Social Security Death Index

Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of death records created from the United States Social Security Administration's Death Master File Extract. Most persons who have died since 1963 who had a Social Security Number (SSN) and whose death has been reported to the Social Security Administration are listed in the SSDI. It contains the records of over 82 million people and was last updated on 7 October 2008.

Unlike the Death Master File, the SSDI is available online for free from several genealogy websites. The SSDI is a popular tool for genealogists and biographers. The database contains valuable genealogical data: the deceased person's birth date, death date, SSN, State or Territory where the SSN was issued, and last place of residence. Once a deceased person is found in the database, the person's Application for Social Security Card (Form SS-5) can be ordered from the Social Security Administration. The SS-5 contains additional genealogical data such as birth place, father's name, and mother's full maiden name.

Given the growing problem of identity theft and the importance of the Social Security Number as a personal identifier in the United States, it might seem unusual that these identifiers are released publicly. The principle involved is that living persons have a right to privacy which includes the right not to have their Social Security Number revealed, but once a person dies they lose their right to privacy and therefore the Social Security Administration can reveal their number and report their dates and places of birth and death.

The death index is used to prevent fraud so that no one can steal the identity of a dead person, and take out a credit card or a bank loan in a dead person's name.

Instances of famous people not being found in the index (such as the eccentric Andy Kaufman) often contribute to theories that the particular person is still alive.

On the other hand, a recent government audit revealed that the Social Security Administration had incorrectly listed 23,000 people as dead in a two-year period. These people have sometimes faced large difficulties in convincing government agencies that they are actually alive; a 2008 story out of the Nashville area focused on a woman who was incorrectly flagged as dead in the Social Security computers in 2000 and has had difficulties such as having health insurance canceled and electronically filed tax returns rejected. This story also noted that people in this situation can be highly vulnerable to identity theft because of the release of their Social Security Numbers. [cite web|url= |title=Government Still Declares Living Woman Dead |first=Nancy |last=Amons |publisher="" |date=2008-02-20 |accessdate=2008-02-22]


;Specific references

;Other sources
*U.S. Social Security Administration - [ Is SSA's Death Master File available online?]

ee also

*California Birth Index

External links

*U.S. Social Security Administration - [ Can Social Security records help in genealogical research?]
*Social Security Death Index (SSDI) - [ Search the Social Security Death Index]
*SSDI as a Web Service - [ Implement free Death Index services. (use key of 0, limited to 4 per hour)]

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