Find your ancestors in Social Security Death Index

Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is the commercial name for the Death Master File (DMF) created by the United States Social Security Administration. The DMF was first created in 1980 and contains every person with a Social Security number who has been reported dead to the Social Security Administration from 1962 onwards or who had died prior to 1962 but still had active Social Security accounts in 1962.

Each record in this index will provide you with a transcript of key information:

  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Birth year
  • Birth date
  • Death year
  • Death date
  • Social Security number
  • Place of issue (of Social Security number)
  • State

Discover more about these records

Social Security numbers are assigned to citizens, permanent residents, and employed temporary residents of the United States. The Social Security Administration issues these numbers for the purpose of tracking individual Social Security and, secondary, for identification regarding taxation, employment, and other services.

The New Deal Social Security program introduced the first Social Security numbers in November 1935. The New Deal was the result of the Great Depression and the creation of Social Security was intended to provide for older citizens, as the United States had no national insurance system in place at that time. The program differed fundamentally in scope from other New Deal programs, which were intended to last for less than a decade. The Social Security Act, however, introduced a permanent system, funded by payroll taxes and formed the basis for the welfare system in the United States, designed to provide aid for older citizens, needy minors, the unemployed, and the handicapped.

As you search through this index, it’s important to keep in mind that the policies and practices of issuing Social Security numbers have evolved over the years. Prior to 1986, it was common for individuals to receive Social Security numbers around age 14 as they were primarily used for tracking income. It wasn’t until the Tax Reform Act of 1986 that parents and guardians were required to list the Social Security numbers of any dependents over the age of five who they were claiming on their taxes. The age was lowered to two in 1988 and to one in 1990. Today, parents usually apply for Social Security numbers for their children on the same form used to apply for their birth certificates.

If you have military ancestors, it may be useful to know that Social Security numbers were used as identification numbers for members of

  • The Army and Air Force from 1 July 1969
  • The Navy and Marine Corps from 1 January 1972
  • The Coast Guard from 1 October 1974

This practice ended in June 2011.

Since the start of the Social Security program, over 450 million Social Security numbers have been issued. The Social Security Administration does not reuse numbers and has said it has enough remaining numbers to last several generations without the need to reuse or change the makeup of the Social Security numbers. As you start your research, however, it should be noted that there have been incidents of more than one person being accidentally assigned the same Social Security number.