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.