Welcome Section: SSA & Genelogy FAQ Main Page

Section 1: History and basics about the Social Security Administration and Social Security Number system
Q.1.1What is the history behind the Social Security Service?
Q.1.1.1 What are the prefix (eg. "W" or "A") letters in front of the social security number?
Q.1.2 Is the Social Security Records a public record?
Q.1.3 I see commercial usages of Social Security numbers, how come?
Q.1.4 What is the meaning of each segment of the Social Security Number?
Q.1.5 How do I know someone indeed had a Social Security Number?
Q.1.6 Did Everyone who had a Social Security Number appears on the SSDI?
Q.1.6.5Did people who did NOT have a Social Security Number appear on the SSDI?
Q.1.7 When was the Social Security Number first used on tax returns?
Q.1.8 I recall hearing that when Social Security was initially started it was against the law to use the SSN for any purpose other than Social Security. There was a fine if the SSN was used for a purpose other than Social Security. Is this true?

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?
Q. Since when were most of the records in the Social Security Death Index?
Q.2.0.1 What information can the Social Security Adminstration give out to genealogist or family members?
Q.2.0.2 How can I contact the Social Security Administration?
Q.2.0.3 What are the fees for requesting a record extract or copy?
Q.2.1 "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?"
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...
Q.2.1.5 What if the deceased person died outside the USA?
Q.2.2 Can I write a letter to the SSA or should I use a form?
Q.2.3 What will the copy of the SS-5 form include?
Q.2.3.1In the transcript there are codes like CYL, COD etc: What do they stand for? What about codes for beneficiaries like F1 and W1?
Q.2.3.2I haven't heard from the Social Security Administration! Should I call? Should I write? What to do?
Q.2.4 What to do if the form does not show all the information I wanted or the printout is partial?
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?
Q.2.5.1 Is there a SS-5 form for a spouse receiving benefits from another person's Social Security Benefits?
Q.2.5.2 I have a SSN, what can I do with it (other than ask for the copy of SS-5 form)?
Q.2.6 Can I read the Social Security Administration and Social Security Death Index On Line? How?
Q.2.7 Can I get information by visiting a local Social Security Office?
Q.2.3.1What's a NUMIDENT?
Q.2.8What's a NUMIDENT?What is form OA-C790 (aka OAC-790) and how should it be read?

Section 3: Other services from the Social Security Adminstration
Q.3.0 ("Motivation question") Why does the Socail Security Adminstration have this a service to locate a missing person, and can I use this service for genealogical research?
Q.3.1 Can the Social Security Adminstration tell you about living relatives?
Q.3.2 Does Letter forwarding cost any money?
Q.3.2.3What are the official rules of letter forwarding? The offical statement on letter forwarding by the Social Security Administration?
Q.3.2.5 What information should I give to the Letter Forwarding Service?
Q.3.3.1 Will I hear from the SSA once my letter is received?
Q.3.3.2 I have requested a letter forwarding service from the SSA,
Q.3.3.3 I know that when someone applies for SSN, they have to provide documents as proofs. Do any of these documents remain with the SSA?
Q.3.3.4 Could these documents be obtained for genealogical purposes?
Q.3.4.1 REQUEST FOR SOCIAL SECURITY EARNINGS INFORMATION - What and how can I use it for genealogical purposes?
Q.3.4.2 Can I get employment information from the Social Security?
Q.3.5 I called the Social Security Office and they didn't know what I am talking about, what should I do?

Section 4: Miscellaneous Ideas for locating people
Q.4.1: Not directly related to SSA, can the Census Bureau be of any help other than 1800s through 1920?
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  • A Revised FAQ (8/2002)