More genealogical data is available from the Social Security Administration through the social security death benefits index, specifically Form SS5. In addition to clues on death date and place, birth date and social security card issuing state, the Social security death benefits index offers a research link to parentage. Write to the Freedom of Information Officer, and request form SS5. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) currently gives you the right to request and review this information….
Almost as Good as Birth Certificates for Walter Jackson Phillips Jr. and William Earl Rhein
For $27, the 2011 price, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) you may request a copy of the form for an application for a social security number, form ss5. In 1997 the cost was $7.00. Talk about inflation.
The address is:Freedom of Information Officer 4-H-8 Annex Bldg. 6401 Security Blvd. Baltimore, MD 21235
Refer to the name of the subject, the social security of the subject, birth date and death date either in a reference section or the body of the letter to prevent mixups.
RE: John Q. Public, 111-11-1111, b. 1 Jan. 1911 d. Dec. 1982
or in the body of the letter:
Please send SS5 for John Q. Public whose social security number was 111-11-1111, born 1 January 1911, died December 1982.
The Social Security Administration keeps copies of SS5 on microfilm, this is the application form for a social security card. This card can be a big help in parentage questions, since it is filled out by the subject about himself or herself. Of course the form has changed over the years. Nowadays, most forms are completed by parents at birth. However, that was not always the case.
In the first example Walter Jackson Philips Jr. needed a social security number prior to his first job in 1942 and answered all these questions, name, address, ?, age, birth date, place, father, mother, sex, color, ?, job, date, and signature.
The next example from 1936 is a revised form as William Rhein placed his position stock/stock boy/stocker next to his surname.The correct typed version is the top form.
While this information is not quite as good as a birth certificate, it is what the subject believes about him or herself, or in the case of forms filled out in the last two or three decades, what the parents state about a child.
The worst part of this is that the images are on microfilm, so the copy recieved is not as close to the original image as it could be. There are distortion and shading issues in addition to items that were poorly lit or unstable when the camera passed over. What you see is what you get.
Why is it valuable? In most cases some of the same information is the same available on a birth certificate. However, except for the young children applications, it is from the applicant himself, in his own hand, identifying his parents. In cases where there are questions, orphans, adoptions, estrangements, this may be a huge help. Keep in mind, even though a decedent may not be in the ssdi file, does not mean there was not a number issued. It is more likely in the early days of of the program, that more men applied for jobs that needed social security numbers rather than married women.