The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) - IntroductionThe Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of people whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) beginning about 1962. A small number of deaths are listed before 1962. It was created from the Social Security Administration's Death Master File. You will not find everyone who died from 1962 to the present, but it does list many deaths in that time frame, especially in more recent years (particularly from the late 1980s to the present). It is close to being a national death index for the United States. If you find someone listed in the Social Security Death Index you can usually order a copy of the form they filled out when they applied for a Social Security Card (SS-5 application) from the Social Security Administration for a fee. This record usually has more information about the person such as date and place of birth, and names of parents. However, names of parents may not always be released by the SSA. See restrictions on SS-5 forms below.
Social Security Death Index OnlineHere are some places where you can search the Social Security Death Index Online...
Social Security SS-5 Forms - Restrictions and Ordering InformationWhen ordering a copy of a deceased person's SS-5 form, the Social Security Administration may exclude some information:
"... under our current policy, we do not release the parents' names on an SS-5 application unless the parents' are proven deceased, have a birth date more than 120 years ago, or the number holder on the SS-5 is at least 100 years of age." This is quoted from the Social Security Administration's Freedom of Information Act Request Methods and Fees webpage. You can also find information about ordering copies of an SS-5 form there.
Social Security Records - SSDI FAQ and Railroad Records
Not in the SSDI?If your ancestor died before 1962 (or they are deceased, but not in the SSDI) and you believe they may have applied for a Social Security Card, you can still obtain a copy of their SS-5 (you will need to provide proof of death). The first SS-5s were used in late 1936. For details see "The Social Security Administration's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act" at the link above.
The Social Security Administration does not have information about people who died before about 1940 when Social Security payments were first paid out. The SSDI has very few entries for people who died from 1940-1961. Try the state listings below for some death indexes before 1962 (and for other time frames)...