One of the top collections of records that everyone should check when researching family history is the United States Social Security Death Index. This index is freely available at FamilySearch.org. It is the fourth most searched collection on the FamilySearch.org website.
The Social Security Death Index is helpful for those starting out with their own family history research because it lists the month and year of birth as well as the town and state where individuals lived when they received their last Social Security benefit check. It also gives a death date for individuals who lived in the United States since 1962 whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. If you have an approximate date and place of death for someone, this collection could help you find a birth date for that person and see where he or she lived when the person first signed up with the Social Security Administration.
According to the FamilySearch.org wiki, the Social Security Death Index is a “master index file of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration. It has been kept since 1962, when operations were computerized. The index includes about 50 percent of deceased persons from 1962 to 1971 and about 85 percent of deceased persons from 1972 to 2005. It also includes a few deaths from 1937 to 1961. [It is] current as of September 30, 2012.
“The Social Security Administration provides an extract from its file for distribution through the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service. Because this extracted file deals with deceased persons, the information is considered to be in the public domain. Several organizations have purchased this file and posted it to their websites.”
The Mocavo Genealogy Blog highlights how the Social Security Index can be helpful: “One of the major starting points for genealogical research is the Social Security Death Index. Used by the Social Security Administration for coordinating benefits, the SSDI contains a wealth of information about your family members who have died in the last forty years, including their first name, last name, age, address, and more.”
The SSDI typically has the following information on deceased individuals:
- The name of the individual
- The birth date
- The Social Security number
- In some cases, the state where the number was issued
- The date of the death.
- The place and zip code of the person’s last place of residence, which is usually at or near where the person died.
With all this information, the Social Security Death Index is especially helpful in finding key clues and bits of vital information for those relatives who have died in the past half century. Extensive use of this collection has placed the United States Social Security Death Index in a solid fourth place in our list of top 10 most searched collections on FamilySearch.org. You can search the Social Security Death Index for free at FamilySearch.org by clicking the United States Social Security Index link.
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