How to Find a Death Certificate With a Social Security Number

by Teo Spengler

A death certificate is an official record of a person's demise. A Social Security number may assist you in obtaining a copy of a death certificate from vital records, but it is not always necessary. In addition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) manages a searchable database of people whose deaths were reported to the SSA beginning in 1962. Called the Social Security Death Index, this database can confirm a person's death.

Tips

  • Confirm a death by entering a person's last name and Social Security number into the SSA Death Index. To get a death certificate, apply at the state's office of vital records.

Death Certificate

A death certificate is an official document that registers someone's death. It contains the essential information about a person who has died. The exact information differs from state to state, but the certificate always includes the person's name, date of birth, parents' names, time and place of death, and the cause of death. In some states, the certificate also includes the place of birth; the birthdate and birthplace of the parents; the marital status and name of surviving spouse, if any; the veteran's discharge number; the Social Security number and the person's educational background.

The state office of vital statistics prepares death certificates and maintains a register. In many states, there are two types of death certificates available, the informational copy and the certified copy of the death certificate. Members of the public can get the former, while only people close to the deceased, such as his family, attorney or executor, can get a copy with an official stamp.

Social Security Records Death Index Online

The Social Security Administration maintains a database of deaths that have been reported to them since 1962. Legal restrictions enacted in March 2014 required that records from the most recent three-year period cannot be made available. While the index does not include every person who died between 1962 to 2014, it includes so many deaths in that time frame that it is almost a national death index for the United States.

Public, online versions of the Social Security Death Index are offered at Ancestry.com for a fee, at Genealogy Bank.com for free and at Family Search.com for free. Each index contains more than 90 million records and is updated up to February or March 2014.

If you locate the name of a person in the Social Security Death Index, you can order a copy of the initial form the person filled out when he or she applied for a Social Security card. This document will provide additional information about the deceased, including date and place of birth. The application is termed an SS-5 application, and you'll have to pay a fee.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.