SOCIAL SECURITY RESEARCH
Class and Website
Los Angeles Family History Library
Jon Schweitzer - Instructor
8 October 2011
Revised 15 April 2013.
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This is a Website companion to the class.
Look for the person's Social Security Number (SSN) in military records, Veterans Administration records, Veterans Affairs records, morticians' records, employment records, hospital records and on the death certificate.
There are four areas for research with the Social Security Administration (SSA) Records. The SSA records started in 1936.
1. SSA LETTER FORWARDING SERVICE
If the SSA is to forward your letter, you must have a very compelling reason for contacting the missing living person. An inheritance or death in the family will qualify.
You must be very careful to follow the Social Security Administration (SSA) instructions. You must submit a very short letter stating your message and reason and as much information as you can. In your letter TRY to give the Social Security Number (SSN), full name, maiden name, date and place of birth, parents' names, and state of issuance of the SSA number.
The letter must be placed in a plain envelope that is unsealed, unstamped and unaddressed except for the missing person's name. That envelope and check (if required) must be placed inside the envelope sent to the SSA. The current cost is $25.00 to inform a person about entitlement to money. There is no charge for a humanitarian purpose.
Read about this service at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/foia/html/ltrfwding.htm.
2. SSA CLAIM FILE RECORDS
If the person has died within the LAST FIVE YEARS, you may request copies of the Claim File Records. You must provide the SSN or the person's full name, date and place of birth, parents' names mother's maiden name and a copy of the death certificate.
There is no form to use. Send your request letter marking both the envelope and its contents: “FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST” or “INFORMATION REQUEST.” Be sure to include your name and address on your request. It is a good idea to include a daytime phone number or e-mail address in case we need to contact you about your request. Do not include a return envelope.
Send your request letter to:
Social Security Administration
Office of Privacy and Disclosure
3-A-6 Operations Building
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, Maryland 21235
You could also Fax it to: (410) 966-0869
You can also send your request online using an eForm. Read about it at: http://www.ssa.gov/foia/html/foia_guide.htm
The present cost is about $14.00 plus $.10 per page plus postage. The SSA will inform you of the total cost.
The records may include proof of age, birth records, death records, military records, marriage records, application for benefits, addresses of deceased, new addresses of spouses or claimants after the death of the deceased.
3. SSA DEATH INDEX (SSDI)
This Family History Library's FamilySearch database is on all of the 78 computers in the Computer Area. It has about 87 million persons from ONLY 1962 to the present.
You may search this database to find the person's birth date, death date, possible death place (residence at death and address last benefits were sent) and Social Security Number (SSN).
Consult the guides at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~rwguide/lesson10.htm
The guides will give you all the methods to be used in searching for persons in this database. Methods include searching by state of SSN issuance and state of death or benefits received.
The FamilySearch Social Security Death Index guide at: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Social_Security_Death_Index_%28SSDI%29 will give some locations of the Social Security Death Index Database.
The number of locations that give all the good information has decreased lately. At the above link use only the FamilySearch SSDI, Family Tree Legends or New England Historic Genealogical Society links. The Family Tree Legends link will generate a SS-5 mail-in letter using the link on the right side on the name line.
Using the possible death place (residence at death), it may be possible for you to obtain the death certificate. Attempt to locate and correspond with the person that is the informant on the death certificate.
All possible given name, surname, married names, and nickname variations are very important to consider when conducting your search. Use "Names, Nicknames and Missspelled Names" (Ref 929.4 C191c and 929.4 C191c) to work up a list of spellings of given names.
There are errors in the index and the surname might have the middle initial as the first letter of the surname or the first letter of the surname is repeated.
4. SSA APPLICATION FOR A SSN
The SS-5 application for a SSN could have been completed any time after Dec 1, 1936.
The application has the applicant's SSN, full name, date and place of birth, parents' full names, employer, address, date signed, signature and more. Before 1947 there will be employment information.
Use the Advanced SSDI Search page at the Web site above in 3. to generate a mail-in letter to the SSA requesting a copy of the SSA SS-5 application or use the better form at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ssa-711.pdf. Don’t order a "Request for Computer extract of Social Security Number Application".
If you have the SSN the cost is $27.00 for a copy.
If you don't have the SSN the cost is $29.00 for the search and maybe a copy.
You may pay using the SSA Credit Card mail-in form that you can find at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/cbsv/docs/creditcardform.pdf
5. FEE SCHEDULE
See the fee schedule at the Social Security Research Website at http://www.ssa.gov/foia/html/foia_guide.htm
6. SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
Use the SSN to find the location. If you can find the SSN and you cannot find the person on the SSDI, you can determine where the person filled out the SS-5 by looking at the Area Numbers that are the first 3 digits of the SSN. An example is 545 for California. See the Area Numbers for each state about one half down on http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~rwguide/lesson10.htm