ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Genealogy and Social Security

Updated on April 14, 2010

Social Security, believe it or not, can provide a wealth of information for the genealogist, both amateur or professional. How exactly, you might be asking. Well, I'll tell you.

Social Security applications were hand written by each individual requesting a social security number as they still are today. Those applications contain valuable tidbits to assist in researching your ancestors.

The Depression brought about widespread suffering and President Franklin D.Roosevelt, in response to the great need for relief, passed the Social Security act of 1935. To get into the program workers were asked to provide proof of birth and to complete a short application form to receive a social security number.

Though this was not the first of this type of program it was the most comprehensive. In colonial America in the 18th century almhouses and poorhouses were created to contain the poor and help with poverty relief. However, the relief was made as unpleasant as possible to discourage those from becoming dependent on the system.

Even though the first pension was passed in 1776 they were limited. The creation of the Civil War Pension was truly the precursor to a full fledged retirement system in our country. Beginning with the first legislation in 1862 for those who were disabled and for those disabilities of which were a direct consequence of military duties. Also widows and orphans received benefits in an amount equal to what the soldier would have received had he been disabled.

Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Death Index is a starting point for this type of genealogical records. There are numerous sites on the web which will allow a free search of the index and they are listed at the end of this article as direct links for your use. 

One very simple to use is found at As illustrated in the picture below, the search engine allows you to search by your ancestors name, State, and or Social Security number, if you already have that information, often we do not and this is the one of the primary reasons for the search.

So what information does this index provide, you ask? Limited yes, as it is only an index:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Month and Year of Death
  • Social Security Number
  • State of Death

Once you have found your ancestor in the index, are pretty confident that, yes, this is the correct "John Smith", document your findings either on paper or in your computer program and move to the next step which is the Social Security Application.

Social Security Death Index Search Engine at
Social Security Death Index Search Engine at
Social Security Application from 1939
Social Security Application from 1939
Social Security Application from 1952
Social Security Application from 1952

Social Security Applications

The Social Security Application known as form SS-5, changed somewhat over the decades, yet all contained pertinent information for genealogists and is often used as a well sourced document, simply because the applicant completed the information himself. Information of the SS-5 application includes:

  • Full Name of Applicant, including middle name(s), which as many researchers know is often difficult to find or substantiate. Middle names if referenced in other documentation are often a simple initial. For women, they were asked to include their maiden name as well as married name.
  • Full Address
  • Occupation and Employment information.
  • Age and Birth information including place of birth.
  • Full Names of Both Parents, another plus as the mother's maiden names are listed and can offer an entirely new line of ancestors. Often this is primarily what researchers are looking for, maiden names of mothers. Seasoned genealogists know that not having a mother's maiden name can often lead to long brick walls and can be quite frustrating.
  • Date employed
  • Sex and Race if other was checked they were to fill in race.
  • Whether or not they had filed prior, when and why they were refiling.
  • Date applied for Social Security.
  • Signature, not necessarily helpful in genealogical research, however, to see an ancestors signature on a piece of paper is a wonderful piece of your family's history.

Ordering Copies of an Application

Armed with the information on your ancestor, the next step is to order a copy of the SS-5 application. There are three ways that you can request a copy of an original application.

The first option and probably most convenient and timely:

Form SSA-711 Internet Request with the option to pay via credit card or print and mail in with a check or money order.

The second option:

The third option:

  • Write a letter to: Social Security Administration, OEO FOIA Workgroup, 300 North Green Street, P.O. Box 33022, Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022
  • Include on the front of your envelope the wording "FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST or INFORMATION REQUEST.
  • A sample request may look like this:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to request through Freedom of Information, a copy of my deceased Great Grandmother's social security application for genealogical purposes.

Her name: Jane Doe

Her date of birth: 1/1/1894

Her date of death: 1/1969

Her Social Security Number: 000-00-0000

I have enclosed my check #9000 in the amount of $00.00 for the photocopy. Please return to the address (enter your mailing address)


Jack Baker

You can enclose a check or money order made payable to Social Security Administration. Do Not Send Cash!

The fee schedule is:

  • $27.00 for a photocopy of original application WITH Social Security Number provided.
  • $29.00 for a photocopy of original application WITHOUT providing Social Security Number. The additional cost is for research.
  • $16.00 for Computer Extraction of Social Security Application providing the Social Security Number.
  • $18.00 for Computer Extraction of Social Security Application without providing the Social Security Number. The additional cost is for research.

They also offer a certified copy for an additional $10.00 which is not necessary for genealogy only, typically used for legal purposes and/or court.

Once your request has been submitted by one of the above options, be patient, it does take time to receive your document. The last one I had requested took three weeks to arrive in the mail.

Happy Hunting!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Auntie D profile image

      Auntie D 

      7 years ago from California

      Excellent! I've been busy with other genealogy areas that were before Social Security and didn't realize the applications contained so much information. Thank you.

    • Missi Darnell profile imageAUTHOR

      Missi Darnell 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      Donna thank you and you are welcome!

    • Missi Darnell profile imageAUTHOR

      Missi Darnell 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      HealthyHanna thank you for your comment happy you found this useful. Happy Hunting!

    • DonnaWallace profile image

      Donna Wallace 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Very nicely written. Thank you for the valuable genealogical information.

    • HealthyHanna profile image


      8 years ago from Utah

      This is one I am going to bookmark. Geneology is on my list of hobbies I want to start.

    • JannyC profile image


      8 years ago

      Very cool wow I did not know this.

    • Missi Darnell profile imageAUTHOR

      Missi Darnell 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      rebekahELLE thank you for stopping by, glad you found this hub helpful. I agree with you very fascinating. I'm an addict! Happy Hunting.

    • Missi Darnell profile imageAUTHOR

      Missi Darnell 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      Quill thank you for your comment, glad you enjoyed and found this hub useful. Not many beginners in genealogy know of the SS secret, as you said it can be a great resource.

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      great hub. I have been wanting to do this for so long. I have some photographs that go back quite a ways on my mothers side, but not much on my fathers side. I think it's fascinating and helps us understand who we are. I'm bookmarking this for future reference. thanks. :]

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great Hub and filled with information to help the serious in finding their roots...My grandfathers SIN was the key to unlocking a family history which I still search out...well done.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)