Without much fanfare, Ancestry.com has released the single most valuable record group for 20th century American research. The U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 contains 49 million entries for deceased Americans who applied for social security numbers in that time frame. Data contained on these SS-5 forms are supplied by the individuals applying – so right from the horse’s mouth you learn birth date, birth place, parent’s names, occupation, and see the individual’s signature or mark. Although some people may have lied or honestly not known the answers to the SS-5 questions, you still get information to evaluate and pursue.
While these Ancestry.com records are index entries only, they are a fast track to the original record which requires a FOIA request and at least $27.00 to obtain. Click here for details and access the form to request the original record.
Among the most useful items you might learn from the SS-5 are name amendments, as in the case of a woman who marries and changes her last name. Certain critical information may be redacted by Ancestry.com, whose policies are recited at the link above. If parents are not assumed to be at least 75 years old, their names are not released. If the individual has not been dead for at least ten years, the social security number is omitted. Even without that data, a genealogist can find workarounds if the birth date and place are provided.
Melinde Lutz Byrne