U.S. Social Security Death Index

Historical Context: Begun in 1935 by the Social Security Act signed into law by FDR, more than thirty million Americans were registered for the economic security sanctions by 1937. From 1937 to 1940, payments were made in one-lump sums amounts with the first amount being seventeen cents. Following amendments in 1939, the payments turned into monthly benefits and increased. Following further amendments in 1950, cost-of-living increases were awarded to those who were receiving benefits. From 1950 to the present, benefits have increased yearly in response to inflation concerning the costs of living.

Questions Asked:
Social security number
Date of birth
Date of death
State or county of residence (prior to Mar 1988)
ZIP code of last residence,
ZIP code of lump sum payment (Prior to 1939)

Why This Database is Valuable: The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) contains over 80 million records of deaths that have been reported to SSA. This file includes the following information on each decedent, if the data are available to the SSA: social security number, name, date of birth, date of death, state or country of residence (prior to Mar 1988), ZIP code of last residence, and ZIP code of lump sum payment. The SSA does not have a death record for all persons; therefore, SSA does not guarantee the veracity of the file. Thus, the absence of a particular person is not proof this person is alive. The collection is not search-able by SSN.

Also included in the WorldVitalRecords.com version of the SSDI is See Neighbors which is a list of those persons who died during the same year and in the same zip code as the deceased who is being searched. Finally, when a residence at death is included in a listing, a geo-coded Google Map is included with the place where the person died and their nearest cemeteries.

Next Steps: Using the following link, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/foia/html/foia_guide.htm, you have the option of either a computerized extract of the Social Security Application or the original. For direct access to the form for requesting the originals, go to: https://s044a90.ssa.gov/apps7/efoiassa/internet/SSA711.jsp . To purchase the originals (with the Social Security number supplied) the request will cost $27.

Source: Social Security Administration, Death Master File, May 2011 .