Another fairly quiet change made by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) last month will greatly impact the amount of information publicly available in the SSA's Death Master File, a file of all deaths reported to SSA from sources other than States beginning around 1936 (the online version includes deaths from 1962). While recent legislation introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) -- the "Keeping IDs Safe Act of 2011" (aka KIDS Act) -- aims to remove all public access to the Death Master File (aka SSDI), there are already changes in the works that will keep as many as 1 million of the 2.8 million deaths expected by the SSA next year out of the public Death Master File, a reduction of almost 36 percent. In addition, the SSA plans to remove about 4.8 million names from the historical SSDI.
The names that will no longer be included in, or will be removed from, the Death Master File are those where the only source of death information was a State record of death. The change, according to the SSA, went into effect November 1, 2011:
"We began disclosing certain state records on the Public DMF in 2002. After review of the Public DMF, we have determined that we can no longer disclose protected State records. Section 205(r) of the Social Security Act prohibits SSA from disclosing State death records we receive through our contracts with the States, except in limited circumstances. Therefore, we cannot legally share those State records on the Public DMF."
This change may help to explain Virginia's recent announcement (also effective November 1) that it would no longer allow Virginia's death records to be included in the SSDI.
These deaths, for the most part, are still being recorded in the Death Master File - but will no longer be available in the public version of this file -- the one we have all come to rely on in our genealogical research. I wonder if this change also had any bearing on Ancestry.com's removal of the free SSDI index from RootsWeb? Free, fairly recent, online versions of the SSDI are still available from FamilySearch.org, GenealogyBank and AmericanAncestors.org, among others. Ancestry.com is also no longer displaying social security numbers for individuals who have died within the past 10 years, according to their database description.
Thanks to Gary Horton for your "heads up"!