United States Social Security Death Index - FamilySearch Historical Records

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

United States

Access the Records
United States Social Security Death Index
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
United States
United states america-flag.png
Flag of the United States of America
US Locator Blank.svg.png
Location of the United States of America
Record Description
Record Type Death
Collection years 1937-2005
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
  • National Technical Information Service Note that the NTIS states the index has records beginning in 1936, this page states 1962. 1962 is the year SSA automated and the record of deaths earlier that should not be considered complete.

What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

The "Social Security Death Index" is a database created from the Social Security Administration's Death Master File. This is an index of deceased individuals whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. It has been kept since 1962, when operations were computerized. The index includes a few deaths from 1937 to 1961, about 50 percent of deceased persons from 1962 to 1971, and about 85 percent of deceased persons from 1972 to 2005.

Married women are usually listed in this index under their married name. Last names longer than 12 letters are shortened to 12 characters. The death place listed is not necessarily the place of death, it is the last place of residence that the Social Security Administration has on file. When two geographical divisions are given they represent County/State as opposed to City/State. For example Jefferson,Texas refers to the county of Jefferson not the City of Jefferson. If a town name of last residence is not listed, it may be found by use of the Zip code. The death date, residence at time of death, Social Security number, and state of issue are usually reliable information since the information comes directly from the Social Security Administration’s master file. However, realize that errors may have occurred when the information was originally entered. Information listed for the name and birth date was provided by an informant and may be inaccurate.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) was created in 1936 and began issuing Social Security numbers to track the earnings that workers reported for retirement benefits. In 1961, the Internal Revenue Service began using Social Security numbers to identify taxpayers. The SSA 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 purpose of this index was twofold: to protect the benefits to beneficiaries of pension funds, insurance benefits, and assist Federal, State and Local governments and others responsible for verifying deceased person(s) in support of fulfillment of benefits to their beneficiaries; and to identify and prevent identity fraud, and identify persons who are deceased. In 2014 Federal legislation changed the rules for access to the Social Security Death Master File. Records for the most recent 3 years are not available. This collection was last updated in 2016.

The follow is a disclaimer from National Technical Information Service.

"The products advertised on this website contain the complete and official Social Security Administration (SSA) database extract, as well as updates to the full file of persons reported to SSA as being deceased. SSA authorizes the use of this database as a death verification tool, but notes that the Death Master File (DMF) may contain inaccuracies. Thus, SSA cannot guarantee the accuracy of the DMF. Therefore, the absence of a particular person on this file is not proof that the individual is alive. Further, in rare instances it is possible for the records of a person who is not deceased to be included erroneously in the DMF."

For additional information about the index please visit the National Technical Information Service's page Limited Access Death Master File.

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images. For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The following information may be found in these records:

  • Name of the deceased (Married women are usually listed by their married name.)
  • Birth date
  • Death date
  • State or territory where the Social Security number was issued
  • Death residence, zip code and corresponding localities

The death residence is the last place of residence that the Social Security Administration has on file. It is not necessarily the place where the death occured.

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample of indexed information:

Field Value
Age 91
Given Name John
Surname Smith
Birth Date 19 May 1894
State Nebraska
Event Date Mar 1964

How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]

To search the index it is helpful to know:

  • The name of your deceased ancestor
  • The place where your ancestor died
  • The approximate date of the death

Search the Index[edit | edit source]

Search by name on the Collection Details Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes in the Search Collection section with the information you know
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Add any new information to your records
  • The death date and place may help you obtain a death certificate which may lead you to additional records
  • The birth date or age along with the place of birth to find your ancestor’s birth records and parents' names
  • If your ancestor was born before 1940 you can use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records
  • When 2 geographical divisions are given they represent County/State as opposed to City/State. For example Jefferson, Texas refers to the county of Jefferson not the city of Jefferson
  • Use the Zip Code of last residence to determine the place of residence
  • The index only includes the names of deceased individuals whose deaths were reported to Social Security
  • Surnames longer than 12 letters are truncated to 12 characters. You may need to retry your search using only the first 12 letters of the name

I Can't Find the Person I'm Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Look for variant spellings of the names
  • Try searching by surname only
  • Married women are usually listed under their married names
  • If a woman was married multiple times search using the surnames of all husbands

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the United States.

Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation can be viewed by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Document Information.