Information about the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)



    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:

    Sample entry

    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.

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    Individual Information

    Last Name

    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).

    First Name:

    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

    State Issued:

    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.

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    Birth Information

    Birth Date

    The Date of birth

    Birth Month

    The Month of birth

    Birth Year

    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).

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    Death Information

    Death Date

    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.

    Death Month

    The Month of death

    Death Year

    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.

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    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.

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