|Social Security Sleuthing|
Whats in a Number?
A nine-digit Social Security number is composed of three parts:
- The Area Number
The first three digits in a Social Security number comprise the Area number. Before 1972, this number identified the state in which the applicants original Social Security card was issued. Since 1972, all Social Security numbers have been assigned and issued from one office in Baltimore, and the Area number identifies the mailing address zip code of the applicant. An applicants mailing address, either before or after 1972, may not be the same as the residence. The Area number is merely an indicator that an applicant resided in or used an address in a particular state at the time the Social Security card was originally issued. A list of area numbers and corresponding states is available on the SSAs Web site (see Internet Resources) or in The Source, A Guidebook of American Genealogy (see Selected Readings).
- The Group Number
The middle two digits of a Social Security number range from 01 to 99, but they are not issued in consecutive order. The SSA World Wide Web site contains a frequently updated list of the latest Group numbers issued within each area.
- The Serial Number
The last four digits of a Social Security number run serially from 0001 through 9999.
Employees of U.S. railroads earn retirement through the Railroad Retirement
Board (RRB), but they also have Social Security cards. Before June 1963,
railroad employees received special Social Security numbers in the 700-728 area
range. After that date, their numbers were assigned based on their mailing
address, just like everyone else.
The SS-5: Application for Social Security Number
Chances are if an individual worked in the United States after 1935, he or she applied for and received a Social Security number. Even non-citizens have Social Security numbers. The SS-5, Application for Social Security Number, contains the following information: Social Security number, full name (including womens maiden names), address at time of application, employer and employers address (pre-1947 applications only), age at last birthday, date and place of birth, parents full names (including mothers maiden name), sex, color, and whether the applicant had previously applied for Social Security or Railroad Retirement. It also contains the application date and the applicants signature.
In the 1970s, the SSA microfilmed all SS-5 application forms, created a
computer database of selected information from the forms, and destroyed the
originals. This SSA internal computer database contains some, but not all, of
the information on the original applications. When requesting an SS-5,
genealogists generally should ask for a microprint of the microfilmed original,
rather than a printout or abstract from the SSA computer database.
Next page > Clues in the Social Security Death Master File
© 1999 Pamela Boyer Porter, CGRS, CGL. Used with Permission.