I want to learn how to use Social Security deaths roals

+2 votes
Where can I find out how to use Social Security to find out about family members
in Genealogy Help by Harvey Wardle G2G5 (5.9k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

2 Answers

+4 votes
If your referring to the social security death index you can find some information on ancesty or you can find on familysearch and a few other places. If your looking for an actual certified Death certificate and you are a relative or ancestor you can contact your local vital records office if you live in the States.
by Steve Schmidt G2G6 Pilot (361k points)
+2 votes
The Social Security Death Index is an amazing source for people who died in the U.S. from the early 1970s through 2014 (when an act was passed requiring a three year wait before additional records will be released).  

Technically - the Index began in 1962, but it was not until the 1970s until full use of the system was achieved,

The entire Index - with links to individual records - is available for free at familysearch.com:


The search function is very simple - first name (include a middle initial if you know it), last name, year of death, state where the person was born and state where the person died are the standard fields.

The challenge in searching the index is when you don't know when/where a person died.  This is especially challenging when you are dealing with common names like Jones or Smith.

I have often found that running a similar search on findagrave.com can sometimes be very helpful - as findagrave entries often contain links to other family members and sometimes even pictures and obituaries.  Here is the link to findagrave:


Finally - for me - the greatest addition to my searches of the Index is a subscription database that Ancestry.com offers - U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007.  This database is the complement to the Social Security Death Index, as it contains more than 50% of the applications for Social Security that were submitted between 1936-2007.  These records often contain a great deal of information on a person - i.e. everything they have to provide to apply for a Social Security number.  Unfortunately, Ancestry.com requires a subscription, but many local libraries offer Ancestry.com's library edition.  Here is the database on Ancestry:


Let me know if you have any questions.  The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is one of my go-to databases that I use almost every day.
by Ray Jones G2G6 Pilot (153k points)

Ray has provided some excellent advice. The only thing I would add is that, if you have access to Ancestry, also check their version of the Social Securty Death Index (SSDI). The same person's data is displayed a little differently between FamilySearch & Ancestry. Using my uncle as an example:

Family Search SSDI (specific years for the collection are not identifed; it just says "ongoing"):

Age     77
Given Name     Ervin
Middle Name     D
Surname     Mcgee
Birth Date     22 May 1918
State     North Carolina
Last Place of Residence     Albuquerque, Bernalillo, New Mexico
Previous Residence Postal Code     87123
Event Date     28 Jan 1995

Ancestry SSDI (1935-2014):

Name:     Ervin D. McGee
SSN:     245-14-4356
Last Residence: 87123 Albuquerque, Bernalillo, New Mexico, USA
BORN:     22 May 1918
Died:     28 Jan 1995
State (Year) SSN issued:     North Carolina (Before 1951)

Just a note about that "last residence" information. My understanding is that it is actually the zip code to which the last payment was mailed. If someone was handling the person's finances, that can be vastly different from where that person was living (think about someone who lives in an assisted living facility; their Social Security check is likely sent to the corporate office which could be located anywhere)

As Ray mentioned, the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 (SSACI) database located only at Ancestry, is created from the form filled out while applying for a Social Security number. That document, the SS-5, is often filled out by and and should contain the person's original signature. The form can be ordered from the Social Security Administration (SSA) if certain criteria are met (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps9/eFOIA-FEWeb/internet/main.jsp). Again, the record for my uncle:

Name:     Ervin Delane McGee
[Ervin D McGee]
SSN:     245144356
Gender:     Male
Race:     White
Birth Date:     22 May 1918
Birth Place:     Charlotte, North Carolina
Death Date:     28 Jan 1995
Father:     Edward McGee
Mother:     Bartie Christenburr
Type of Claim:     Original SSN.
Notes:     Mar 1939: Name listed as ERVIN DELANE MCGEE; 10 Feb 1995: Name listed as ERVIN D MCGEE

That last line showing the names and dates can be a goldmine if you're working with a woman who was married multiple times. Each time she changed her name with the SSA, the information gets added to that line.

Hope this helps.

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