Search the SSDI for Your Family History

Are you tracing the family history of someone who lived in the U.S. during the 20th century? Check out a wonderful free database in the United States called the Social SSDI SearchSecurity Death Index, or the SSDI. Keep reading for 5 FREE online sources for the SSDI, 7 tips for searching the SSDI and what you can do with SSDI info.

In 1935 the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, and consequently more than thirty million Americans were registered by 1937. Today, the Death Master File from the Social Security Administration contains over 89 million records of deaths that have been reported to the Social Security Administration and they are publicly available online.

Most of the information included in the index dates from 1962, although some data is from as early as 1937. This is because the Social Security Administration began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits in 1962. Many of the earlier records back to 1937 have not been added.

The SSDI does not have a death record for everyone; and occasionally you may find an error here and there if something was reported inaccurately, but overall it’s a terrific resource! It’s especially great for many people who were missed in the 1890 census or whose birth predated vital records registration in their home state. Remember they just needed to live past 1937 and to have worked to have been included. So they could have been born sometime in the later 1800s.

5 FREE Online Sources for the SSDI

Several genealogy websites provide free access to the SSDI, including (click to go right to the SSDI at these sites):

On the Search page, enter your relative’s name and other details you’re asked for. Hopefully you will get back results that includes your relative!

7 Tips for Searching the SSDI

If  your relative doesn’t show up in the SSDI, even though you know they worked after 1937 and you know they have passed away, try these search tips:

1. Does the website you are using to search the SSDI have the most current version available? Look in the database description on the site to see how recently it was updated. Try searching at other sites.

2. Make sure that you tried alternate spellings for their name. You never know how it might have been typed into the SSDI database.

3. Many SSDI indexes allow you to use wildcards in your search. So for example you could type in “Pat*” which would pull up any name that has the first three letters as PAT such as Patrick, Patricia, etc.

4. Try using less information in your search. Maybe one of the details you’ve been including is different in the SSDI database. For example it may ask for state and you enter California because that’s where grandpa died, when they were looking for Oklahoma because that’s where he first applied for his social security card. By leaving off the state you’ll get more results. Or leave off the birth year because even though you know it’s correct, it may have been recorded incorrectly in the SSDI and therefore it’s preventing your ancestor from appearing in the search results.

5. Leave out the middle name because middle names are not usually included in the database. However, if you don’t have luck with their given name, try searching the middle name as their given name. In the case of my grandfather his given name was Robert but he went by the initial J.B. But in the SSDI his name is spelled out as JAY BEE!

6. Remember that married women will most likely be listed under their married surname, not their maiden name. But if you strike out with the married name, go ahead and give the maiden a try. She may have applied for her card when single, and never bothered to update the Administration’s records. Or if she was married more than once, check all her married names for the same reason.

7. Don’t include the zip code if there is a search field for it because zip codes did not appear in earlier records.

While most folks will appear in the SSDI, there are those who just won’t. But knowing where information is not located can be as important down the road in your research as knowing where it IS located, so I recommend making a note in your database that you did search the SSDI with no result. This will save you from duplicating the effort down the road because you forgot that you looked there.

What You Can Do with SSDI Information

Now, here comes the most exciting part of the SSDI: what you can do with that information. First, it usually includes a death date (at least the month and year) and sometimes a state and last known residence. Use this information to look for death records, obituaries, cemetery and funeral records. And use that Social Security Number to order a copy of your relative’s application for that number: the SS-5. Click here to read more about the SS-5 and how to order it.

Up next, read:

Get Started: How to Find Your Family History for Free

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Family History

How to Find Your Family Tree Online

Best Genealogy Software

Video: Italian Genealogy Research Tips with Mary Tedesco

Do you have Italian ancestors? Did you recently discover Italian heritage in your DNA ethnicity results? Don’t miss this exclusive interview with Mary Tedesco of Genealogy Roadshow! She’s here to talk about her top tips for Italian genealogy research, as well as share a bit about working on the hit PBS series.

Mary recently published Tracing Your Italian Ancestors, an 84-page guide to researching. There’s a section on using U.S. records to learn essentials about your family, and then a section on researching in Italian records. In this interview, she talks about traveling to Italy to research for others and the importance of using Italian church records in local parish churches or diocesan archives.

Learn more about Mary at her website, Origins Italy, or visit the Genealogy Roadshow website to learn about her involvement on that show. Also, Mary joined us as a guest on the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast, episode 175. Click here to listen!

If you watch genealogy TV shows like Genealogy Roadshow or Who Do You Think You Are? or Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr, go to our home page and search on the category “Genealogy TV.” See what we’ve blogged about!

