The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social
Security Administration (SSA) contains over 59.7 million records created from SSA payment
records. The current update reflects data up through the end of June 1998. It contains the
records of those for whom the lump sum death benefit was paid. That lump sum benefit could
have been requested by a family member, an attorney, a mortuary, etc. [NOTE:
If someone is missing from the list, it may be that the benefit was never requested, there
was an error on the form requesting the benefit or even an error in entering the
information into the SSDI.]
This file includes the following information on each decedent, if the data is available
to the SSA:
Doe, John 123-45-6789 (WY) b. 16 Aug 1898 d. 12 Jul 1971
lr. 54321 (City, County, State) lp. 95476 (City, County, State)
The absence of a particular person in the SSDI is not proof this person is alive.
Additionally, there is a possibility that incorrect records of death have been entered on
the DMF. The Social Security Administration does not guarantee the accuracy of the file.
Up to 128 characters.
(mckay, 'smith or smyth', larsen, ...)
When searching for a name like O'Hare, or other names with punctuation in them, look
for the name without the punctuation (e.g. OHare).
Up to 128 characters.
(randall, 'david or dave', martin, ...)
The SSA does not normally include middle name/initial information in the data, but
there are many instances where such information was actually included. For example, there
are many instances of "J Jones" included in the file. Most of them are initial
"J" only, but some include other names as well.
If you are looking for someone using a first name but don't find what you're looking
for, try searching with just an initial. There are also rare instances of what appear to
be middle initials included in the last name field, so you may want to try this as well.
As you can tell by now, there are times when you need to be creative in doing searches
for those ellusive ancestors.
Social Security Number
Name of the State that issued the SSN.
In most cases, the first three numbers of the SSN are unique to a state (i.e.
they are only used for that state). For example, the number 232-xx-xxxx was used in West
Virginia and in North Carolina. In this case, there will be a note that indicates that
only the nuerical series "232-30-xxxx" was used in North Carolina and any other
number except 30 was used for West Virginia.
The Date of birth
The Month of birth
The Year of birth (4 digits)
Note that the index contains dates of birth as early (or perhaps earlier than) 1800.
Because the system was created in 1932, it would be wise to suspect that birth dates
earlier than 1850 or so were in error.
The index also includes birth dates for several individuals who have not been born yet
(62 are listed as being born after 1995) indicating the need to search combinations
of years that an operator may have mistyped (e.g. you may want to search in 1986
for someone who you think died in 1968).
The Date of death
Note that before 1988, the date of death was seldom recorded (i.e. only the
Month and Year were recorded). Only 25% of the records have death date information and all
but 34,000 of those are after 1988. This makes any death date before 1988 suspect.
The Month of death
The Year of Death (4 digits)
Note that more than 1,000 entries are listed with a death before 1932 (the inception of
the Social Security system) making these entries suspect.
Just over 1,000,000 entries are listed with a death date before 1963. This means that
the vast majority of deaths listed are deaths after 1963.
Last Residence Location
The Last Residence is the place where the person was last known to be living
when the benefit was applied for.
While 77% of the records contain Last Residence information, a total of 19% do
not contain any Last Residence information.
City, County, State
While we believe that the majority of this information is correct, there have been
reports of incorrect Cities being associated with various zip codes. Also, since ZIP codes
are subject to change over time, please be sure to verify city names with other sources
before relying heavily upon them in further research efforts.
Here are two places you can go to look up ZIP codes and cross reference them to names
of neighboring cities/towns:
Here is a place you can go to look up places
to write to for Vital Records:
The city/town of either the Last Residence or the Lump Sum Payment.
The county of either the Last Residence or the Lump Sum Payment.
The state of either the Last Residence or the Lump Sum Payment.