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Guide to The Social Security Death Index

by T Deno on 29/02/12 at 2:16 pm

Find information about your family history by using the SSDI.

For those who have American ancestors that lived and worked in the 20th century, the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a vital database for finding more information about an individual. The SSDI contains more than 77 million people indexed by the United State Social Security Administration (SSA). To be included in this index, the death must have been reported to the SSA. The vast majority of the information included in this index dates from 1962 (due to computerization of the data), though some persons in the index have information dating back as far as 1937. If your ancestor also worked and retired from the railroad, those records have also been included in the Social Security Death Index.

Information Available

If you can find a relative listed in the Social Security Death Index, there are a few key pieces of information you can learn about them. The information provided for each person will include first and last name (information most likely to be used in the initial search), birth date, date of death, Social Security number, state where the Social Security number was issued and last known residence/location of the person. Those dying outside of the United States may have special residence codes listed as well. And if there is a V located on the listing, it means that a family member has contact the SSA to verify the person has died.

Searching the Index

The majority of family researchers will begin searching the SSDI with the first and last name of the person in question. If an ancestor has a very common name, such as John Smith, your search could return thousands of results. In this case, it is helpful to know at least one of any of the other facts provided in the index for an individual. The fastest way to get the listing of the right person without having to wade through a bunch of results is to know the person’s Social Security number.

Additional Tips for Finding Ancestors

  • Make sure you are aware of the ancestors full name. The SSDI does not list middle names (only initials if provided) even if that is what the person went by.
  • Use a soundex search if you are unaware of the spelling of an ancestor’s name.
  • A majority of women listed in the index will be listed under their husband’s last name, not their maiden name. For those who had multiple husbands, it is a good idea to check all last names used.
  • If you cannot find your ancestor, they may not be in the index for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include not having a Social Security card, the death not being reported to the SSA, records prior to 1962 were most likely not added to the index.
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