Social Security Death Index
||It has been suggested that this article be merged with Death Master File. (Discuss) Proposed since January 2013.|
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of death records created from the United States Social Security Administration's Death Master File Extract. Most persons who have died since 1936 who had a Social Security Number (SSN) and whose death has been reported to the Social Security Administration are listed in the SSDI. For most years since 1973, the SSDI includes 93 percent to 96 percent of deaths of individuals aged 65 or older. It is frequently updated; the version of June 22, 2011 contained 89,835,920 records.
Unlike the Death Master File, the SSDI is available free from several genealogy websites. The SSDI is a popular tool for genealogists and biographers because it contains valuable genealogical data. It is also useful for medical research such as clinical trials and epidemiology, because where survival data is missing from medical records (for reasons such as loss to follow-up), the SSDI can be used to backfill it.
Social Security Death Index data
The data include:
- Given name and surname; and since the 1990s, middle initial
- Date of birth
- Month and year of death; or full date of death for accounts active in 2000 or later
- Social Security number
- State or territory where the Social Security number was issued
- Last place of residence while the person was alive (ZIP code)
Once a deceased person is found in the database, the person's application for Social Security card (Form SS-5) can be ordered from the Social Security Administration. The SS-5 may contain additional genealogical data, such as birthplace, father's name, and mother's full maiden name or that information may be blacked out.
Given the growing problem of identity theft and the importance of the Social Security number as a personal identifier in the United States, it might seem unusual that these identifiers are released publicly. However, because the documents held by the Social Security Administration are government records, it is required to make the information public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In fact, the Death Master File is used to prevent fraud so that no one can steal the identity of a dead person, and take out a credit card or a bank loan in a dead person's name.
A recent government audit revealed that the Social Security Administration had incorrectly listed 23,000 people as dead in a two-year period. These people have sometimes faced difficulties in convincing government agencies that they are actually alive; a 2008 story in the Nashville area focused on a woman who was incorrectly flagged as dead in the Social Security computers in 2000 and has had difficulties, such as having health insurance canceled and electronically filed tax returns rejected. This story also noted that people in this situation can be highly vulnerable to identity theft because of the release of their Social Security numbers.
On December 18, 2011 Ancestry.com, changed access to the SSDI by moving the SSDI search behind a paywall, and stopped displaying the Social Security information of people who had died within the past 10 years. Some of the originally-free information is now available via paid subscription only.
In March 2012, the entire Death Master File, edition of November 30, 2011 was made available for download.
- Specific references
- "Social Security Administration's Death Master File". National Technical Information Service. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- Mark E. Hill and Ira Rosenwaike, "The Social Security Administration’s Death Master File: The Completeness of Death Reporting at Older Ages", Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 1 (2001/2002), p. 45.
- "Social Security Death Index Interactive Search". RootsWeb. (subscription required)
- Amons, Nancy (2008-02-20). "Government Still Declares Living Woman Dead". WSMV.com. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
- Sterman, Joce (2011-12-14). "Website stops displaying Social Security numbers for recently dead". Baltimore: ABC2. Retrieved 2011-12-21.
- Other sources
- U.S. Social Security Administration - Is SSA's Death Master File available online?
- U.S. Social Security Administration - Acquiring Records from Social Security for Genealogical Research
- Social Security Death Index Search
- U.S. Social Security Death Index Tutorial from Rootsweb.com (no free search)
- U.S. Social Security Death Index search at Family Tree Legends
- U.S. Social Security Death Index search at familysearch.org
- U.S. Social Security Death Index - free search at mocavo.com
- U.S. Social Security Death Index search at New England Historical Genealogical Society (requires free registration to do searches)
- SSDMF.INFO - information is sorted by birthdate and then given name (to find people whose legal last name has changed); entire database is downloadable