Searching the Social Security Death Index

 

 

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Searching the Social Security Death Index

We all know death and taxes are inevitable facts of life. The Social Security Administration maintains a master index of reported deaths. This index was computerized in 1962 so if the individual died prior to that, they may not be included. Nor will people who died without a Social Security Number. If a person is not listed in the death index, this doesnít necessarily mean they are still amongst the living, it merely means their death has not been reported to the Social Security Administration.

There are numerous reasons to search the Social Security Death Index, one of which is identity theft prevention and another is genealogical research. Information found here verifies that a Social Security Number hasnít been stolen from a dead person. Financial organizations, pension funds, and government agencies can verify that the person they are sending checks to isnít dead. For genealogy buffs, the Social Security Death Index also provides clues for learning about ancestors including date of birth, date of death and more.

The Social Security Administration makes the database available online to organizations that must pay for a subscription. This database is updated regularly and contains over 65 million reported deaths. You can find many internet websites that will allow you to search the Social Security Death Index, some for a fee, others for free.

One free website for searching the index is www.rootsweb.com. You can find information by filling out a simple form with as little or as much information as you have. The simplified form here asks for first name, last name, middle name and Social Security Number. If you only know the first and last name, thatís fine, go ahead and enter it and numerous results will be displayed.

By clicking on the advanced search button you can enter further data such as last residence information by state, city or even zip code. You can also enter date of birth or date of death if known.

Once youíve found the personís record, you can click a link to generate a letter requesting the personís application for a Social Security card (Form SS-5: Social Security Number Record Third Party Request for Photocopy) or search Ancestry.com for more information using a free trial or a paid subscription.

For privacy reasons, the copy of the application for a Social Security card may have the personís parents names blacked out. If you can provide proof of the parents deaths, you can receive a copy without their names blacked out.

Remember that the deaths listed in the Social Security Death Index are limited. Not everyone who has received a SSN and has died will be listed. Common reasons for this include but are not limited to the following reasons:
ē The death occurred before computerization in 1962.
ē The death was never reported to Social Security.
ē The person didnít participate in Social Security.
ē Survivor death benefits may still be going to a surviving spouse or dependents.
ē Human error, typos, mixed up dates, transposed numbers, misinterpreted data etc.

If you havenít found the person in the Social Security Death Index, you can write to the Social Security Administration for assistance by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and asking for a copy of the personís application for a Social Security card. Be sure to enclose fees of $27 for a record where the SSN is known or $29 for a record where the SSN is unknown and request
Social Security Administration
OEO FOIA Workgroup
300 N. Green Street
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022

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