Do you use the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) in your research? Many family historians use this wonderful database regularly to garner information on their mid to late 20th century ancestors. In this era when state and local governments are closing or further restricting access to birth, marriage and death records, the Social Security Death Index has been a boon for many genealogists. The data provided in this index is limited, yet informative. For lucky researchers, birth and death dates are listed in the index, but generally, a birth and death month and year are provided, the state where the Social Security number was issued, along with the town, state, and zip code of last residence. The other piece of data supplied in the index is the individual's Social Security number.
In order for the person's number to appear in the index, the individual must be deceased. Banks, credit card companies, and the IRS should not accept Social Security numbers which appear in this index. They should be required to use the SSDI. There is currently proposed legislation that will deny public access to the SSDI. The reported reason for this proposed legislation is to prevent Social Security numbers of the deceased from being used for illegal purposes. In actuality, the only people this decision hurts are genealogists. Identity thieves and those using fraudulent Social Security numbers will continue using any means currently at their disposal, while this wonderful resource will no longer be available to family researchers.
If SSDI is gone, how will you find your 20th century ancestors when more and more records are being privatized and protected behind governmental legislation?
The genealogical community needs 25,000 signatures by March 8 to let legislators know the Social Security Death Index is a resource that should be saved. To sign the petition, go to the We the People Petition. The petition requires that you create a whitehouse.gov account before signing. Instructions for creating an account and signing the whitehouse.gov petition can be found on the Federation of Genealogical Societies site.
What can you do? In the next few days, genealogical societies and libraries can offer guidance in signing the petition for those who may be uncomfortable with the online aspect. Consider having a member of your society available to help those who may not have much computer experience. Tell friends, family, and colleagues about this wonderful resource and what will be lost should we no longer have access to the information.
Because once the Social Security Death Index is gone, what will you do?