Posted by Juliana Szucs on July 24, 2015 in Collections, Website

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) was among the first collections posted on Ancestry when the website first began adding content back in 1996. Since then, it has been a boon to researchers looking for 20th-century ancestors and those doing descendancy, heirship, and other types of forensic genealogical research.

Once you locate an ancestor in the SSDI, you can get even more details and a glimpse at your ancestor’s autograph by requesting the SS-5 form, which is the application they filled out for to request a Social Security number. The SS-5 gives the applicant’s name, address at the time of the application, employer’s name and address, full birth date and place, gender, race, parents’ names, and signature. Below is my grandfather’s SS-5.

SS-5 application for John Szucs, Jr.
SS-5 application for John Szucs, Jr.

The downside? It costs $27 and it takes time: they suggest allowing 4-6 weeks for delivery. (Information on requesting an SS-5 can be found here.)

For 49 million people whose records were extracted by the Social Security Administration (SSA), some of these details can now be found on Ancestry. In Ancestry’s exclusive new collection U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, you’ll find information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birthplace, and parents’ names. While not everyone found in the SSDI is included in this collection, you may find some people in this collection that are not in the SSDI.

My great-grandfather does not appear in the SSDI (most likely because his death was not reported to the SSA), but there is an extract from a life claim he made in 1948.

1948SSClaim_JohnSzucs

While his record only lists his birthplace as Hungary, this record for a different John Szucs gives the town name and his parents’ names.

20150723JohnFrank

While the contents of the extract will vary from person to person, this is a fantastic resource for 20th-century research, and you don’t have to wait 4-6 weeks for results. Dive in and start searching for your family now.

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.

34 Comments

  1. Ernie Mabrey

    This new collection on ancestry,com is a godsend – because of it, I was able to break thru a years-old brick wall researching my partner’s father’s side. Because he was a foster child and also because his father changed his name, we couldn’t confirm one way or the other if someone in the collections that we suspected was his biological father was really his father. But this new database showed us the history of this guy’s name changes and we confirmed that the person in the SSDI was really my partner’s father.

  2. Linda Flake

    That’s great news Ernie Mabrey! I think this new collection is a great addition to Ancestry.com.

  3. Keith

    I have a question. While there is a lot of information it seems a lot of records are missing (for example i was unable to find absolutely relations born in the 1880s and 1890s who died in the 1970s and almost certainly applied for social security). Since these records were extracted by SSI, is there any way to know what was left out and whether it will eventually be extracted. Thanks, Keith

  4. I was excited to read this information about SSDI. For years my husband and I have been trying to find out about his greatgrandfather. He was born in Dec 1880 and was out of the house and gone from his parents by 1900 I’ve been doing family history for at least 30 years but, this was a large stumbling block. Thanks for the info!.

  5. Joe

    It would be a lot more useful if the data result list from a search could be field sorted! Ancestry UI leaves a lot to be desired.

  6. mary

    Love the SS Application site, however, nowhere does it explain the difference between “Life Claim” and “Original SSN”.

  7. Terri Musto

    Yes,, please explain the category called ” life claim”. Is it a claim by the person holding the social security number or by that person’s heirs?

  8. BEE

    This addition to ancestry has been very helpful and the kind of information we need, but I was disappointed to find a “claim” without names of parents, or no information at all on someone. I hope they continue to update it. When I first joined ancestry, you could print out a request for a copy of the original application for $6 or $7. I found the grandson of my father’s uncle in this way and shared years of family history with him. I would also save up and send for a copy of the original SS application after they raised the cost to $27 as I researched other names. I would be willing to do it again, but the last time I did that two years ago, for my $27, I received a copy of the document with the names of the parents whited out! I was told that I needed proof this man’s parents were deceased! He was 76 when he died! If I had such proof, I most likely would have known their names, besides the fact his father would have been about 108, and his mother 102! Luckily, his daughter was searching for information, so I contacted her through ancestry. She knew the name of one grandparent, and that helped me do a great deal of research for her. Now those names appear on this site. So I would like to know – is the SS Administration sending out copies of the original applications with the names of parents or will they still be whited out??

