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.
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.
- If you know where the death occurred, then writing to the state, with an estimate of the time of death (for example, "between 1959 and 1961") can result in obtaining the death certificate. Again, when writing, include your relationship to the deceased and any other information that would help identify the particular record.
- If the deceased died before the SSDI was created in 1962, then the Social Security number will do little to help retrieve the death certificate.
With a Master's in English, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's law school, Teo Spengler is up on education. She splits her home time between San Francisco and France. A perpetual student and frequent teacher, she is also a writer and world traveler. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Fairmont Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites.