Social Security Records

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In order to enroll in the Social Security program, an applicant completed a form known as the SS-5 Application for Social Security Number, which requested specific information (shown here).

The Social Security Administration didn’t begin keeping records until 1936; therefore, they have no records for people who died before then.

As long as a person is deceased, the Social Security Administration will provide a copy of this Form SS-5, Application for Social Security Number to anyone who makes a request. They will also release this form to the registrant (the person who belongs to the Social Security Number) and to anyone who has a release-of-information statement signed by the person about whom the information is sought.

Simply send a letter (like the one shown below) and a check.  If you supply the Social Security Number, the fee is $27.00. If the SSN is not known, the fee is $29.00, and you must send the person’s full name, date and place of birth, and names of parents.  This is expensive, but sometimes it’s the only way you’ll find some critical information on your ancestor.

Remember, this is the government we’re dealing with—therefore, the usual wait time for receiving a copy of a Social Security Application Form is 6-8 weeks, so be prepared to be patient!

Who is listed in the SSDI? This database is an index to basic information about persons with Social Security numbers whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration. The death may have been reported by a survivor requesting benefits. It may have been reported in order to stop Social Security Benefits to the deceased. Funeral homes often report deaths to the SSA as a service to family members. Beginning in 1962, the SSA began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits. About 98% percent of the people in the SSDI died after 1962, but a few death dates go back as far as 1937.

More Info at FamilySearch Wiki

Almost always include:   
•  Full name
•  Full name at birth, including maiden name
•  Present mailing address
•  Age at last birthday
•  Date of birth
•  Place of birth (city, county, State)
•  Father’s full name
•  Mother’s full name, including maiden name
•  Sex
•  Race as indicated by the applicant
•  Whether the applicant ever applied for Social Security or Railroad Retirement before
•  Current employer’s name and address
•  Date signed
•  Applicant’s signature

Note: Many records of older individuals, primarily those born in 1910 or earlier, are abbreviated records that do not contain the names of the individual’s parents and may not contain the place of birth.

Internet — the Social Security Death Index (listing all deceased persons who had a social security card) is available on the internet.  To get a copy of your ancestor’s original application, do the following:

Step 1:  Find your ancestor in the online index.

  1. Go to
  2. Click the Search tab.
  3. Type in the your ancestor’s first and last name.
  4. Click the Search button.
  5. Several names might come up.  Choose the correct one.  Copy down the relevant information.

Step 2:  If you want to receive a copy of the original  SS-5 application, send a letter like the one shown below


Sample Letter

If you want to request a copy of your ancestor’s original social security application, you’ll need to send a check and a letter like the one shown below.  Mark both the envelope and letter with: “FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST.”

Freedom of Information Request

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

Dear Freedom of Information Officer,

Please send me a copy of the application for a social security card (Form SS5) filed by the following person.

I found the information on the Social Security Death Index at, which gathered its information from the Social Security Death Master file compiled by the Social Security Administration.

I understand that the fee is $27.00 for a copy of the original application when I supply the Social Security Number.  Therefore, enclosed is a check or money order for $27.00, made payable to the Social Security Administration.

Please send me a copy of the original application for:

Name:  (your ancestor’s name)
Social Security Number:  (SS# from index listing)
Birth: (birth date from index listing)
Death:  (death date from index listing)

Thank you for your assistance.


(Your name)
(Your address)

Daytime Phone Number: (Your phone number)



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