  9. berrytree18

    Great new database, however, as other members have pointed out, it is a significant (and frustrating) oversight on the part of Ancestry.com to fail to explain the term “Life Claim”. Without explaining such, we are unable to understand the significance of the date that the “Life Claim” was filed. Please add this information. Thank you.

  10. Juliana Szucs

    For those of you wondering about life claims, those would be a claim that was made for Social Security during one’s lifetime. My great-grandfather’s claim was made in 1948 at age 69, but he didn’t die until 1955. You may also find records in this collection for death claims, or like the one for John Frank Szucs in the article above, where the extraction is from his original SS application.

  11. CK

    Is this correct?

    Death Claim = claim made for a person’s death benefits by a surviving family member (date filed will always be after the person’s death)

    Orig SSN = application made by a person to get a SS Number (date files is when they filed for the number)

    Life Claim = a claim made by someone who has a SS number for their retirement benefits (date will always be before they died)

  12. BEE

    what about sending for a copy of original application? I assume you can no longer generate a letter from ancestry, but someone should know if a copy can be had with names of parents.

  13. BEE

    Some answers please. I did find the information about the “120 year rule”, but the two people I’m looking for names of parents would be older than that themselves. You can order these documents online! It’s not something I do, but I’m so desperate, I’ll make an exception, although I did find a form online. I only need the names of parents. I now have SS numbers from the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, so my question is this: will the names of parents – if on the original document, appear on the $16 “Computer Extract of Social Security Card Application”? I have tried to find this information online, but I just don’t find the explanation.

  14. Robert E. Doherty

    What do the notes mean? Life Claim made in 1946, notes state 19 Mar 1976: Name listed as Christopher S. Minton. Does this mean he was alive in 1976. He is not listed in the SSDI.

  15. Jean

    So, I can only request a copy of the original SSN application; not a life claim, death claim, or any of the other records listed in the index?

  16. Audrey

    Very frustrating experience. Of the 9 ancestors I searched for, I only found one! Even when I put in their Social Security numbers — nothing!

  17. BEE

    I hope Juliana will be able to answer our questions soon?
    In a couple of instances when searching a small town, I didn’t put in any names, just the town. That way I was able to go through all the names that were there.

  18. RP

    I see a “Death Claim” application for my ancestor and it lists his SSN. Does this mean that there has to be an “Orig SSN” and/or “Life Claim” as well if he already had a SSN issued? I wonder if I order the Death Claim, if it would include all claims? Thank you!

  19. BEE

    I want to order, I just don’t know what to order.
    Will I get the names of parents on the $16 “Computer Extract of Social Security Card Application”?

  20. Jean

    Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, covers this in a recent blog posting and a very good comment section. She wrote: Judy G. Russell says:
    July 29, 2015 at 2:44 pm
    The Freedom of Information Act web page at the Social Security Administration suggests that you can ask for more than just the SS-5 (application for a SSN) but that it will cost you: $16 an hour for some searches, $33 an hour for those that require a higher-level government employee, and $59 an hour once a supervisor has to get involved.
    You can find more information in her post, http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/

  21. BEE

    This is a wonderful source of information, but please Julianna, explain what we get for the $16 “Computer Extract of Social Security Card Application”. I know what I would get for the $27, as I sent for many over the years until I got the one with whited out parents’ names a few years ago.

    • Juliana Szucs

      I have not ordered a computer extract, but I have heard of instances where it contains additional information, such as name changes. It would depend largely from that person’s interactions with SSA.

  22. Juliana Szucs

    As the description states, “you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database,” but you may find some people who are not in SSDI in this collection, allowing you to request the SS-5 for persons who have previously eluded you in SS records. For more on why you may not be finding someone in the collection, see that section of the description. Ancestry does not anticipate any new additions to the collection.

