The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is Still Available!

ssdiThe Social Security Death Index (often called the SSDI) is a valuable tool for genealogists. It lists deceased people within the United States. When first created, the SSDI only listed those people who were receiving Social Security benefit payments at the time of death. However, as the years went by, the database was expanded to include ALMOST ALL DEATHS, whether receiving benefits or not.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Death Master File (DMF) contains more than 80 million records of deaths that have been reported to SSA. This file includes the following information on each deceased person, as applicable: name, date of birth, date of death, state or country of residence (prior to Mar 1988), and ZIP code of last residence.

Due to false concerns over identity theft, the Social Security Administration stopped releasing updates to the SSDI a few years ago. A few web sites that previously had made the SSDI available online have since deleted the records from their web sites. Now many genealogists believe the SSDI is no longer available.

Not true! The SSDI hasn’t been “lost.” It is still available in several places today, and you can search it online.

In fact, the Social Security Administration has stopped issuing UPDATES to the Death Master File. However, the original database, current through January 2011, remains in the public domain and is still available online from a number of web sites. Some web sites have updated their records from 2011 through 2012. Death records for the past three years are not available.

NOTE #1: Genealogists have always referred to this database of deceased persons as the “SSDI.” However, employees of the Social Security Administration and many others call it the Death Master File, or DMF. The reason for the discrepancy in names appears to be confusion with another service of the Social Security Administration.

If you mention “the SSDI” to an employee of the Social Security Administration, he or she will probably think you are referring to Social Security Disability Insurance, something that is unrelated to the Death Master File except that both are available from the Social Security Administration. When talking with non-genealogists, you probably should always refer to this database as the “Death Master File.”

NOTE #2: In most cases, only the first ten letters of each individual’s first name are shown in the SSDI. For instance, the name “Christopher” is abbreviated as “Christophe”. Also, middle initials are shown, but complete middle names are not recorded in the database. The search rules will vary from one web site to another. I find it best to only enter the first ten letters of longer names. That seems to always work. Entering all the letters of first names with more than ten letters sometimes results in a “not found” error on some web sites although not on others. When in doubt, use only ten letters.

NOTE #3: Not all the online databases will display all the available information about the person listed in the SSDI. You may have to try several online services in order to find what you seek.

NOTE #4: Information about geographic allocation of Social Security numbers can be found at http://www.ssa.gov/employer/stateweb.htm. Keep in mind that Social Security Numbers used to be assigned by the location where the Number was ISSUED, not by the place of birth of the individual.

I suggest you access the Social Security Death Index (Death Master File) at any of the following:

MyHeritage: https://www.myheritage.com/research/collection-10002/us-social-security-death-index-ssdi

Steve Morse’s One Step Genealogy: http://www.stevemorse.org/ssdi/ssdi.html

FamilySearch: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1202535

Ancestry: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3693 (Ancestry allows anyone to view a short version of the record, but viewing all the details requires a subscription to Ancestry.com.)

GenealogyBank: http://www.genealogybank.com/explore/ssdi/all (You must be a paid subscriber of GenealogyBank to view the details of each record.)

American Ancestors operated by the New England Historic Genealogical Society: http://www.americanancestors.org/databases/social-security-death-index/about/ (That page states, “Access to the SSDI is FREE to all who visit AmericanAncestors.org.” However, you must either register for a FREE guest account or pay for a subscription to view your SSDI search results.

WorldVitalRecords.com: http://www.worldvitalrecords.com/indexinfo.aspx?ix=ssdiall&affpid=1022 (Requires an account with WorldVitalReords.com. However, a FREE 7-day trial account is available.)

NOTE: Also included in the WorldVitalRecords.com version of the SSDI is See Neighbors which is a list of those persons who died during the same year and in the same zip code as the deceased who is being searched. Finally, when a residence at death is included in a listing, a geo-coded Google Map is included with the place where the person died and their nearest cemeteries.

… and probably some other places as well.

You also can download the entire SSDI record set yourself at http://ssdmf.info/download.html although that is the 30 November 2011 edition. No later records are available.

19 Comments

Here is another database for the Death Master File. I like it because it can be searched by several different values – birth date, name or S.S. number. http://ssdmf.info/
I search several of these resources available in case one has the record I seek where another one might not have it.
Joseph

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Are we unable to get information for deaths occurring after 2011 in any other way from the SSA? (For example, by paying for an individual record from the SSA?). Or do we just need to focus on obits, death certificates, etc.?
Thanks.

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    —> Are we unable to get information for deaths occurring after 2011 in any other way from the SSA?

