Friday, February 12, 2010

Time to revisit the SSDI?

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a staple for U. S. genealogy, post-1935. A recent article in the Genealogy column on, "Don't forget to revisit the Social Security Death Index", provides a good review of the SSDI, which is frequently updated. Included are some important points to remember; for example, not everyone who died after 1935 is listed in the SSDI -- the article tells you why. Also, you will want to remember that the SSDI lists a person's name at the time of death. As genealogists, we are accustomed to searching for our female ancestors by their maiden name, and without really thinking might enter a woman's maiden name rather than her actual name at time of death. Another really useful detail noted in the article, is that Social Security numbers starting with 700 and 728 indicate someone receiving a railroad retirement, which can to search for railroad records. Finally, the article provides a number of caveats and tips about using the SSDI that will help you better interpret information found. And one point I might make about the SSDI -- it is a secondary source record. There are errors. My own mother's death date in in error on the SSDI, even though a death certificate was submitted as verification of her death. Well . . . even the death certificate can be in error. On my mother's death certificate, she is listed as having completed 12 years of education, which is not the case. Being the informant on her death record, I have no idea where that information came from. So it pays to pay attention.

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