OBTAINING A COPY OF A DECEASED PERSON'S
"SS-5, APPLICATION FOR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD"
(see SSDI information at the bottom of the page)
Social Security Administration
Office of Central Records Operations
P.O. Box 17772
300 N. Greene Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21290
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request
Dear Freedom of Information Officer,
I am writing this request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. Section 552. I hereby request the Social Security File (including the SS-5, Application for Social Security Card) for the following individual(s):
(Name(s) you are seeking)
(SSN from SSDI)
Birth: (date from SSDI)
Death: (date from SSDI)
This individual is deceased, having been listed in the Social Security Administration's Death Master File. I understand the fee for this service is $27.00 when the Social Security Number is provided ($29 when it is not). Included is a check for $______ made out to the Social Security Administration to cover any administrative costs required by this request. Barring "unusual circumstances," please respond to my request within ten working days of the receipt of this initial correspondence. Thank you for your attention and assistance.
Daytime Phone Number:
Making a Social Security Check? Keep this in mind....
1. There is a $27 charge for searching for a copy of a deceased persons' application when the social security number is provided and a $29.00 charge when the number is unknown, but the individual's full name, date and place of birth, and both parents' names (including mother's maiden name) can be provided. These fees are non-refundable even if they are unable to locate or disclose any information.
2. The SSA began keeping records in 1936, so there are no records for those who died before that time, and they do not search for people born before 1865.
3. Records are confidential and are not released unless the person is deceased, (include a copy of the death certificate with your request) or the SSA has the person's consent to release records.
4. "A deceased individual does not have any privacy rights; therefore, if an individual has applied for a Social Security number we can generally provide a copy of the Application for a Social Security Number (Form SS-5)."
5. Finally, due to a backlog of requests, it takes 6-8 weeks to receive a copy of the SS-5.
From The Source: A Guidebook of American Edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking
Social Security Death Index
by Kathleen W. Hinckley
The Social Security Death Index from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the SSA has been made available through the Freedom of Information Act. Rights of privacy do not apply because the index includes only deceased persons.
The percentage of individuals included in the Death Master File varies greatly by age groups. The under-age-forty-five group increases from approximately ten percent in 1962 to fifty-eight percent in 1977 but now stands at around thirty-six percent. For the age forty-five-to-sixty-five group there is a more dramatic rise from twenty-four percent in the early 1960s to almost one hundred percent in the late 1970s; this has since declined to around fifty percent. The percentages for the two older groups are much more stable: the sixty-five-to-eighty-four group increases from forty-four percent in the early 1960s to almost one hundred percent from 1975 to 1985 but has since fallen to around ninety-two percent. The oldest age group follows the same pattern, increasing from thirty to ninety percent and then back down to seventy-eight percent.
The year 1962 was a watershed for the availability of data on electronic media. The number of 1962 deaths on the Death Master File increased three-fold from the previous year. The next major increase occurred in 1966, when the Freedom of Information Act was enacted. The improvement in the percentage of data included from 1966 to 1980 may be attributable to increased computerization and the inclusion of other vital statistics sources. The reversal of this trend in 1981 is the result of restricting the $255 death payment to spouses and dependent children only. There is no apparent reason for the sudden, one-time drop in 1987. The tapering off of the percentage included in the last few years is mainly in the lower ages and is most likely attributable to the stricter qualifications for disability benefits.
The Family History Library and most of its branches have this index on CD-ROM as part of FamilySearch TM.
The Social Security Death Index will report the name of the deceased (middle name or initials not included), birth date, Social Security number, state where the Social Security number was obtained, month and year of death, state of residence and zip code at death, and state and zip code where the death benefit was sent.
The Social Security Death Index:
- Is not a complete death index. If a person is not included in this index, it may be because a Social Security number was never issued; the survivors may not have reported the death to the SSA; the death may have been reported before computerization began; or the information was simply not included.
- Does not give birth places. It gives the state of issuance of the Social Security number, which is often different from the residence at birth.
- Is a research tool-not a source for genealogical data. It is important to follow up on the information given in the index and prove the identity of the individual. Persons who share identical birth dates, names, and residences do exist.
Beginning in the 1970s, the SSA's paper files were converted into a computer database. The original application forms were microfilmed and then destroyed. The database includes only five of the sixteen questions asked on the original form. Therefore, request a microprint from the microfilmed original rather than a computer printout from the database. (The printout for a remarried widow, however, gives both surnames, and this is not on the original application; therefore, it is best to request both the microprint and the printout in such cases.)
When there is a claim file, request all documents, such as birth certificate, alien registration card, or naturalization record. Documents exist if a lump sum file was sent. Unfortunately, documents are usually destroyed five years after death.
SHAKING YOUR FAMILY TREE: "UTILIZING SOCIAL SECURITY DEATH INDEX"
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley, C.G.
One of the largest and easiest to access databases used for genealogical research is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). Its information can be utilized to help you learn more about your ancestors.
Clues and facts from the SSDI often can further genealogical research by enabling you to locate a death certificate, find an obituary, discover cemetery records and track down probate records. However, do not assume that the state in which the number was issued is the state of birth. The place of death is not shown in the SSDI, although some show place of residence at the time of death or the place where last benefits were paid, but that does not necessarily mean that is where the person died.
The SSDI does not include the names of everyone, even if they had a Social Security number. If relatives or the funeral home did not report the death to the Social Security Administration, or if the individual died before 1962 (when the records were computerized), then they will not appear in this database.
