the following information:

  • Full name.
  • Social Security Number.
  • Proof of death.

Send the information and fee for the search to the following address:
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 17772
Baltimore, MD 21290

Tip 4. Learn the Social Security number for my deceased ancestor if the name is not in the Index

If you do not know the Social Security Number, you may be able to find it in other records, such as:

  • On a Death Certificate.
  • In Funeral Home Records.
  • In personal papers (such as insurance papers, employment records, pay check stubs, and so forth).

Tip 5. If I cannot find the Social Security number for my ancestor, can I still send for information?

If you cannot find the Social Security Number, you may request a "records search" from the Social Security Administration. You need the following information:

  • Full name.
  • State of birth and date of birth.
  • Parents' names (if known).

Send the information and fee for search to the following address:
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 17772
Baltimore, MD 21290

Sample of letter requesting Social Security SS-5 form

Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 17772
Baltimore, MD 21290

Dear Freedom of Information Officer,

I would like a copy of the SS-5 application form for the person listed below. I am requesting this under the Freedom of Information Act.

Social Security number 520-22-0360
Birth: 21 Jul 1927
Death: 22 Jan 1996

I have enclosed a printout on this individual from the Social Security Death Index to verify that he is deceased.

Enclosed is a check for the $27.00 charge for this service. Thank you for your help.


Jane Bryson 50 East North Temple Street Salt Lake City, UT 84150

RELATED ARTICLE (showing content of the SSD application):

United States Social Security Administration Records

A wiki article describing an onliine collection is found at: