Section 2: How to use the Social Security Number of a deceased person for genealogical purposes?

Q.2.0 How can I obtain a Social Security Number of a deceased person?
A: The Latter Day Saints (LDS) Church of Jesus Christ maintains Family History Centers (FHL) throughout the U.S. and world wide. In most of these centers a computer program allows the user the search the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).
This index shows - if known - the deceased's first and last name, place of death (by Zip code locale only), date of death (sometimes just a year), and date of birth (sometimes this information is partial or missing). In addition, it provides the state in which the person had _obtained_ the Social Security Number, and the number itself. With this information, a genealogist or researcher can request the Social Security Administration for a copy or an extract of the original application for a Social Security Number (see below).
Link to
Social Security Death Index On Line Search
Everton Publishers:

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Q. Since when were most of the records in the Social Security Death Index?
Although some records were reported (see Q.1.6) since 1937 (See Q.1.5) when the SSA Act was put into effect, most are from 1962, when elctronic requests for benefits became commonly used.

If you are requesting any information about the SS-5 form of a deceased person, you should be able to identify the person with a SSN or with enough details as to avoid ambiguity. The SS Administration will not release an SS-5 if not enought details to identify the deceased are provided
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Q.2.0.1 What information can the Social Security Adminstration give out to genealogist or family members?

A: Disclosure of information by SSA is governed mainly by the Social Security Act itself, the Freedom of Information Act of 1974, the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Tax Reform Act of 1976. In general, information about a LIVING person MAY NOT be released to a third party unless the individual has signed a written authorization for release of that information. The fact of an individual's death, date of death, and place of death or burial may be disclosed to anyone. Any other information, other than tax return information, in a DECEASED individual's record MAY BE DISCLOSED as long as any information in the record pertaining to other living individuals is deleted from the record prior to disclosure. The Tax Reform Act of 1976 prohibits disclosure of tax return information without the consent of the individual to whom the record pertains. This prohibition continues even after the death of an individual. Requests for tax return information for a deceased individual may be released to the legal representative of the estate; surviving relative (spouse, parent, child); or heir at law, next of kin, or beneficiary of the deceased. Proof of one of the listed relationships must be provided with the request for information.

SSA originally maintained paper files of all applications for original SSN's and applications requesting a change in the record. In the 1970s, these files were converted to an electronic database. The application forms were microfilmed for retention and the paper forms destroyed. Current applications are microfilmed; the paper forms are retained in the Federal Records Center for 5 years and then destroyed.

There are 2 types of SSN application extracts which can be furnished upon request.
(1) The Numident printout is a computer printed record which contains all the information on the original application form except the address and signature of the applicant.
(2) A microprint is a print of the microfilmed application form.
Either of these items may be furnished to anyone upon written request and confirmation of death where this is not detrimental to the estate and there does not appear to be an unwarranted invasion of privacy of a living person; i.e., the parents of the deceased who are listed on the application form.
[Forwarded by:, written by: Barbara Bennett]
For cost for application information see Question no.2.1

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Q.2.0.2 How can I contact the Social Security Administration?

The phone number for the agency is 410-965-1727. I gave them a brief message and they returned my call today, I called yesterday. They looked up what they had sent me and checked their files while I was on the phone.

They stated there is still a wait up to 5 months as the backlog is tremendous. There is another phone number which may interest some:

The Federal Information Center, also in Maryland, 800-688-9889 This number connects you for information pertaining to the following: Taxes; Jobs; Social Security Benefits; Veterans; Savings Bonds; Passports; Selective Service and Student Loans; and Government Publications.
[forwarded with permission of writer: Elaine Behrendt]

The address of the Freedom of Information Offices is:
4 M 5 South Block
300 N. Greene St.
Baltimore MD 21201
[updated: April 1998]
If the SSN is not known, a $29 is required. $27 is the payment if the SSN is known (see Fees schedule below).

Note: The address below is outdated

These old addresses is no longer valid, as of October, 1996:
  • Social Security Administration Office of Central Operations - Genealogy 300 N. Greene Street Baltimore, MD 21235
  • Freedom of Information Office 4-H-8 Annex Bldg 6401 Security Blvd Baltimore MD 21235 USA
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    Q.2.0.3 What are the fees for requesting a copy or extract of a record?
    A: [Source: ] Fees For Processing Requests For Individual's Social Security Record Effective July 1, 2001

    Request for copy of Original Application for Social Security Card (Form SS-5), SSN Provided $27
    Request for copy of Original Application for Social Security Card (Form SS-5), SSN Not Provided $29
    Request for Computer Extract of Social Security Number Application, SSN Provided $16
    Request for Computer Extract of Social Security Number Application, SSN Not Provided $18
    Search for Information about Death of an Individual, SSN Provided $16
    Search for Information about Death of an Individual, SSN Not Provided $18

    You can pay by credit cards; we accept Mastercard, Visa, Discover, American Express and Diner's Club. We also accept checks or money orders payable to the Social Security Administration. Do not send cash.

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    Q.2.1 "It's a very basic question - once I have the information I need from the Social Security Death Index, what do I do with it?To whom and where do I go to next and what kind of information should I expect to receive?" (From

    A: The information you get from the SSDI is step one in tracing that person back. You apply, with theSocial Security Administration Office of Central Operations - Genealogy, 300 N. Greene Street , Baltimore, MD 21235 ) for a COPY of the SS-5 form of that individual. This form, now commonly used, too, is the application for SS number form. In it there is some relevant genealogical information such as place of birth, DOB, etc.

    With the Social Security No., taken from the SSDI, the cost is $7 for a COPY of the form, while it is $29 without the number (and results are not assured).see Fees schedule in Q2.0.3)

    Note that I emphasized on requesting a COPY (not an "EXTRACT") of the form. This gives you maybe a little work in terms of reading a sometimes not-so-clear copy, but also gives you a real document, with your ancestors' signature et al. An Extract, beside of being a typed, partial information document, may also contain mistakes of the extracting person.
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    Q.2.1.3: I filed the L-997 form requesting a copy or extract of the SS-5 form. What should I fill in the "Taxpayer Signature" line? The person is dead...
    Put the person's death date and write "Deceased". If you have any proof of death (obituary, preferably with the newspaper's full page & title; death certificate or other proof, attach it to your request).
    Note: If you are requesting any information about the SS-5 form of a deceased person, you should be able to identify the person with a SSN or with enough details as to avoid ambiguity. The SS Administration will not release an SS-5 if not enought details to identify the deceased are provided. See also: Q.2.2
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    Q.2.1.5: What if the deceased person died outside the USA?
    Sometimes you would see a code XXnnn where nnn would be some postal code. This is an indication of a foreign country where an SSN holder died. See also Q.2.3.1

    Q.2.2 Can I write a letter to the SSA or should I use a form?

    A: A letter is sufficient. See Q.2.1 for the address and the information you should include. However, for those interested in formal form of request (although almost all SS offices I called had never heard of that form...;-), see Q.3.5) the form to request a copy/extract of SS-5 application is form SS-L-997. You can request that form (L-997) and with it apply to a copy/extract of form SS-5. If you are using that way, don't forget to cross off the word "EXTRACT", too.
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    Q.2.3 What will the copy of the SS-5 form include? [From, original author unknown]
    A: A very helpful tool for genealogists is using social security records. If you have a relative who was working any time after 1935 they probably had social security.When they applied for their account they had to fill out an application form called an SS-5.The form consisted of:
    The applicants full name
    The applicants address
    The applicants age and birthday
    Their place of employment
    Their place of birth
    The names of his/her parents including his mothers maiden name
    Their sex
    Their race
    The date of application
    Their signature

    And for applications before 1947, their employment information, too.

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    Q.2.3.1: In the transcript there are codes like CYL, COD etc: What do they stand for?
    Codes on SSA transcripts are also called NUMIDENT by the SSA. These are 3 letter codes that appear in the SSA printout (aka transcript):
    SSN Social Security Number (duh!)
    SEXGender, can be M(ale), F(emale) or U(nknown).
    DOBDate of Birth
    DODDate of Death
    DOADistrict Office Address
    MNAMother's name
    FNAFather's name
    PLBPlace of Birth
    RFN Reference Number - Internal file number.
    IDN Identification Code - Internal code indicating type of evidence provided.
    NAA Name on Social Security card.
    NI-2 Other name used.
    NI-3 Other name used.
    PDB Prior Date of Birth - Date of birth previously reported to Social Security Administration (SSA).
    CSP Citizenship Code
    CYD/CYLCYcle Date, the day on which a new social secuiory card is printed/issued/sent out. My guy had three of in the 40s and the others recently.... knowing what CYD meant cleared up a lot of stuff for me.
    DOCDistrict Office Code. example: was DOC:180, or Bridgeton, NJ
    ETCthe Ethnic Code (and there are scads of them....)
    FMC: is the code for the person/group/org that requests a SS card. 1 is for the applicant himself, 6 is for the hospital in which the child was born, etc.
    IDNIDentifaction number, the code for the ID the applicant showed to get his papers. n cryptic codes. The codes you are probably interested in are:
    FCIForeign Country Indicator

