No More Clues From Social Security Numbers

No More Clues From Social Security Numbers

by Kerry Scott on 18 April 2011

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Thank goodness my kids have already snagged their prestigious cheesehead Social Security numbers.  Starting later this summer, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will no longer issue numbers based on the state a person lives in.  Numbers will now be randomly assigned.  This is supposed to foil identity thieves and make new numbers available so they don’t run out (although the SSA website is careful to point out that no one is going to be getting a number that starts with 666, which amuses me to no end).

Up until now, the first three digits of a Social Security number told you what state the person lived in at the time the number was issued.  This means that if you have, say, a death certificate from 1949 that lists a Social Security number, you can look on the SSA’s Number Allocation List to see what state the person lived at the time they applied for a card.  That’s handy information to have.  In fact,  adults who were already working applied for Social Security numbers shortly after the SSA was established in 1936.  Knowing where your folks lived then is going to be very helpful next April, when the 1940 census is finally released.  There’s no index (yet), so we’ll all be searching manually…and we’ll need to know what state to look in.

You can also order a copy of your (deceased) ancestor’s original application for a Social Security card .  It’s called the SS-5, and it contains information on the parents’ names (including the mother’s maiden name), date and place of birth, complete address, and often the employer’s name.  I’ve had a string of breakthroughs lately from SS-5s.  They’re expensive, but they’re often well worth it.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather Wilkinson Rojo April 18, 2011 at 9:25 am

My grandfather’s SS# was 010-01-0012 , which leads me to believe he was skipping work to get at the head of the line on the day the Social Security office opened for business. His license plate was 35, too, which was passed on to my uncle as a vanity plate. Don’t you think these two tidbits of information tell me a lot about my grandfather? By the way, Manchester, New Hampshire has a telephone exchange 666, and several businesses, talk radio shows and churches have these phone numbers on advertising and billboards. No one cares here in New Hampshire, but if it were somewhere in the Bible Belt of the United States it would be a scandal!

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Kerry Scott April 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

That is awesome. The early bird gets the worm (or in this case, the good number).

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B.G. Wiehle April 18, 2011 at 10:33 am

I often find SSNs that are not in the SSDI in death certificates, both for deaths that pre-date the computerized index and for deaths that should have been included. Is there somewhere that I could contribute the relevant information? (I’ve checked on the official SSA site and nothing there applies).
FYI, there used to be a site that listed SS-5s that people had ordered and were willing to share with others but I can’t find it anymore. The few I have are summarized in Post-ems to the Rootsweb SSDI database.

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Kerry Scott April 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

If there’s a site like that out there, I’m not aware of it. I think the post-ems are a good idea though.

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B.G. Wiehle May 13, 2011 at 6:04 am

I found the site I mentioned in my earlier post:
“I Dream of Genealogy Free Databases – Social Security Applications SS-5″
http://www.idreamof.com/ss5.html
The SS-5 images aren’t on the site, but there are contact names with the summaries.

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B.G. Wiehle May 13, 2011 at 6:07 am

Correction – There is a link to the SS-5 image from the individual’s name.

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Susan Tiner April 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

I can’t wait for the 1940 census to come out so I can try and find my Dad, but he didn’t apply for his SSN until 1946 so I won’t be able to use that number to help search.

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Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith April 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Good post. Got referred over here as I was reading your comments on Joan’s post from yesterday… earlier comments referred to earlier post. Interesting! ;-)

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Kathy April 30, 2011 at 7:17 am

Taken from the SS site: Since 1973, social security numbers have been issued by our central office. The first three (3) digits of a person’s social security number are determined by the ZIP Code of the mailing address shown on the application for a social security number. Prior to 1973, social security numbers were assigned by our field offices. The number merely established that his/her card was issued by one of our offices in that State.

I was born before 1973 and have always lived in IL but my number was issued by the field office in IN.

So your statement is not always true–If anyone looks for me in IN because of my SSN they will not find me.

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