The Social Security Death Index

A Genealogy Guide for Searching Online

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) - Introduction

The 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. Due to restrictions enacted in March 2014, recent entries to publicly available versions of the Social Security Death Index have not been made available. You will not find everyone who died from about 1962 to about mid-March 2014, but it does list many deaths in that time frame, especially in more recent years (particularly after the late 1980s). 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 Online

Here are some places where you can search the Social Security Death Index Online...
  • Social Security Death Index at Ancestry (fee-based - part of an Ancestry subscription)
    has over 90 million records - updated to 19 March 2014

Social Security SS-5 Forms - Restrictions and Ordering Information

When 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 a copy of an SS-5 form there. Also see the NUMIDENT section below for information about some abbreviated text-based SS-5s that can be obtained online.

Social Security Applications and Claims Index and NUMIDENT Files

  • Applications and Claims Index:
    • Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 (at Ancestry/requires payment) This database has information filed with the Social Security Administration from the application and claims process for more than 49 million people. Not everyone listed in the SSDI is included. You might find people in this database who are not in the SSDI. A few of the entries include the names of the person's parents. Many have just minimal information.
  • NUMIDENT Files:
    • Social Security NUMIDENT Files, 1936-2007 (at the National Archives/free to search) "This series contains records for every social security number (SSN) assigned to individuals with a verified death or who would have been over 110 years old by December 31, 2007. There are three type of entries in NUMIDENT: application (SS-5), claim, and death records." (quoted from NARA's website)

      This database includes three items, all text based:
      • Application (SS-5) Files, 1936-2007: These are abbreviated text versions with information extracted from the form the person filled out when they applied for a Social Security Card (SS-5 form). Most of the text-based SS-5 forms in this database should give the names of the individual's parents and place and date of birth. Some information on an actual SS-5, such as address and employer, is not included. You will not find everyone who is in the SSDI in this applications database or the claim files listed below.
      • Death Files, 1936-2007: Similar to the online SSDIs, but with fewer entries.
      • Claim Files, 1936-2007 (partial): These contain brief information about when a person made a claim for Social Security benefits, including death claims. Also see Ancestry's applications and claims index listed above.

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 Freedom of Information Act Request Methods and Fees" webpage 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)...

Online Death Indexes & Records - USA

Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Dist of Columbia | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois
Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana
Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania
Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

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