    DI 21005.050 Beneficiary Identification Code (BIC)

    These codes appear on MBR queries and microfiches.
    &or 0Wage Earner and SpouseRetirement or disability
    AWage Earner (Primary)Retirement or disability
    BAged WifeFirst claimant
    B1HusbandFirst claimant
    B2Young WifeFirst claimant
    B3Aged WifeSecond claimant
    B4HusbandSecond claimant
    B5Young WifeSecond claimant
    B6Divorced WifeFirst claimant
    B7Young WifeThird claimant
    B8Aged WifeThird claimant
    B9Divorced WifeSecond claimant
    BA (B10)Aged WifeFourth claimant
    BD (B13)Aged WifeFifth claimant
    BG (B16)Aged HusbandThird claimant
    BH (B17)Aged HusbandFourth claimant
    BJ (B19)Aged HusbandFifth claimant
    BK (B20)Young WifeFourth claimant
    BL (B21)Young WifeFifth claimant
    BN (B23)Divorced WifeThird claimant
    BP (B25)Divorced WifeFourth claimant
    BQ (B26)Divorced WifeFifth claimant
    BR (B27)Divorced HusbandFirst claimant
    BT (B29)Divorced HusbandSecond claimant
    C1-C9, CA-
    ChildIncludes disabled or student child
    DAged WidowFirst claimant
    D1WidowerFirst claimant
    D2Aged WidowSecond claimant
    D3WidowerSecond claimant
    D4WidowRemarried after attainment of age 60
    D5WidowerRemarried after attainment of age 60
    D6Surviving Divorced WifeFirst claimant
    D7Surviving Divorced WifeSecond claimant
    D8Aged WidowThird claimant
    D9Remarried WidowSecond claimant
    DA (D10)Remarried WidowThird claimant
    DD (D13)Aged WidowFourth claimant
    DG (D16)Aged WidowFifth claimant
    DH (D17)Aged WidowerThird claimant
    DJ (D19)Aged WidowerFourth claimant
    DK (D20)Aged WidowerFifth claimant
    DL (D21)Remarried WidowFourth claimant
    DN (D23)Remarried WidowFifth claimant
    DP (D25)Remarried WidowerSecond claimant
    DQ (D26)Remarried WidowerThird claimant
    DR (D27)Remarried WidowerFourth claimant
    DT (D29)Remarried WidowerFifth claimant
    DV (D31)Surviving Divorced WifeThird claimant
    DW (D32)Surviving Divorced WifeFourth claimant
    DY (D34)Surviving Divorced WifeFifth claimant
    EWidowed MotherFirst claimant
    E1Surviving Divorced MotherFirst claimant
    E2Widowed MotherSecond claimant
    E3Surviving Divorced MotherSecond claimant
    E4Widowed FatherFirst claimant
    E5Surviving Divorced FatherFirst claimant
    E6Widowed FatherSecond claimant
    E7Widowed MotherThird claimant
    E8Widowed MotherFourth claimant
    E9Surviving Divorced FatherSecond claimant
    EA (E10)Widowed MotherFifth claimant
    EB (E11)Surviving Divorced MotherThird claimant
    EC (E12)Surviving Divorced MotherFourth claimant
    ED (E13)Surviving Divorced MotherFifth claimant
    EF (E15)Widowed FatherThird claimant
    EG (E16)Widowed FatherFourth claimant
    EH (E17)Widowed FatherFifth claimant
    EJ (E19)Surviving Divorced FatherThird claimant
    EK (E20)Surviving Divorced FatherFourth claimant
    EM (E22)Surviving Divorced FatherFifth claimant
    F5Adopting Father  
    F6 Adopting Mother  
    F7Second Alleged Father  
    F8Second Alleged Mother  
    G1-G9Claimants of Lump-Sum Death Benefits (PIC Only)  
    J1Primary Prouty entitled to deemed HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    J2Primary Prouty entitled to deemed HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    J3Primary Prouty not entitled to deemed HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    J4Primary Prouty not entitled to deemed HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    K1Prouty wife entitled to deemed HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    K2Prouty wife entitled to deemed HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    K3Prouty wife not entitled to deemed HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    K4Prouty wife not entitled to deemed HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    K5Second Prouty Wife entitled to deemed HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    K6Second Prouty Wife entitled to deemed HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    K7Second Prouty Wife not entitled to deemed HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    K8Second Prouty Wife not entitled to deemed HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    K9Third Prouty Wife entitled to deemed HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    KA (K10)Third Prouty Wife entitled to HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    KB (K11)Third Prouty Wife not entitled to HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    KC (K12)Third Prouty Wife not entitled to HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    KD (K13)Fourth Prouty Wife entitled to HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    KE (K14)Fourth Prouty Wife entitled to HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    KF (K15)Fourth Prouty Wife not entitled to HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    KG (K16)Fourth Prouty Wife not entitled to HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    KH (K17)Fifth Prouty Wife entitled to HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    KJ (K19)Fifth Prouty Wife entitled to HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    KL (K21)Fifth Prouty Wife not entitled to HIBLess than three quarters of coverage
    KM (K22)Fifth Prouty Wife not entitled to HIBOver two quarters of coverage
    MUninsuredNot qualified for deemed HIB
    M1UninsuredQualified for but refused HIB
    TUninsuredEntitled to HIB under deemed or renal provisions
    WDisabled WidowFirst claimant
    W1Disabled WidowerFirst claimant
    W2Disabled WidowSecond claimant
    W3Disabled WidowerSecond claimant
    W4Disabled WidowThird claimant
    W5Disabled WidowerThird claimant
    W6Disabled Surviving Divorced WifeFirst claimant
    W7Disabled Surviving Divorced WifeSecond claimant
    W8Disabled Surviving Divorced WifeThird claimant
    W9Disabled WidowFourth claimant
    WB (W11)Disabled WidowerFourth claimant
    WC (W12)Disabled Surviving Divorced WifeFourth claimant
    WF (W15)Disabled WidowFifth claimant
    WG (W16)Disabled WidowerFifth claimant
    WJ (W19)Disabled Surviving Divorced WifeFifth claimant

