Should you order your ancestor's Social Security Application?

+13 votes
153 views

Hi all,

Just wanted to share my experience ordering my ancestor's SS-5 form, also known as the original application for a Social Security card. These aren't available online or in person - you have to order it from the Social Security Administration.

Why order it?

The SS-5 form I received has some important information - birth date, birth town and country, employer, full name of father, and full maiden name of mother. Apparently the amount of information varies over time - my great-grandfather filed his form in 1936, right when the Social Security program began.

Can I order the SS-5 form?

That depends on if your ancestor has passed away. If your ancestor is still living, you cannot request the form (perhaps they can themselves).

If your ancestor has passed away, you can order the form -  the process is much easier if your ancestor is listed in one of the Social Security death indices, otherwise you have to provide proof of death.

  • If your ancestor was born less than 100 years ago, you also have to provide proof their parents have passed away or their names will be redacted - for immigrants, getting the parents' information is one of the biggest benefits of the form.
  • If your ancestor was born more than 100 years ago, you should be able to order the full, unredacted form. 

How do I order the form?

 

The online form to order is here (form SSA-771). The online form should get you faster results - the only caveat is that if you need to prove the individual has passed away, you can't attach anything. In that case you should use the paper form. 

 

What? It's $21 to order the form?

 

Yes, unfortunately. It would make sense to me to just make all records older than 100 years public, if the individual is in the death index as well. 

 

The Legal Genealogist also has a good write-up here

asked in The Tree House by Andrew Van Duyn G2G6 (6.8k points)
edited by Andrew Van Duyn
I've ordered some over the years (they used to be $7!), and they've been very helpful.

4 Answers

+5 votes
Ancestry.com has a collection of this information as well. It costs through membership though.
answered by Brett Rutherford G2G6 Pilot (118k points)
Thanks, Brett - To my knowledge the information on Ancestry varies - there is more information if one of your relatives filed a Social Security claim, as opposed to just the death index. However, I don't think the original SS-5 forms are uploaded to Ancestry.
+4 votes
I agree on ordering it. That application helped me break a brick wall due to it. Although interestingly my great grandfather is not listed in the SS app files on ancestry.
answered by Charlotte Shockey G2G6 Pilot (865k points)
+3 votes

I just bit the bullet and ordered 2 SS-5's. One came today and immediately broke through one of my brick walls. The SS-5 did not contain my great-grandfather's hometown, but did have both his parents (with mother's maiden name). See photo here. Looking that up in http://poznan-project.psnc.pl/ I have 2 more generations back and a hole pile of Ligocki's to investigate in the same Parish!

Thank you for the suggestion! I highly encourage others to go for it if they are on the fence.

answered by Shawn Ligocki G2G4 (4.3k points)
+2 votes
I also ordered the SS5-A for my great-grandparents and found their parent's names which led me to their baptismal records. Definitely worthwhile.
answered by Maggie N. G2G6 Pilot (478k points)

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