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  Can Social Security records help in genealogical research?
  What information is available from Social Security records to help in genealogical research?

Records potentially available from SSA include the Application for a Social Security Card (form SS-5) and information from the "claims folder" for past recipients of benefits. In any case, to obtain any of this information from SSA you will need to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

The detailed procedures are as follows:

To search our records for the information you want, we need certain identifying information. Our records are filed by Social Security numbers (SSNs) rather than by names. If you can provide the person's SSN, we will search our records for any information we might have. Without an SSN, we will need the person's full name, date and place of birth, and parents' full names to locate the record. If you can provide the necessary identifying information, we will search for the number. We cannot search for the SSN for people born before 1865.

The Social Security Administration did not begin keeping records until 1936; therefore, we have no records about people who died before then. A deceased person does not have any privacy rights. Therefore, if he or she applied for an SSN, we can generally provide a copy of the Application for a Social Security Card (form SS-5). This document contains the person's name, date and place of birth, and parents' names that were given when he or she applied for the number. You will be charged the cost of searching our records even if we are unable to locate or disclose any information on the person you are asking about.

The fee for searching our records for the form SS-5 is $27 when the SSN is known and $29 when the number is unknown or is incorrect. The check or money order should be made payable to the Social Security Administration. We will also accept VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express or Diners Club. Please include the appropriate credit card number, along with the expiration date of the credit card with your written request.

There is a form available to request copies of applications for a Social Security Number (Form SS-5) for people who are deceased. Form SSA-711 (Adobe reader required to view) may be used for this purpose; however, you do not need to use the form. Address your request to:

Social Security Administration
OEO FOIA Workgroup
300 N. Green Street
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022

The cost to search for a claim file is $14 when you provide the SSN. You may be charged 10 cents a page for copies. Please note that claim files are usually destroyed within a few years of the final decision on the claim, so we will not have claim files for most people.

Send requests for claim files to:

Social Security Administration Freedom of Information Officer
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235.

(Note: We cannot release information on living persons without their written consent.)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a Death Master File, a record of approximately 70 million deaths that were reported to SSA.

Although Social Security's Death Master File is not available online, you can get the SSA Death Master File Extract from our distributor, the United States Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS). For a fee, you can

  • Search the data on the NTIS website,, or
  • Buy a copy of the SSA Death Master File Extract and subsequent updates from NTIS. The data is available from NTIS as a
    • CD-ROM or DVD, or
    • 3480 cartridge.

To get access to the online SSA Death Master File Extract or buy a copy of it, you should

  • Contact NTIS through their website at,
  • Call the NTIS Subscriptions Department at 1-800-363-2068 or 703-605-6060 (8:30 AM - 5 PM, EST, Monday-Friday), or
  • Write to NTIS at 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, Virginia 22161.

Warning: Others have purchased the SSA Death Master File Extract through NTIS, posted it on their own websites, and then referred to their websites as SSA’s death index or SSA’s Death Master File.

We do not endorse these private websites. We cannot confirm that these private sites are kept up to date or accurate in any way.

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