Thousands of Irish Genealogy Records New This Week!

 If you’re looking for Irish ancestors, you’ll be delighted by all the new Irish record collections added this week! Also in this week’s new and updated record collections are court records and newspapers for Australia, parish records and more for England, millions of new Dutch records, South African probate records, and digitized newspapers across the United States. 

Irish genealogy records

Irish Genealogy: Thousands of New Records

If you have ancestors from Ireland who received an army pension between 1724 and 1924, you’ll want to explore Fold3’s new collection of Royal Hospital Kilmainham Pensioner Discharge Documents. This collection is made up of certificates of pensioners of the Royal Kilmainham Hospital in Ireland. According to the collection: “For each record, details given include, where available: a brief description of the pensioner together with age, place of birth, particulars of service and the reason for discharge.”

New this week at Findmypast are Dublin Electoral Rolls. This new collection contains more than 427,000 transcripts and pertains to eligible voters located in the city of Dublin between 1908 and 1915. (FYI: You can also search Dublin City Electoral Lists 1908-1915 and other records for free from the Dublin City Council’s Civil Records webpage.)

Lastly, Irish records got a big update over at the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS): 5,000 records have been added to IGRS’s Early Irish Birth, Marriage, and Death Indexes. This brings their total number of names to almost 260,000. From the announcement: “This particular update draws from a range material: surviving 19th century census records; marriage licence indexes; pre-1922 abstracts from exchequer and chancery court records; memorial inscriptions; biographical notices from newspapers; a large number of long forgotten published works on particular families and places; and memorials from Ireland’s Registry of Deeds.”

New Resources for Australia

A fascinating new free website, Tracing London Convicts in Britain & Australia, 1780-1925 allows “genealogists and family historians to discover the fate of ancestors convicted of crimes and transported overseas.” This new website allows you to search millions of records from around fifty data sets, relating to the lives of 90,000 convicts from the Old Bailey. Pictured right: Lydia Lloyd, a Victorian era convict. (Image: The National Archives UK ref. PCOM4/71/6 (image 00001))

From the State Library of New South Wales Australia: The Lone Hand (1907-1921) newspaper has been digitized and made available through Trove. “Modelled on the London Strand and founded by J.F. Archibald and Frank Fox, The Lone Hand was a monthly magazine of literature and poetry, with illustrations by significant Australian artists of the time.”

England: Parish & Court Records

Ancestry.com has two new collections this week for England. Staffordshire Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1538-1839 includes records for baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records for Staffordshire, England. Also included are some records from non-conformist churches. Extracted Parish and Court Records, 1399-1795 is a collection of historical parish registers throughout England.

Also new for England, TheGenealogist has added over 1.1 million individuals to its Sussex County parish record collection. This update includes 717,000 baptisms, 213,000 marriages, and 208,000 burials.

Over at Newspapers.com, The Atlas newspaper has now been digitized. The London area paper operated from 1826 to 1869, and comprised a mixture of national and international social and political news, along with literary, theater, and music reviews. Another new newspaper available online is The Worthington Herald, from 1920-1959 in Worthington, West Sussex, England.

Millions of Dutch Records

FamilySearch has recently published millions of Dutch records (51 million to be exact) from the Netherlands, making it easier than ever to trace your Dutch roots. These new records have increased FamilySearch’s collection of Dutch names from 4,074,736 to over 55 million. From the collection description: “Archives around the Netherlands have contributed indexes which cover many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records.” Click here to search the collection.

South Africa Probate Records

New at FamilySearch: South Africa, Cape Province, Probate Records of the Master of the High Court, 1834-1989. This impressive collection is comprised of over 155,000 indexed records and 1.1 million digitized images! The original records are located in the Cape Archives Depot, Cape Town.

United States Newspapers

California. The Cal Poly University student newspaper has been digitized in honor of their 100 year celebration. 75,000 pages from 7,138 issues are now fully searchable online, thanks to optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Click here to explore the database.

North Carolina. Saint Mary’s Student School NewspaperThe Belles, is now online. Dating back to 1936 through 1995, the paper gives a good look into the viewpoint of North Carolina teen women over a 60 year period.

New Mexico. Now available at Newspapers.com is the Albuquerque Journalwith issues dating back to 1882. Almost 2 million pages are available to browse by date.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

There’s a wealth of information about your ancestors in newspapers! Lisa’s book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, provides you with a foolproof research process for discovering them, and is stuffed with everything you need for genealogical success. Available in both print and ebook formats, you’ll get step-by-step instructions, worksheets, tons of free online resources, case studies, and more!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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