    1 This section reflects duplicated material.

    Added to this file 07/12/2001
    Last Updated: 01/23/90


    For more information, look at:>

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    Q.2.3.2 I haven't heard from the Social Security Administration! Should I call? Should I write? What to do?
    Although calling is not a tested method, please try it and if it's successful let me know... Otherwise, before taking any action, consider this: the rule of thmb for SSA "turn around" in the SS-5's application is six to twelve months (yes!), which make your research progress slow. Nontheless, because every request is assigned a sequencial number which gives it priority in the queue, and because you don't get a conifrmation from the SSA about your place in the "queue" (or the reference number assigned to your request,) writing to the SSA will (a) Slow the system further because "someone" has to stop whatever they are doing and go find your request, possibly take it out of the queue and reply with the estimated time of response. (b) As described, by asking of the status of your request you you might get your request even more delayed in the SSA. If at least one year had passed since your check was cashed (which is pretty much your only confirmation that your request has been through the initial step of the process,) then write to the SSA, providing a copy of your cancled check and asking politley for your request's status at the SSA. Write to the SSA at the same address as you did when making the request for a SS-5 copy.

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    Q.2.4 What to do if the form does not show all the information I wanted or the printout is partial?

    A: The form does not provide a place to indicate which type of extract you want, so enter the following legend on the form: "Microprint Required, Printout Not Sufficient". The form also does not include a place to indicate that you are requesting information on a deceased individual. I would annotate the form with a statement that the individual is deceased. Attach proof of death, if you can, to expedite the request. Information about the death of an individual has not been maintained on the Social Security Number records, so your request may be delayed or denied if it is not obvious that the person is deceased. It will take from 4-8 weeks to receive a response to your request.
    [Forwarded by:, written by: Barbara Bennett]

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    Q.2.5. How does the Social Security Adminstration finds the correct copy of the SS-5 Form? What if I only know some information?

    A: The 9 items above are the same information you would provide if you went to apply for a social security number or a replacement card. Here's how the SSN system works (much simplified) - there are 2 major files: the numerical identification file which contains the information sorted by SSN; and the alphabetical identification file which is sorted by name. If an SSN is provided, the numerical file will be queried and the printout compared to the information you provided. If an SSN is unknown, the name file must be queried. The information you provide is compared to the information for each person with that name and a score is assigned based on which information matches or doesn't match, and how closely the information matches. For example, if the year of birth is within 5 years it will score lower than an exact match but higher than if they were 10 years apart. Possible SSNs will be identified based on the score. Someone must look at all the printouts for the possible SSNs to determine which record if any is the one you requested. The more information you provide, the more chance you have of getting the information you want. After all, there have been about 320 million SSNs assigned since Social Security began in 1937. SSA assigns about 500,000 new numbers each month.
    [Forwarded by:, written by: Barbara Bennett]
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    Q.2.5.1 Is there a SS-5 form for a spouse receiving benefits from another person's Social Security Benefits?

