Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Obtaining a U.S. Social Security Application Record

One of my society colleagues recently asked me "How can I obtain a Social Security application for my great-grandfather?"  

I knew that the rules had changed, and some of the methods to obtain the application had changed.  Here's what I found today while trying to find online information and forms.

FamilySearch has a Wiki page describing Social Security applications and the genealogical information that might be obtained from them. See U.S. Social Security Records for Genealogists.  The page says:

"You can ... obtain copies of your ancestor's SS-5 application by:
"The current fee is USD $27 per record when the Social Security Number is known, and USD $29 when the number is unknown or incorrect. You are charged the fee even if the SSA is unable to locate any information on the person. It may take up to six months to receive a report, so please be patient.""
The "Online Request for Deceased Individual's Social Security Record" looks like this (two screens):

This is probably the easiest way to obtain the application, but it requires a credit card number.

The mail-in form can be downloaded at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-711.pdf.  You then write a check or obtain a money order and send it in to the mailing address.

If the researcher is looking for all of the information on the application, they need to order the photocopy of the original Application for Social Security Card, and not the computer abstract of information.  Knowing the Social Security number of the deceased saves the requester $2.

The information that might be found on a Social Security application, at the time of the application, includes:

  • Applicant's full name
  • Age at last birthday
  • Date and place of birth
  • Father's and mother's full name (including the mother's maiden name)
  • Gender and Color
  • Employer's name and address, and date of first employment
  • Residence 
  • Date signed and applicant's signature
Some data may be restricted.  The website says:

"We use the '120 year rule' when disclosing information from our records for extremely aged persons when no date of death exists. We normally do not assume that an individual is deceased without proof of death (e.g., death certificate, obituary, newspaper article, or police report). 

"Also, under our current policy, we do not release the parents' names unless they are proven deceased, have a birth date more than 120 years ago, or the number holder on the SS-5 is at least 100 years of age."

Rootsweb used to provide a Freedom of Information Access letter for you, but since they took the Social Security Death Index down several years ago, that letter format is no longer available.  I thought that Ancestry.com had a similar letter, but when I searched, the link for "Request copy of original application" goes to a FAQ page on the Social Security Administration site that doesn't find a match for "obtain social security application."  A search for "ss-5 application" turned up a FAQ for "Can you provide a copy of a deceased person’s Social Security number application for genealogical research?"  That leads you to the forms above.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2014/09/obtaining-social-security-application.html

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Updated 24 September to add what might be found ion an SS-5 application.


Margel said...

What information is on an original Social Security application?

Anonymous said...

This is all correct procedure now and they stick by it. I've ordered several now at the $27 price and didn't know to send proof of death for each person's parents. They did cover up the names of the parents. So, I sent them copies of findagrave burial information (with copies of their headstones)...this was all I had...and asked them to please review because they are definitely dead by now...their ages would have been between 90 and 100 years...but not quite the 120 years. It took a long time, but they did resend original copies that included the parent's names. You kind of go into panic mode when you pay that much money for a single document and you don't get all the information.

Anonymous said...

To Answer Margel's question:

1. With the SS-5 (original ss application), you get the original handwriting of the person who filled out the application. And it is usually filled out at a very young age, when they begin working:
a. Full name
b. Current address
c. Date & place of birth
d. Parent's names
e. Employer's name & address
f. Date signed
e. Signature

Back in the day, they used to be $7 each, and overnight, they went up to $27 each. Now I have to be very selective in the ones I want to order.