The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) was one of Ancestry.com’s very first databases. We’ve been adding names to this collection since 1996, and in that time we have listed more than 86 million names in the collection. In fact, we were the first to provide family historians online access to the SSDI, so we realize the importance of this collection. This is why we will now be updating the SSDI every week to add the names of those whose deaths were recently reported to the Social Security Administration.
The SSDI contains only deaths that were reported to the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement Board. So it is possible that Granny is not included. But before concluding that Granny was not, make sure to search the SSDI in several ways. Here are some tips for your search:
- Search with the surname by which she was known at the time of her death.
- If that does not bring up the record, try other surnames that she may have used at various times.
- If you know the year in which she died, try searching by given name, year of death, and year of birth, without including a surname.
- Try searching with initials (many SSDI records do not include the full given name).
- Try using a middle name instead of the first given name.
- Try variant forms of names – for Sarah also try Sally; for Mary also try Molly and Polly.
- Try switching the month and day (for 5 February also check 2 May).
If you have a record that lists the Social Security Number, that can be searched on without needing to enter information in any of the other search boxes. We recently increased the ability to use truncation in searches so try entering just the first few letters of the name and then using an asterisk.
Exactly what each SSDI record contains depends on what information the Social Security Administration provides. Some SSDI records provide the exact date of death while others list only the month and year. In no case do SSDI records list where death occurred because the Social Security Administration does not provide that information. What is commonly thought to be the place of death is instead the last place of residence that was known to the Social Security Administration. This locality might be where the death occurred, but you will need to find other records, such as the person’s state-issued death certificate, to know for sure.
So, if you haven’t already tried searching our SSDI collection – try it today. And keep in mind that this collection will be updated weekly, so it’s worth checking back regularly to see if Granny was included.