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February 6, 2010

GENEALOGY: Don’t forget to revisit Social Security Death Index

TERRE HAUTE — Every once in a while, it pays to revisit the Social Security Death Index, even if you have been there before. That’s because people are always dying and the index is always being updated. The SSDI is a free tool available on several web sites. The Kindred Konnections site at recently announced that it has updated its version of the Social Security Death Index to include 86 million records current through Nov. 30, 2009.

If you are a beginner to genealogy, the SSDI is a good place to start looking around. You can search for the records of your recently deceased relatives and go back to in time to anyone who died after 1935 (when the Social Security program began). They had to have been on Social Security in order to be included on the index. In most cases, that means they had reached retirement age and begun receiving Social Security checks. Others who might be on the list are disabled individuals who got on the Social Security program at an earlier age due to their disability.

Don’t expect to find anyone and everyone who died after 1935, on the index, though. The person also had to have worked after that date, had Social Security withholding payments taken out of his paychecks, and then lived to collect Social Security. For instance, my own grandfather is not listed on the SSDI. He was already 65 when the Social Security Act passed, was not working at that age, and so never paid into or collected Social Security. He died in 1952 and is not on the SSDI because there was no reason to contact Social Security upon his death.

The SSDI lists the person’s name at the time of death, date of birth, date of death, last known residence at the time of death, and sometimes the state from which the person made his/her social security application. If you are searching on the Kindred Konnections site, you can search by last name only (the minimal information required), first and last name, date or year range for birth, date or year range for death, and location of last residence. These latter search options help you to zero in on your person of interest when there are multiple hits for the same name.

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