Related Help Pages:
Getting Started
Definition of Fields and Search Tips
Missing Entries in the SSDI
Reporting Inaccurate Entries
Contacting the SSA for Information

Terms and Definitions:
Metaphone:
Surnames can be searched for Metaphone (consonant-sound) matches. Metaphone is similar to Soundex, but gives somewhat different results.
Soundex:

Soundex searches will result in names with similar sounds, based on a coding first used for U. S. census indexes. Do not enter the Soundex code; the program will do the conversion internally and give you appropriate matches.


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Social Security Death Index
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Social Security Death Index:
Definition of Fields and Search Tips

The following search fields are available for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and will appear in the search results: last name and search format, first name, middle name, SSN (Social Security Number), last known residence, last benefit, birth date (day, month, and/or year), death date (month and/or year), state issued.

In addition, you will find the following Tools (options) on the pages showing your search results: SS-5 letter, add Post-em, and view Post-em (when applicable). These appear in the column labeled "Tools."

Last Name and Search Format
The database usually lists the legal name at the time of death. Some entries include suffixes such as Jr, Sr, III, IV, MD, etc. — do not include periods when using suffixes. Married women are generally listed under their married names, but there are exceptions. You may need to check maiden and married names, including married names from previous marriages.

Try spelling variants, including punctuation and spacing variants, if applicable (van Horn and vanHorn or O'Brien and OBrien, for example). Soundex or Metaphone searches will give you similar-sounding matches. Using them in addition to the exact matches will broaden your search results.

You can do a wildcard search by entering at least the first three letters of the name, followed by an asterisk (*). For example, searching for "Peter*" (no quotation marks) will give you results that include Peter, Peters, Peterson, Peterman, etc.

First Name
You can enter a name or initial in this field, or leave the field blank if you are not looking for a specific person. You can do a wildcard search by entering at least the first three letters of the name, followed by an asterisk (*). For example, searching for "Har*" (no quotation marks) will give you results that include Harold, Harry, Harriett, etc.

Middle Name
You can enter a name or initial in this field. The index does not usually include middle names or initials; most initials do not include a period. If you used this field and the search was not successful, try again and leave the field empty or try with just an initial (with and without a period).

Last Residence
The last residence may or may not be the location where the person lived or died. A more accurate description of this field would be the address of record. The SSA records show only the Zip Code in this field. RootsWeb has expanded the field to include the city, county, and state information.

Zip codes shown in the search results will be the ones in effect at the time of death; they may or may not be the same as the codes in use today. A wildcard search in this field will broaden the area being searched. To do a wildcard search, enter the first three or four digits of the zip code, followed by an asterisk (*). For example, searching for "684*" (no quotation marks) would result in any zip code beginning with those three digits.

Some search results will show codes or abbreviations, usually in parentheses such as (72) or (PE). These are internal codes used by the Social Security Administration and can be ignored. The abbreviation VA does not mean Virginia or Veterans' Administration. For more information on these codes, see http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0202602125.

Last Benefit
The location of the last benefit can be the last residence (see above) or the location where the lump-sum payment (burial benefit) was sent.

Zip codes shown in the search results will be the ones in effect at the time of death; they may or may not be the same as the codes in use today. A wildcard search in this field will broaden the area being searched. To do a wildcard search, enter the first three or four digits of the zip code, followed by an asterisk (*). For example, searching for "684*" (no quotation marks) would result in any zip code beginning with those three digits.

Birth Date
The year should be entered as a four-digit number if you include this field in your search criteria. The month and/or day can be chosen from the drop-down menus.

Death Date
The year should be entered as a four-digit number if you include this field in your search criteria. The month can be chosen from the drop-down menu.

The date of death was seldom entered prior to 1988 and is not included in the search options. If the date is in the file, it will appear in the search results. Some entries will include (V) or (P). (V) indicates the SSA verified the report with a family member or someone acting on behalf of a family member. (P) indicates the SSA saw the death certificate.

State Issued
This field shows the state where a Social Security Number (card) was issued. It also includes the District of Columbia, U. S. territories and commonwealths, and some long-time or retired railroad workers. The state issuing the card may or may not be the same as the place of birth.

SSN (Social Security Number)
If you know the Social Security Number, you may enter it and leave all other fields blank. You do not need to enter dashes (-) or spaces between each segment of the number.

SS-5 Letter
This option appears on the pages showing your search results, in the column labeled "Tools." Clicking on it will result in a pre-formatted letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that requests a copy of the person's application for a Social Security Number (form SS-5). Click here for more information about this form, and for information about contacting the SSA.

Add Post-em/View Post-em
These options appear on the pages showing your search results, in the column labeled "Tools." A Post-em Note is the electronic equivalent of a sticky note and is offered as a free benefit to all RootsWeb researchers. These can be used to identify errors, to add related information or links, or to amend records within the SSDI. For additional information on using Post-em Notes, click here.

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Missing Entries in the SSDI