Social Security was instituted in 1937 when the payroll tax (FICA) withholding began. Enrollment actually began in 1936 when the first numbers were assigned to cover workers, but payment of benefits did not commence until 1940. People relied heavily upon the 1880 and 1900 federal census to obtain proof of their births (that's why these enumerations were Soundexed-a special index based on sound rather than spelling of a surname). Many delayed birth certificates were filed in order to prove age for Social Security purposes.
The SSDI is available on CD-ROM at LDS (Mormon) Family History Centers throughout the country, and some genealogy software programs include it on CDs. You also can search the SSDI (free) online at: http://www.ancestry.com/ssdi/advanced.htm
To obtain a copy of the original form that your ancestor filled out for a Social Security number, send $7 ($16.50 if you do not know the number) along with the identifying information to:
Social Security Administration
Office of Central Records Operations
P.O. Box 17772
300 N. Greene Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21290.
Railroad workers were enrolled in the same Social Security program, but from 1937 to 1963 they had numbers ranging between 700 and 728 as the first three digits. In 1964 their numbers began to reflect the same geographic location as other workers. Some railroad workers received Social Security benefits, but some did not. However, it is wise to check the SSDI in any case.
The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board was created in the 1930s, and has records dating back to 1937, but they exist only for those whose employers were covered under the Railroad Retirement Act. You can obtain information about deceased individuals for genealogical purposes. The records are arranged by Social Security number. If you do not know the number, provide as much identifying information as you have. There is a $16 nonrefundable fee for a search in these records. Send request, along with check or money order, to:
Railroad Retirement Board
844 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611-2092
Visit the Social Security Administration Web site at: http://www.ssa.gov/
The Social Security Administration's guide to FOIA requests (such as, requesting Form SS-5) is at: http://www.ssa.gov/foia/foia_guide.htm
The SS-5 Form is used to apply for a Social Security Card.
Genealogists should request a copy of the SS-5 form for every deceased ancestor and relative that applied for a Social Security Number. Even though a decedent may not be listed in the SSDI, there may be very likely be an SS-5 form on file for them. The form will provide valulable genealogical information, including:
first, middle, and last name of the applicant
street address, post office, and state of residence
business name and address of their employer
date of birth, present age, and place of birth
father's full name
mother's full maiden name
For more information about the SS-5 Form and instructions for filling out a form, please visit the SS-5 History Page.
How to Request a Copy of the SS-5 Form
Submit a written letter requesting a copy of the "SS-5 Form" to the Social Security Administration. Such requests are officially classified as a "Freedom of Information Act" (FOIA) request, and as such, must be submitted in writing, on paper, and with your signature. For additional information, visit the Social Security Administration's Guide to FOIA Requests.
At the top of the letter write, "Freedom of Information Request".
State a simple request such as, "As provided under the Freedom of Information Act, please send me an archived copy of the SS-5 Form (Application for Social Security Number) submitted by my deceased grandfather Harold William" Anderson
Note: it is recommended to state your relation to the applicant, as suggested in the above example.
If possible, provide additional information, including the applicant's date of birth and place of birth.
Provide your name and return address on the letter itself. Include your day time phone number and e-mail address.
In addition to the written letter of request, don't forget to include a personal check to cover costs (see below)
Do NOT include a return envelope
On the envelope, write the following below the address: "Freedom of Information Request".
Submit the letter with payment to:
Social Security Administration
OEO FOIA Workgroup
300 N. Green Street
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022
Costs for Requesting a Copy of the SS-5 Form:
$27.00 if you provide them with the applicant's Social Security Number (check SSA's web site for the current fee)
$29.00 if you do not provide them with the applicant's Social Security Number
Make your check payable to "Social Security Administration"
The Social Security Administration was created by an act of law in 1935 as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal program. The act laid out a retirement system for many Americans, although not all. The act also created a new governmental agency to manage the program. In the following 69 years, the Social Security Administration has become one of the largest agencies in the federal government.
The Social Security Administration started computerizing records in 1962. This made it possible to produce an index of people who had Social Security numbers and are deceased. The information in the Social Security Death Index for people who died prior to 1962 is sketchy since SSA's death information was not automated before that date. Persons who died before 1962 are rarely listed in the SSDI. Some of the online Web sites advertise that the data they possess will contain information about deaths "as early as 1937," but that claim is a bit misleading; 99.9% of the information is for 1962 and later.
Initially, the Social Security Administration only recorded the deaths of individuals who were receiving retirement benefits from the Administration. Those who died before reaching retirement age were not listed. Neither were those who had different retirement systems, such as railroad workers, school teachers, and other municipal, state, and federal employees. In the 1970s the railroad and many other retirement systems were merged into the Social Security system. Deaths of those retirees then started appearing in the SSDI.
In the late 1980s and after, all deaths in the U.S. were reported to the Social Security Administration and recorded in the SSDI. You can find deaths of children and non-retired adults listed for the 1990s, but not for earlier years.
Because legal aliens in the U.S. can obtain a Social Security card, their names may appear in the SSDI if their deaths were reported, even if the death occurred overseas.
The online SSDI databases contain the following information fields:
Social Security number
Date of Death
Date of Birth
Last Known Residence
Location of Last Benefit
Date and Place of Issuance
You can access the Social Security Death Index at no charge at: