05 March 2010

Ancestry: SSDI now updated weekly

One of Ancestry.com's first databases, the Social Security Death Index will now be updated weekly.

The Social Security Death Index is known by its acronym SSDI. Names have been added to that database since 1996, more than 86 million of them, in fact.

The weekly updating means that this useful database will be much more current with recent deaths reported to the Social Security Administration.

What does the SSDI contain? It lists deaths reported to the SSA or the Railroad Retirement Board. Individuals who did not have social security cards are not included. Thus, not everyone you're searching for may be found.

Ancestry offers these search tips:

-- Search by the surname used by the individual at the time of death.

-- No hits? Try other surnames used at other times during that person's life.

-- Search by given name, death year, birth year - without a surname.

-- Try using initials as SSDI records do not always include a full given name.

-- Try searching with a middle name instead of the first name.

-- Try variant name forms, such as Sarah/Sally or Mary/Polly/Molly and other common forms or nicknames, such as Jacob/Jake, Isaac/Ike, Matthew/Matt, or James/John.

-- For dates, switch day and month (e.g. 5 February or 2 May, which can be written 5/2 or 2/5). Some records list the entire date of death, some only the month or year.

-- You can also search using the Social Security Number (SSN) alone, if you have it.

Ancestry has now made it easier to search using only the first few letters of the name and a wild card asterisk (*).

Researchers should remember that the location for death is not always where the person died or was buried, but is in fact the last place of residence known by the SSA for that person.

For example, the individual might have been on vacation or spending the winter in a warmer climate or have been anywhere in the world when they died, but the SSA would only be concerned with the official last place of residence.

Researchers need to find more evidence to determine the exact place of death.

With more records appearing weekly, check back often for family members of interest.


  1. David8:02 AM

    The last place of residence may even be a place where the individual never lived. My mother's last SSA residence is actually where my brother lived as he had legal responsibility for my mother in her final years.

  2. Also, first three letters of first name with an asterisk (means "starts with") - especially useful for names like Sam(uel), Ben(jamin), and when you don't know whether it's Rose, Rosa or Rosalie (Ros*).