    There is no way that I know of unless you are an heir of the deceased. You can thank your members of Congress for that. They stopped the access because they thought someone might commit identity theft using a deceased person’s Social Security Number. Our elected officials ignored the fact that a better and more effective solution would be to publicize and make instantly available the Social Security Numbers of deceased individuals to EVERYONE, including loan officers, credit card companies, banks, credit unions, tax preparers, and more. Every application for credit or money should be INSTANTLY checked for Social Security Numbers of deceased individuals BEFORE being processed. These financial organizations already check claimants’ credit ratings… Why not the Social Security Numbers?

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A deceased person might be missing from the SSDI is that his/her death was not reported to the SSA. This routine task is usually handled by the funeral home and is required if burial or survivor’s benefits are being claimed. My father, who died in 1996, is missing from the Death Master File because no one notified the SSA and his widow did not apply for benefits.

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    Same here. My mother passed in 1992. Since I did not claim a death benefit for her, and did not report her death to the Social Security Administration, neither did the funeral home, her name is not listed in the “SSDI” or Death Master File.

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Are you sure about the Nov 2011 date? Just saw 2013 death dates in the Ancestry SSDI.

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Another example of congress and others jumping to an incorrect solution without bothering to study the situation! The index was created to prevent identity theft especially of using a deceased’s number to work or obtain credit. Congress needs to change their position to cut down on identity theft not increase it!

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You can get up to 2014 (at least February 2014) from Fold3. They updated their collection in February 2016, so now I can at least find my own fathers record.

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Many think that the last residence listed in the Death Master File is at least somewhere near the place of death. Not true. My father died in a nursing home in South Carolina while I held Power of Attorney. Thus, his last residence is the city in Pennsylvania where I reside. He had not set foot in Pennsylvania (where he was born and resided for the first 65 years of his life) since 1999 — he died in 2006.

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Per ancestry’s info about the SSDI: “Going forward, records from the most recent 3 year period will not be available to Ancestry.com. Once a record is older than 3 years (1095 days), it can be published.”

“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.”

I personally don’t see where a three year delay in reporting deaths is that big a deal. Also, ancestry now makes available info that was in the original Social Security apps, which often has birth info and parents info and other details.

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I’m not sure the cut off at 2011 is absolutely correct. My understanding that was in the case if most states, the record of a death could be added to SSDI once it took place more than 3 years previously. What’s the opinion of others?

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Overreach and overreaction by the legislators who are supposed to represent us. When will they start representing ordinary people and not their big donors?

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    It’s my understanding that the legislator who pushed for this was Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, who chaired the Social Security Subcommittee. I also understand that this move was encouraged by a couple whose deceased daughter’s (Alexis Agin) SSN was used in an identity theft. The legislator himself was a POW. I think genies tried to explain to him that the SSDI was useful in cases of military repatriation, assisting coroner’s offices, and by medical researchers (see this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/us/social-security-death-record-limits-hinder-researchers.html )

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Dick,
You said that there are no updates after 2011.

However, familysearch says their copy of the ssdi goes up to February 28, 2014
Ancestry.com says they have U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.

Can you clarify this issue?

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    FamilySearch.org states (at https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_Social_Security_Death_Index_(FamilySearch_Historical_Records ), “Records for the most recent 3 years are not available.”

    Ancestry.com states (at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3693 ), “Going forward, records from the most recent 3 year period will not be available to Ancestry.com.”

    That means that new records have not been added since 2013. HOWEVER, corrections to older records are still issued weekly and monthly by the Social Security Administration. The newer records are not included, however.

    In theory, records that are three years old or older should be in the latest updates. However, not all web sites are updating their records regularly. As a result, the dates available are going to vary from one web site to another and none of them have records for the past three years as the Social Security Administration cannot legally release the last three years’ records.

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I never saw a “3 Year rule” regarding any listing. But SSDI entries were stopped as of February 28, 2014. I have found people who died in 2013 listed. Far as I know, they have not re-started new entries, although, they said, there would be 3 years (until Feb., 2017) before any new deaths would be published, i.e., a 3 year hiatus, period.

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How can I get an older version of the SSMDF, e.g. 2005.

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    —> How can I get an older version of the SSMDF

    The SSDI (also called the Social Security Death Master File) is available on a number of web sites, including MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch, Steve Morse’s One-Step Genealogy, GenealogyBank.com, WorldVitalRecords.com, Ancestry.com, and probably some other places as well. You might want to see my earlier article, The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is Still Available!, at http://bit.ly/2nBlaZL

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