(US) Department of Commerce Announces Changes to Limited Access Death Master File (also called the Social Security Death Index, or SSDI)

The following report was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee and published originally on the IAJGS Public Records Access Alert mailing list:

The (US) Department of Commerce announced that effective April 1, 2018 the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) implemented upgrades to modernize and enhance access to the Limited Access Death Master File (LADMF). One of the changes is their new website accessible at: https://ladmf.ntis.gov/  You will have to register at the site to familiarize yourself with and the new subscription options.

You may recall that when the proposed  certification to the LADMF was announced, genealogists basically could not be certified as they could not  meet the onerous requirements for business security and the cost of subscriptions. The submitted testimonies by various genealogical groups, including the IAJGS and the Records  Preservation and Monitoring Committee (RPAC) of which IAJGS is a sponsoring member fell on “deaf ears”.

The remainder of the notice sent to IAJGS is copied in its entirety below as it is not posted to their website:

“Part of the upgrade includes improving the security for data access.  NTIS accomplished this by making raw data subscriptions other than the LADMF Base File available only through Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP).  NTIS no longer offers LADMF updates on CD ROM or DVD.   NTIS also discontinued the Quarterly Updates.  However, subscribers who would like to continue receiving raw data will still be able to obtain the Weekly and Monthly Updates via SFTP at the listed price when they renew or may instead choose one of the online search options described below.  Because of its size, the LADMF Base File, which consists of more than 86 million entries, will remain available exclusively on CD ROM or DVD until further notice. The changes described in this paragraph will be implemented as subscriptions are renewed.

As the date for each subscriber’s raw data subscription renewal approaches, the NTIS subscription management team will be reaching out to existing customers to support the transition to the new NTIS-provided data products (contact subscriptions@ntis.gov).

NTIS also simplified the subscription online search options to make selecting the services you need much easier.  Customers already subscribing to online search products will not be charged more for the same product. However, the new option may cost more or less than the current subscription when you renew. Please note that only the mode of access will change; the data content and elements remain the same.

The new online search subscription options are described at: https://ladmf.ntis.gov/Products/Products

NTIS would like to remind you that all subscribers of the LADMF intending to use its data on a continuing basis must, after receiving a complete LADMF Base File, keep that file updated by purchasing a subscription to the weekly or monthly updates.  Any subscriber who does not receive the updates on a continual basis is not keeping the LADMF up to date.

Licensees who resell LADMF in accordance with 15 CFR Part 1100 must notify their customers of the changes in LADMF product offerings and should also remind them that, to maintain an up to date LADMF Base File, they must continue to purchase the weekly or monthly updates.”

To read the previous postings NTIS requirements for certification to access the LADMF database go to the archives of the IAJGS Records Access Alert at:  http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/private/records-access-alerts/. You must be registered to access the archives.  To register go to: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/listinfo/records-access-alerts  and follow the instructions to enter your email address, full name and which genealogical  organization with whom you are affiliated   You will receive an email response that you have to reply to or the subscription will not be finalized.

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee


Ok so the short version? Exactly what does this me to the everyday family researcher. Can I still get Grandma’s information?


Hard to tell, but I think the short answer is “yes, but you can only afford to via a third-party vendor like Ancestry.” It would be useful to know what has changed from the old policies other than using sftp to access the information. Is it now more expensive? A quick look at some of the pricing makes this look like the Government is doing what Facebook and Google are accused of doing, selling our information for profit. On the Government side, it sounds like the onerous costs are justified as a security feature, to which I say “hah!”

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The application forms are so restrictive that one can clearly see they are designed to keep anyone but large companies from accessing the information. The questions are legal type so how is a genealogist supposed to know the answers to qualify. ie. What is the name of the law? What is the Statute? etc. I would be very appreciative and I am sure everyone else is, if an article cold be written with the answers needed for certification, could be posted.

Liked by 1 person

I’ve been wondering when we’ll see 2015 deaths on the SSDI through the normal channels (Ancestry/FamilySearch/GenealogyBank, etc.) Does this address that?


I just want the short answer as to how this effects a Grandmother in Oregon wanting to work on a family tree. Article may mean something to experts but it is full of nonsense to the average Grandma!


    For genealogists, nothing has changed. For an organization with a security or anti-fraud interest (such as a bank, insurance company, or other financial firm), they can certify on government forms that they have a need and send the NTIS $1,500 for access. Genealogists won’t qualify.
    It’s not that big a deal. Genealogists don’t have to rely on the Limited Access Death Master File (SS Death Index) for death information. There are newspaper websites, Legacy.com and search engines like Bing and Google. It’s really not a hardship to wait for the DMF to update when there are alternatives.


Typical government bull, and another way to take your $, without being helpful. Our taxes are what pay the folks who record these records, but we can’t use them! Another brick in the road.


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