My mind is always sort of
attuned to writing these columns...and I have a mental "box" where I file
things I run across that I think you might enjoy reading.
Here's something from that little box in my head: Christopher Columbus
wasn't his real name and history is uncertain about what really was his
name. He was born in one of five years - nobody seems certain exactly when
he was born. Nor is anyone certain of where he was born. He was reburied
seven times in four hundred years, so nobody is really sure where he is
No wonder he got out of Europe and discovered a country where all of that
information would be on everyone's Social Security card - or records after
Speaking of Social Security...
Lest we forget that I'm really supposed to be writing about genealogy and
genealogical research here (although newspaper browsing is sometimes oozed
into these lines), I thought it might be interesting to think about how
the Social Security Administration (SSA) can really help the family
If you are researching ancestors who died after 1937, you will find much
helpful information in the SSA records. You will want to look at the
Social Security Death Index (SSDI).
You say, "What do I do when I locate an ancestor in the SSDI?"
You can learn their date of birth, date of death and possibly the location
the last check was sent. You can learn more.
The original Social Security application form (SS-5) has valuable
information and can serve as documentation for your records. The SSA will
make copies of the SS-5 for third parties who request information on a
deceased individual. Information available on this form includes full name
(including maiden name for women), age at last birthday, father's full
name, sex and race, current employer's name and address and the
You will also find the present mailing address at the time the SS-5 was
filled out and the date and place of birth, the mother's full name
(including maiden name) and if the person has ever applied for Social
Security Number or Social Security or Railroad Retirement before and the
date the application was filed.
You may visit http://www.ancestry.com to view the SSDI and also generate
and print the standard request letter. You need to send $7.00 along with
the request to the Social Security.
If you can't find your ancestor on the SSDI you may still send in a
request for their original SS-5 form. You will need to send their name and
Social Security number. If you don't have their number, here are some
places you might look: personal papers, funeral home records, voter
registration rolls, death certificate, records held by financial
institutions and former employers of the individual.
If you can't find the Social Security number, you may request a records
search with the SSA. For this you must send $16.50 and provide the full
name, state of birth and date of birth to: Freedom of Information Officer,
4-8-8 Annex Building, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21235.
If you can provide the names of parents, this is helpful. Send the death
certificate if you can or other proof of the death of the individual.
Following the genealogical rule of "nothing is as easy as you think it
is," you must remember that not everyone who has, or has had, a Social
Security card will appear on the SSDI. The SSDI only lists those
individuals for whom a lump sum death benefit was paid. Many other
enrolled persons are not listed either because their death was not
reported or they are still living.