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Using the Social Security Death Index

Thank you to Rootsweb for this SSDI search!  Their portal to the SSDI  search engine can be found here.

Last: First:
Social Security No.:

Information that can be obtained from the SSDI:

  • Social Security number
  • state of residence when the number was issued
  • last name
  • first name
  • Soundex code
  • date of birth
  • date of death
  • zip code of the deceased’s last known residence
  • primary location associated with that zip code
By requesting an SS-5 Application, you can obtain the following information about the applicant:
  • name of the father
  • name of the mother
  • birthplace
  • birthdate

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is file of individuals that the U.S. Social Security Administration reports as deceased. It contains over 50 million entries, and can be a good starting point for further genealogy research. Keep in mind that the omission of an individual in this index does not mean the person is still living. It simply means that there was no Social Security death benefit paid out in the name of that person, or that the person is not in the edition of the SSDI currently online.

Social Security was begun in 1937, with some payments being paid as early as 1940. The Social Security Death Index is the computerized index to death benefits paid out starting in 1962. While the SSDI does include a few pre-1962 entries, the majority of those included in this index are from 1962. Other reasons that your ancestor may not be included in the SSDI have to do with their occupation or lack thereof. It was not until 1988 that all children had to have social security numbers. And prior to the 1960s, farmers, housewives, government employees, non-employed individuals and those with a separate retirement plan may not have had a social security number.

If you find a person in this index, you can order a copy of that person's original application for a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration. The “Application for a Social Security Number” is commonly referred to as the SS-5 in genealogical circles. In addition to the SSDI, you may find your ancestor’s social security number in other ways, especially on death certificates. There are times that this can be the only proof you will have for birth information. For instance, those ancestors who were born in the 1860s to 1880s and immigrated to the United States, rarely can you pinpoint their place of birth. On the SS-5 it was required that the applicant supply complete birth information. This means more than just the country of birth, as is found on census and death records.

By finding a person in the SSDI and knowing the individual’s date of death and residence at the time of death, you can discover information that might lead to finding that individual's birth certificate or death certificate, or an obituary.

You may not necessarily find an individual in the SSDI. It’s possible that person did not have a Social Security card (many occupations in the first half of the 1900s did not require Social Security enrollment). An individual may be listed under another name, their name may be spelled differently, or their record may be incorrect in some way. It's also possible that a person’s death was never reported to the Social Security Administration.

State Coordinator: Tina Vickery
Assistant State Coordinator: Marcia Ann Kuehl

Copyright © 1999 - 2015 Kelly Mullins and the WIGenWeb Project
Special thanks to Vicki Wilson, Wisconsin's previous State Coordinator.

WIGenWeb Project logo created by Debbie Barrett

Information last updated on 13 Nov 2009.
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This page is a collaborative effort. If you have any ideas or questions,
please contact the State Coordinator, Tina Vickery.