One of the very best FREE databases for the past ten years or more has been the Social Security Death Index (actually the Death Master Index) on Rootsweb (http://searches.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ssdi.html). One of the best features of this page was the letter that could be printed to order an SS-5 application from the U.S. government.
Now it is gone. The note on the site says:
"Due to sensitivities around the information in this database, the Social Security Death Index collection is not available on our free Rootsweb service but is accessible to search on Ancestry.com. Visit the Social Security Death Index page to be directly connected to this collection."
This must have happened in the last few days, since I used it last week on Rootsweb.
The Social Security Death Index is also available on:
* FamilySearch.org: FREE, but no letter written.
* GenealogyBank.com: FREE, but no letter written.
* Ancestry.com: not FREE; if you have a subscription, the information will be provided. There is a link to write a letter in the Page Tools (upper left corner of the Search results) - "Request copy of original application."
* WorldVitalRecords.com: not FREE: if you have a subscription (or register for a free three-day subscription), you can see the information.
* AmericanAncestors.org: FREE: but no letter is written.
* FamilyTreeLegends.com: FREE: will write a letter to obtain the application.
There is an interesting comment on the Ancestry page:
"Why can’t I see the Social Security Number? If the Social Security Number is not visible on the record index it is because Ancestry.com does not provide this number in the Social Security Death Index for any person that has passed away within the past 10 years."
This is, I think, another recent change.
Hat tip to Sheri Fenley on Google+.
Updated: 13 December 2011 - added content in red type.