The Social Security Act passed in 1935 and the first Social Security numbers were issued in Nov. 1936. However, the computer database file known as Social Security Death Index (SSDI) was not started until 1962. From 1936 to 1962, the Social Security Administration (SSA) kept its records in paper or microfilm files.
Contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, the survivors' applying for the lump sum death benefit is not a requirement for the decedent to appear in the SSDI. Anyone with a Social Security number, whose death was reported to the SSA from 1962 to the present, can appear in the SSDI.
However, if a person died before 1962, but his or her Social Security account was still active when the SSDI was created in 1962 - such as paying out benefits to surviving minors – he or she may still appear in the SSDI. You might be surprised how many pre-1962 deaths are included:
Regardless of whether a person's death was recorded in the SSDI, if that person was issued a Social Security number anytime from 1936 onward, you can still send to the SSA for a copy of the decedent's application for a Social Security number, even if you don't know the decedent's Social Security number – but first check their death certificate, the number might be on there.
For more information on what appears in the application for a Social Security number, and how you can get a copy, see:
Did you know that if you are the spouse or child of a decedent, you can get from the Social Security Administration a record of the names and addresses of that person's employers from 1937 onward, and the amount the decedent eared each year from each employer? For more information, see:
While it may seem that you are recreating the wheel to request the SS-5 form – the form for applying for a Social Security number – there are times that this can be the only proof you will have for an ancestor's birth. For instance, for those ancestors born in the 1860s to 1880s who immigrated to the US, it can be difficult to pinpoint their place of birth. On the SS-5 it was required that the applicant supply complete birth information. This means more than just the country of birth, as is usually found on census and death records. Moreover, the maiden name of the applicant's mother was requested, often critical information for a family historian. Rootsweb has a very nice page regarding SSDI:
Southeastern Colorado Genealogical Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 1407
Pueblo, CO 81002
Our monthly meetings are held on the first Saturday of the month with a Genealogical Studies class at 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm and our Program from 2:00 pm - 3:00 PM
You do not have to be a member to attend - Everyone is welcome.
Call 719-250-5782 for more information or to schedule a ride.