Social Security Death Records
by Natalie D. Cottrill
The Social Security Death Records Index (SSDI) includes most deceased individuals who died after 1962 and who also owned a Social Security number. The SSDI lists the deceased's name, their Social Security number (SSN), date of birth, date of death, state where the SSN was issued, ZIP code of the last residence, and ZIP code of where the death benefit was sent.
The Social Security Administration has records in the death index from about 1962 when the reporting process became automated. The SSDI is a useful tool for genealogists in that it often provides the deceased's exact birth and death dates and the geographic region in which the individual died (see an example). If you find a Social Security death record entry for individual in the SSDI, you may write to the Social Security Administration to obtain information from the deceased's Social Security application file. The cost for the full application (also called an SS5 form) is currently $27.00.
Social Security Administration
Office of Earnings Operations
300 N. Greene Street
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, Maryland 21290
If you know that a deceased individual had a Social Security number, but you cannot find reference to them in the SSDI, there are several reasons to explain this situation:
- It may be that the deceased's death was not reported to the SSA or, the information regarding the deceased's death was reported incorrectly.
- It may be the case, too, that the individual's last name was misspelled or a middle given name was used as the primary given name. In searching the SSDI, you may want to try a Soundex search (searches for a similar sounding name) or try using the deceased's middle name(s).
- Some railroad employees' pensions handled their social security payments and these pensioners may not appear in the SSDI.
You can find the Social Security death records index (SSDI) in various places on the Internet. Wherever you search, make sure that you use all features of their 'enhanced' or 'advanced' search forms in order to find your ancestor!
In the SSDI, you may find various codes associated with a death entry. We have a list of State Codes posted on our site.
by Brian Bonner Mavrogeorge
There is an article written by Brian Mavrogeorge, that describes in detail some of the aspects of the Social Security Death Index. That article was previously published by RootsWeb Genealogical Data Cooperative, RootsWeb Review, in Vol. 1, No. 23, 18 November 1998. You may visit RootsWeb's main Web page at http://www.rootsweb.com. There is more information about the SSDI here.
Regarding the SSDI article in Vol. 1, No. 23, there is another reason why a person might not be in the SSDI.
Both my parents had worked for firms where they paid into FICA. However, their last and longest jobs were with the railroad from which they retired. They started to receive two monthly retirement checks, but after some time their Social Security benefits were transferred to the Railroad Retirement Board in Chicago. They then received a single check until their passing. And their names do not appear on the SSDI. I do not know how common this is nor if the Railroad Retirement Board has a list similar to the SSDI. John Burfiend.
[Editors' Note: If a person worked for a railroad after 1936 he might have qualified for a pension from the Railroad Retirement Board in lieu of Social Security. That's why researchers don't find those ancestors in the SSDI. Most of the RR employees' Social Security numbers begin with the digits 700 through 729. Researchers can write to: Railroad Retirement Board, 844 Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611.]
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Written by Editors: Julia M. Case & Myra Vanderpool Gormley. Previously published by RootsWeb Genealogical Data Cooperative, RootsWeb Review, Vol. 1, No. 24, 25 November 1998. You may visit RootsWeb's main Web page at http://www.rootsweb.com.