Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Use the Social Security Death Index

Yesterday I wrote about the Social Security Death Index. Today I want to show you some ways you can access the information. I'm using Rootsweb's Social Security Death Index as the example (http://ssdi.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi).

1. BASIC SEARCH

In the basic search, you have the following fields:
LAST NAME, FIRST NAME, MIDDLE NAME (INITIAL) AND SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.

Let's look for the Social Security record for Owen K. Lynch, my grandmother's brother. I fill in LYNCH for last name, OWEN for first name and K for middle initial. I don't have Owen's Social Security number so I leave that blank. Then I submit the information. I get one hit, but I know from a family bible entry that Great Uncle Owen was born June 16, 1883. I also know he died in Texas. This Owen K Lynch was born in 1911 and his last residence was Bronx, New York. Obviously, this isn't the correct Owen K. Lynch.

Next, I try putting in just the last name — LYNCH, and submit the information again. Wow, that gives me 40, 728 hits — no way can I sort through that amount of information.

Let's give it one more try with the basic search. This time I put in LYNCH for
last name and OWEN for first name and submit. Now I get 24 hits — a more
manageable list.

I'm looking for someone whose last residence was Texas and who was born in
June 1883 (there's always a possibility that the actual birth date might not match).

On the second page of hits, I find him. Owen Lynch, birth date June 16, 1883, death date November 1970, last residence was Kerrville Texas (which now that I see it, I remember that Kerrville is a place where the Lynch's lived) and a surprise, his SSN was issued in Missouri. This tells me that at some point, Owen lived in Missouri. Interesting — this is something I will want to follow up.

Moral of this search: Searching is a lot like the story of the three bears — you can input too much information or too little information — it's important to put in just enough information to find the individual you are looking for.

2. ADVANCED SEARCH

To get to the advanced search click on the button that says, Advanced Search, located next to the Clear button.

The fields on you can search on this screen are the following:
LAST NAME, FIRST NAME, MIDDLE NAME (INITIAL) LAST RESIDENCE ZIP, LAST RESIDENCE STATE, LAST RESIDENCE COUNTY, LAST RESIDENCE CITY, LAST BENEFIT ZIP, LAST BENEFIT STATE, LAST BENEFIT COUNTY, LAST BENEFIT CITY, BIRTH YEAR, BIRTH MONTH, BIRTH DAY, DEATH YEAR, DEATH MONTH and STATE where the Social Security number was issued.

In the 1900 Census, my grandfather's family is listed. He has three sisters, the youngest of whom is listed as Nina Dorcas Hoy, age 1, birth month November, birth year 1898. (The 1900 census is the only federal census that has been released that includes the birth month and year, making it the first census I check whenever possible.)

I want to try to find Nina's married name so that I may add her and her husband to my family tree.

I fill in the first name NINA, the month of birth NOVEMBER, and the year of birth 1898 and I am going to put the state her SSN was issued as OHIO. One match — a Nina Tanner, birth date — November 27, 1898; date of death — December 1980, Last Residence — Winter Haven, Florida, Issued SSN — Ohio.

This could be her. My next step is to go to the Hayes Presidential Center Obituary Index (http://index.rbhayes.org/hayes/index/index.asp) to see if a Nina Tanner is listed. I find a listing for Nina Tanner with a December 1980 obituary listed in the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune. The obituary is in the Tiffin Seneca Public Library and I can either order the obituary to see if I have the right individual or I can visit the library myself and read the obituary free of charge.

Of course, there is no guarantee that you will find the individual you are looking for when you are doing one of these types of inquiries. But I have had enough success to keep this as an option. In this case, I have found the correct Nina. Her obituary lists her husband as John Tanner. And so, another piece of my family puzzle snaps into its proper place.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 16, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online http://www.thenews-messenger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=BLOGS02

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