    Information on requesting additional records from SSA can be found here. For my family, I am requesting a copy of the SS-5 for $27. I believe it will be my best chance of getting the most complete information. And since a copy of the application is an original source, as opposed to the computer extract which is a derivative source, and introduces the possibility of additional error, I put more trust in the copy of SS-5.

  23. Darrell Brown

    Thanks. This database provides helpful info on people missing from the SSDI. It would be more helpful if it revealed the location of the beneficiary making a life claim. Thanks.

  24. Judy

    Hi, Just was ‘introduced’ to this database this a.m. where I found 2 entries for an Ethel King:
    King Ethel Eliza; SSN: 533284279; Female; White; Birth Date: 13 Nov 1883; Birth Place: Keystone Chi, Wisconsin; Father Name: Thomas King; Mother Name: Eliza A Kelly; Disability Status: Disability established – no record of type; Type of Claim: Original SSN; Notes: Aug 1947: Name listed as ETHEL ELIZA KING

    King Ethel Eliza; SSN: 532266102; Female; White; Birth Date: 13 Nov 1883; Birth Place: Chippens, Wisconsin; Father Name: Thomas King; Mother Name: Eliza A Kelly; Type of Claim: Original SSN; Notes: 14 Dec 1983: Name listed as ETHEL ELIZA KING

    So I know both entries are MY Ethel, but what do these tell me about a death date? She is NOT listed in the SSDI.

    Thanks for your help!

  25. CRYSTAL

    Bee- I sent of for my great grandmothers SS5 a few months ago, I suggest not doing it online. I would say pay the $27 for the original! I ordered mine online, she would be 120 in September, I provided a ssn and all I got back after 6 weeks of waiting was a computer print out that had less info on it than what I gave them on the request! so I made a copy of the death cert to prove she was passed and her parents would be over 100 years old, and wrote a $27 check and requested a copy of the original application. it will be well worth the money, I hope! they won’t release parent info unless your ancestor is over 120 years old or you can prove you ancestor has passed and the parents would be over 100 years old. I hope this helps

  26. Stephen Best

    I think I understand that “life claim” is when first benefits were requested. But what is the significance of “Name listed as”?

  27. BEE

    Crystal, just your saw your post. I actually ordered three documents online. The first one took the whole month to arrive, but what a thrill to see the names of this man and finally know after all these years his connection to the family. I then ordered two more on the 21st, and much to my delight, one showed up today! It was for my grandfather who died many years ago. What a surprise to find out he had applied for a ss card. I didn’t have the number, so I had to pay $29. I already knew the names of his parents, but I was hoping to see my mother’s name on it next to “his mark”. Instead, I think the two names on the application were people in the ss office. I wish I had asked for my money back when I got the one with the whited out names two years ago, especially since they now appear on the ancestry site, even though they aren’t over that 120 mark. Anyway, I am so pleased with this information. I hope the next one comes soon and has the information I want. Well worth the cost to this “hobby” {obsession?} of mine!

  28. Linda J Barnes

    Hi Juliana, Still a little confused about the term “Life Claim”. On the Ancestry SS Applications and Claims Index it shows this for an ancestor:

    Name: Clyde Loudon Landis
    Birth Date: 4 Oct 1891
    Claim Date: 14 Jun 1938
    Type of Claim: Life Claim

    BUT Clyde Landis died 15 Feb 1937 in a car accident that is well documented. So does the 14 June 1938 Claim Date reflect the date his widow filed a claim? Sorry but I am still not clear about this! Any guidance would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!

  29. KIM

    What does the date in the notes represent?
    Birth Date
    16 Feb 1880
    Birth Place
    Sparta, Tennessee
    Claim Date
    4 May 1948
    Type of Claim
    Life Claim
    Notes
    05 Jan 1977: Name listed as JOE P ROGERS

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