Monday, July 27, 2015

Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Last week added an important new data collection to its subscriber-available repository -- the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. The collection includes over 49 million records about people whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA), had a social security number, and would have been over 110 years old if still living. Not every person listed in the U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, is included in this new collection.

Why is it so important?

The Social Security Application and Claims Index provides additional details about a person not contained on the death index record such as:
  • Applicant's full name
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Date and place of birth
  • Citizenship
  • Sex
  • Father's name
  • Mother's name
  • Race/ethnic description (optional)
  • Names changes filed with SSA
  • Life and death claims filed with SSA
Parents names are not included if the person died within the last 10 years and the social security number is not provided if the person died within the last 75 years.

I have found the database particularly helpful for identifying maiden names and marriages I didn't previously know about (name change filings). I used to submit a SSA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) claim each time I was unable to find a maiden name through usual sources such as a parent living with a married daughter in a census, obituaries, etc. Each time I submitted a request, it cost $27.00.

This is what I would receive from SSA about a month later:

Application for Social Security Account Number for Mary Inez Muir
(1922-2002); personal collection

This gave me her place of birth, which I did not know at the time.

This is the same form for one of her father's partners:

Application for Social Security Account Number for Eppa (Swan) Childs
(1909-1975); personal collection

I learned Eppa "Eppie" (Swan) Childs' maiden name and the name of her parents, as well as the surname of her first husband. This was crucial information as a later partner's obituary listed her name as Eppie Sevan. From the obituary I didn't know if it was her maiden name, her name from a previous marriage or even if it was correct. And made no progress beyond the incorrect name listed in the obituary until I received this from from SSA.

Let's go back to Eppie's step-daughter, Mary Inez Muir. I contacted one of her granddaughters after finding her tree on Ancestry and she told me Mary Inez had been married nine times, but she didn't know who all the husbands were. She and I worked together to discover five of them. This is how Mary Inez's marriages looked in my tree after we ran out of places to search:

The five husbands and one "almost" husband of Mary Inez Muir. She and
George R. Brewster applied for a marriage license in West Virginia but
never married; from my family tree on

This morning I searched for Mary Inez in the US, Social Security Applications and Claims Index:

Mary Inez Muir's record in the Social Security Applications and Claims
Index; image courtesy of

If you read the Notes field, you will see that Mary Inez submitted several names changes to SSA. Two of the changes I didn't know about: 1) July 1966 changing her surname to STACY and 2) May 1967 changing her surname to CARLISLE. These two "new" marriages bring her known marriage count to seven. So the hunt continues for the two remaining marriages. When I started working on Mary Inez, I knew about two marriages -- her "almost" marriage and her last. Collaboration with her granddaughter and this new record set have been a wonderful addition to my research.

I hope you will have success using the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index as well. But it can be a bit overwhelming to know who in your tree may be included in this collection. To develop a list of candidate ancestors, I ran a Documented Facts and Sources report from Family Tree Maker, and searched for everyone who had a U.S. Social Security Death Index record associated to them. I entered their birth date, name at birth, death date, name at death and social security number, if it was included, into a spreadsheet. Then I sorted the list by birth date and moved everyone who would be less than 110 years old if they still living to another worksheet as they should not be in the Social Security Applications and Claims database. (I have found several of these people in the database, however.)

Next, I opened the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, using Search >> Card Catalog from the navigation menu on and began searching. If I found a record for the correct person, I saved it to that person, then analyzed the record to see if it included any new information. If it did, I recorded that information on my tree and entered YES into my spreadsheet indicating I had successfully found the record. If I did not find it, I entered NO into my spreadsheet so I would not be repeating the same search at a future time.

I'll be working on this for weeks and a large portion of my Muir book will have to be extensively rewritten in light of all the new information I am finding.

Happy hunting!

Unraveling Henry's Children: Mary Inez Muir (1922-2002)


  1. Very interesting searches you've shared. I've never searched this or knew of it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am still confused on this Life Claim. From what I am to understand, the life claim date is when the covered person applied for a benefit that was she was entitled 29 Nov 1956. The second date shown on the form is where the confusion is. Under the notes section of this form is 03 Sept 1976 and my persons name Margaret Herlihy Colleran. Is this her death date? Thanks in advance

    1. In my experience the death date is usually included in the Death Date field. The date in the notes field could be almost any interaction a person had with the Social Security Administration (or its forerunner). Have you considered ordering the file via Freedom of Information (FOIA) to see all the details?

    2. Hello Schalene, I am coming across this thread late in the game but have a question you may be able to help answer. I have the SS-5 for my ancestor, is it possible to ask and receive an additional file from the SSA via the FOIA? This person, Thomas Gallagher b 7 Feb 1880, Life Claim 9 Feb 1949 and then in the notes section 24 Sep 1976 name listed as Thomas Gallagher. My goal is to determine date of death. I have not found him in SSDI. Thank you. My email is