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From the Green Valley News, Wednesday 14 February 2007, page B7

Genealogy Today, by Betty Malesky

Using the Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is an excellent finding aid for persons who lived during the 20th century.

At end of 2006, there were 78,612,650 records in the SSDI database at The SSDI is found several places on the web, but the RootsWeb file is free and usually updated quarterly making it the most up-to-date of the online sites.

An index entry may provide: the deceased individualís birth and death dates; state where the Social Security number (SSN) was issued; state of residence at time of death [not necessarily the place where the death occurred]; the social security number; the state where the card was issued; the place where the death benefit, if any, was sent.

An individual may not appear in the index for several reasons. His/her occupation is one factor. Prior to 1960, farmers, housewives, government employees, the self-employed, and those who never worked may not have applied for an SSN. Or they may have worked for the railroad and received their pension through the Railroad Retirement Board. Children were not required to have an SSN until 1988.

Even if they had an SSN, every individual may not appear in the SSDI. While Social Security went into effect in 1937 and a few benefits were paid as early as 1940, most of the records in the database are for those who died in 1962 or later.

If a relative of the deceased or the funeral director did not report the death to the Social Security Administration, a person will likely not appear in the index. Omission from the index is certainly not an indication that the person is still alive.

Once you find a person in the SSDI, you may use their SSN to apply for the SS-5, the Original Application for Social Security Card form filled out when the individual applied for a number. The SS-5 is especially valuable when you donít know where the birth place or the motherís maiden name as this information was required on the application.

Currently, a copy of the SS-5 may be obtained from the Social Security Administration for $27. If the SSN is unknown, the copy is $29. It may take several months to receive a reply.

When you use the SSDI database online at and locate a record you wish to order, you can click on a link to a form letter for your request. The form will incorporate the individualís information from the SSDI in the body of the letter.

If you are unable to find your family member, read "Frequently Asked Questions" on Steve Morseís website at Then if you feel your search falls within the criteria discussed, try the SSDI search link developed by Morse. He has written software that overcomes defects in the search engines used by SSDI sites. Via his link you may choose from several SSDI sites to search using different parameters such as "soundex" and "sounds like" for name, last residence, range of years, and age at death date.

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