Wednesday, November 2, 2011

U.S. Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, on Ancestry.com

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Ancestry.com has added this database to their list.  The database description says::

"This index contains birth and death dates for more than 14 million veterans who served during the years 1800–2010.

"What’s in the Records
The BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem) Death File is a Veterans Benefits Administration database that lists the names of deceased individuals who had received benefits from the Veterans Administration while they were alive. These include veterans who received educational benefits and veterans’ survivors who applied for benefits. Details listed in the index can include
  • name
  • gender
  • birth date
  • death dates
  • cause of death (unknown, natural, combat, other)
  • branch(es) of service
  • enlistment date(s)
  • release date(s)
"This collection’s scope and the potential for providing birth and death dates make it a significant source for anyone researching ancestors who served in the U.S. Armed Forces."

I searched for my grandfather's record.  Here's the Search form for the database:


I entered only a surname - "Carringer" in the search field (with Exact Matches checked) and received four matches:


My grandfather, Lyle L. Carringer, was at the top of the list.  Here is the record for him:


The data shown is:

Name: Lyle Lawrence Carringer
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 2 Nov 1891
Death Date: 5 Nov 1976
SSN: 553109373
Enlistment Date 1: 7 May 1917
Release Date 1:  29 Apr 1919

Note that there is only the index record, with no image.  There are several very useful bits of information in that record.  I don't think I knew his enlistment date or his release date from the U.S. Marines. 

I also input "Seaver" in the Search field, and saw 247 matches.  My father was number 10 on the list:


This record has only his name, gender, SSN, birth date and death date.  Unfortunately, it does not list his enlistment date or release data for his United States Navy service.  It also has an error - it lists his birth date as 26 May 1893 - it was really 15 October 1911.  I think that is an input error, since he died 26 May 1983. 

This database provides useful data for U.S. military veterans - including the Social Security Number (which is also the military ID number, I think).  A researcher could use that number to obtain military service records and/or the Social Security SS-5 Application.

UPDATED 4 November:

Reader Geolover commented:

"This database has an extremely high number of data-entry errors as to dates of birth (especially) and death. Some men were born and died the same day, many supposedly born 1845 or before, served in WWI or WWII and died after the 1960s.

"There are no Civil War pensioners in the database."

8 comments:

Dee said...

Thanks for alerting me to this database. I hadn't saw it yet. In only a few minutes of searching, I've already found records for several family members.

Geolover said...

This database has an extremely high number of data-entry errors as to dates of birth (especially) and death. Some men were born and died the same day, many supposedly born 1845 or before, served in WWI or WWII and died after the 1960s.

There are no Civil War pensioners in the database.

Bryght said...

I have been using this database for a year, for relative in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, as well as the times in between. Of the 172 records I have used from the BIRLS, only 1 had an error: the birth year. And since 8 other records are evenly divided on his birth year (1911/1912)including Ohio's death record's and SSDI, for me, I'd say its been pretty accurate and definitely invaluable. Now if Ancestry could get hold of US Navy ENLISTMENT records, instead of muster logs, that would be even better!

Frank said...

The error I found for my Grandfather (or maybe you can correct me and explain that it is not an error) is that it said ARMY when he was in the Marines..

Jason W. Crews said...

Randy, how do you cite this source? Should I use Evidence Explained 11.36 Military: Headstone & Burial Records - Online Database & Indexes? I could not find anything on EvidenceExplained.com in regards to U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File.

Rosemary said...

@Jason - I would use a generic online database template for this. I think of it as similar in function to the SSDI.

Howland Davis said...

Randy - You posted in your blog, "This database provides useful data for U.S. military veterans - including the Social Security Number (which is also the military ID number, I think)." Up until about 1968, the military ID number was different from the SSN. In 1968, in getting emergency leave from Vietnam due to the death of my brother-in-law in Vietnam I had to provide both my military ID [052-----] along with my SSN for my orders.

Anonymous said...

I looked up one veteran, who is listed as dead. I know for a fact that the death certificate for this guy is a fake- no signatures at all ! Yet, the VA does not verify if a death certificate is real or not....take the BIRLS with a grain of salt.