    A: There is no SS-5 form for a spouse receiving benefits under another persons S.S. number. They have no records, at least on my request, on a person dying in 1969.

    There would be a SS-5 form for a person receiving benefits on another person's record. This is particular true if the person received payments in 1965 and after. Most dependents before that date had no need of a social security number if they weren't employed, so for those a SS-5 was probably never completed.
    [The above parargaph was received from: (Judy Atkisson)]
    [Forwarded with permission from: Elaine Behrendt]
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    Q.2.5.2 I have a SSN, what can I do with it (other than ask for the copy of SS-5 form)?
    A: One idea is finding a commercial service such as credit bureru or some other enterprize that with a name and SSN will provide information about an indvidual. You'll pay $20-45 (depends on the service) -- this will provide, among other things, a last address.
    Write to that address, to the voter registration of that area, and to churches, cemeteries and other agencies in the vicinity to see what you can dig up.
    I don't have a name of such enterprise but perhaps a search in would help, for example seach under "Personal Information", or "Credit Report"
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    Q.2.6 Can I read the Social Security Administration and Social Security Death Index On Line? How?

    1. Yes you can. If you have a World-Wide-Web (WWW) browser, a service that is now preovided with many commercial services, you can reach the Social Security Administration on line by using the URL: See other links listed elsewhere in this page for more resources.
    2. If you'd like to search the Social Security Death Index, you can reach SOME of that index on line by using the or more spefically: (this service is provided by the LDS's Family History Center.)

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    Q.2.7 Can I get information by visiting a local Social Security Office?
    Yes. Visit your local office to request information about relatives. Althogh this method was not well tested, the few reports that came back are rather positive: clerks were friendly and helpful and would give information related to relatives. No reports are in yer about information sought for non-obviously-related individual (who are no longer alive, of course!) The printout you'll get might have some codes in it (see Q.2.3.1 what these stand for.)
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    Q 2.8: What is form OA-C790 (aka OAC-790) and how should it be read?
    Form OA-C790 gets its name from an old - now unused - set of form for retirement or "Old Age". The form is often mis-labeled as OAC-790 and some publications refer to it by the incorrect name. In general, this form is an approval of benefits to a surviving spouse or, if no surviving spouse, to the beneficiary.
    The "E/R" portion of the form relate to the "Earning Record" of the individual covered under the Social Security program. In particular, I found this published corrsopndence:

    I work for Social Security, so I can help a little. I don't recall the OA-C790 (though it's probably an old form--we haven't used forms with the OA-C designation in years). I assume from its title that it was sent to you in error, as the E/R (or Earnings Record) is the actual list of the person's employers, covered earnings, and so on. f it's a "Request for E/R Action" I suspect it's a form we used to correct mistakes on the earnings record. If you can give some more info, I could check this out more closely. As for the annotation, "Original SS-5 sent to P/C with Claim," that's a little easier. Social Security claims are taken in district offices all around the country (these are your local Social Security offices). Years ago, all claims had to be reviewed in one of six Payment Centers, in order to ensure accuracy (Payment Centers have since been renamed Program Centers and later Program Service Centers; they are also called Processing Centers). In order to control against setting up duplicate claim folders in the program centers(and possible duplicate payments), the original SS-5 was included with the claim material (that is, the application, the earnings record of the individual, and necessary proofs and documentation). Payment would not be made unless the SS-5 was in the claims folder in the Program Service Center. Gradually, as time went on, the district offices were allowed to process more and more claims either to completion or almost so (with only a consistency check performed in the Program Center), based upon certain characteristics of each claim. After this had been going on for several years, the Office of Central Records Operations (which held the SS-5s until a claim was filed) began microfilming the original SS-5s and keeping the microfilm on site, sending the original SS-5 into storage; as this occurred, the requirement for the original SS-5 to be in the folder in order to pay the claim was dropped.

    Now, any claim file in the PCs that had reached a certain age without being accessed was eventually destroyed. If the SS-5 was in the folder at that time, and it had never been microfilmed (or if the microfilm was lost), access to the SS-5 became impossible.

    If it says "District Office: Philadelphia" then it means the claim (or possibly the SS-5, though I believe the first more likely) was taken in a local office in Philadelphia. At this time, there are about 7 or so district offices in Philadelphia; perhaps when the claim was filed there was only one (or perhaps it's referring to the downtown office).

    [Contributed by David Ben Leavitt]

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