Why can't I find my ancestor in the SSDI?

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a listing of deceased persons who lived in the United States and had been issued a social security number. The Social Security program began in 1935, and most of the deaths recorded in the SSDI occurred after 1960. At a minimum, information provided in the SSDI includes the person's name, date of birth, date and place of death, and last known residence. It also indicates in which state the person first registered for Social Security. The SSDI is available online, although the amount of information presented my vary from one online resource to another.

While the SSDI is one of the most popular and useful genealogical resources for twentieth century ancestors, containing some 70 million names, it is not perfect and it does not list every person who lived and died in the United States. There are several reasons one may not find an ancestor listed in the SSDI. Some persons did not quality for Social Security; state and federal employees did not participate and were on a different pension program; also, many self-employed workers did not pay into Social Security and, therefore, had no claim; young persons who died would have not been listed; nor would spouses who did not work and generate income. Certainly, other records exist for tracking down persona not listed in the SSDI, as the civil registration of births and deaths became more widely and consistently practiced throughout the twentieth century.

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