Search billions of records on


Social Security was inaugurated in 1935 and they began issuing numbers but NOT to everyone. Only People who worked outside the home were issued numbers. Many women were not assigned numbers of their own . The number they used if there was ever a need for one ie. a pension or they became widowed was the number of their husband with a letter added to distinguish the two.

Since births were not generally required to be recorded prior to the early 1900's (almost everywhere in the US), it was determined that the 1880 census could be used as proof of age. Since persons born before 1870 were over 65 in 1935 and thus not eligible to sign up for Social Security, the Soundex created for the 1880 census was deliberately limited to those families who had children age 10 or under. Thus persons born after 1870 and before 1880 could use the census record as proof of their age.

The first deductions for SSI started in 1935, with the first payments to be paid after 1 Jan 1937. I believe the recipients had to be either donors or widows or underage children. So if any of your ancestors were over 65 and died in 1937 you should be able to find them in the index.

The records are filed by Social Security numbers and not by names. If you cannot provide the Social Security number when you request records, they can search for a person's records by using the full name, date and place of birth and parents' names (including mother's maiden name). I do not know the fee. MAKE SURE YOU CLEARLY STATE THAT THE PERSON IS DECEASED! The fee for searching for the SS-5 application when the Social Security number is provided is $27.00. The records are confidential and they do not disclose information about individuals unless they are deceased or they have their consent to do so. Send requests and a check or money order payable to the Social Security Administration and mail it to:
Social Security Administration Office of Central Records Operations FOIA Workgroup P.O. Box 17772 300 N. Greene Street Baltimore, MD  21290

SSA offers now the option to make the payment of fees by credit card. They accept MasterCard and Visa.

Representatives of the Office of Disclosure Policy, which handles requests of SS-5 application copies to Social Security Administration, report that they are experiencing a 3-to-6-month delay in responding because of a staffing shortage and a high volume of requests. Desiring to know the status of a request you can call that office at 410-965-1727 (a voice mail number where you can only leave a message) or write to:
Social Security Administration
Office of Disclosure Policy
3-A-6 Operations Building
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, Maryland 21235

The first three numbers identify the area where the individual was living when the card was issued. The second two digits are a "control" used by the government as a way to quickly identify fraudulent numbers. Within each area (i.e. the first three digits) the odd groups, 01 through 09, and then the even groups, 10 through 98, are issued first. Then the even groups 02 through 08 and the odd groups 11 through 99 are issued. The last four numbers are issued strictly in numerical sequence. The government can easily tell the place of issuance of a social security card, the year it was issued, and approximately at what time of the year it was issued. For example, a number beginning with 010-28 was issued in 1951 to someone living in Massachusetts, while 010-44, although still given to someone in Massachusetts, was not issued until 1968. If someone born in 1965 is using a number that was issued in 1955, this is an indication of a problem.

Social Security Administration is requesting that we use the following address when asking for copies of Social Security Account Applications (Form SS-5) under the Freedom Of Information Act.

Social Security Administration
Office of Central Records Operations
FOIA Workgroup
P.O. Box 17772
300 N Greene St
Baltimore MD 21290

It might be a good idea to send a copy of the ancestors death certificate and state your relationship to the person in your letter. The original applications give the name, address, place of employment and address, age, date and place of birth, full name of each parent including mother's maiden name. The applications are dated and signed by the applicant.

If you are not familiar with the SS-5, you may be missing a great source of information on recent generations of your family. The form is filled out at the time a person applies for their Social Security Account Number. After that person dies, their application becomes a public record available to any person who applies for a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. Since the application includes the full name of the person, their date and place of birth, the full name of their father and the full maiden name of their mother, plus their place of employment at the time the application was made, it can aid location and identification of past generations.

To request a copy of the SS-5, simply send the full name, Social Security Number, and date of death for the person, plus a check for $7.00 for each record requested, to the address above -- indicating that you are requesting their SS-5 under the Freedom of Information Act. No special form is required. To find the Social Security Number for most persons who died since the late 1960s, you can search one of the online data bases maintained by various genealogical publishers. The one provided for free by Ancestry, Inc. at is convenient.

To contact a living person whom you have lost, write a letter to the person, be sure to include your address and telephone number in the letter. Send the letter in an unsealed stamped envelope, along with a cover letter to the Social Security Administration, Letter Forwarding Unit, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21235. If for some reason that comes back to you, try: Social Security Administration, Office of Central Records Operations, 300 N. Greene St., Room 1312, Tower Metro West, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Include in the letter as much as you know about the person: Name, Social Security number, birthplace, birth date, name of the person's parents. You do not have to know all of the information, but the process will be quicker if you give more identifying information. If the person you are seeking is listed in the SSA files, the letter will be forwarded to them and it's up to that person to contact you.

There may be no charge for humanitarian requests; other searches there is a charge.

The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) contains over 59.7 million records created from SSA payment records. It contains the records of those for whom the lump sum death benefit was paid.

The $255. death benefit is not issued to everyone. Only where there are dependents. Children or a spouse. That lump sum benefit may have been requested by a family member, an attorney, a mortuary, etc. [NOTE: If someone is missing from the list, it may be that the benefit was never requested, there was an error on the form requesting the benefit or even an error in entering the information into the SSDI]. Not everyone who collected benefits is listed on the SSDI. The exceptions are to numerous to name but suffice to say not everyone is listed.

For more information, visit:

To search this database, go to:

or go to their main page at:

Go back to the index page