Have You Exhausted All Your Options?Before concluding that your ancestor's name is not in the index, try the following:
- Make sure that you have tried soundex search or alternate spellings for your surname.
- Many SSDI indexes allow wildcards to be used in searching. (You could type in Pat* Smith and it would find Pat Smith, Patrick Smith, Patricia Smith and so on). Check the rules for the SSDI search engine you are using to see what types of wildcards are allowed.
- If you have filled in several search fields and received no results for your ancestor, then try searching with less information. Just because you know your ancestor's birth date, doesn't mean it is listed correctly in the SSDI or that it is even listed at all.
- If you are including the given name (first name) in your search, then be sure to check for alternate spellings. The search will only return results which match the given name you enter EXACTLY.
- Middle names are not usually included. Even if your ancestor went by his/her middle name, you should be sure to check under their first name as well. In some cases the first and middle names may both be included in the given name field.
- The person may be listed with an initial or initials in the given name field.
- An individual may have only a single name entered (either a first name or a last name). You would be best off trying to narrow these down with other known facts such as birth or death date.
- Married women are most likely listed under their husband's surname, but if this provides no results then check for a listing under their maiden name. If a women was married more than once, be sure to check all married names.
- Titles such as military rank (Col.), Occupation (Dr.), Family Rank (Jr.) and Religious Order (Fr.) may be included with either the surname or the given name. There may also be variations in the way the title was entered. For example, you may find Jr. with and without the period and placed after the surname with either a space or a comma (i.e. Smith, Jr or Smith Jr.).
- Leave out the ZIP code field as this does not exist for the earlier records.
- Check a variety of dates - typos and transposition of digits is common. 1986 could have been entered as 1896 or 1968. 01/06/63 could be read as January 6, 1963 or June 1, 1963.
Reasons Why You May Not Find Your Ancestor
- The person who entered the information into the database may have made typographical or other errors. The information may also have been incorrectly recorded during the initial application process. This was especially true when Social Security numbers were first issued and involved a multi-step application process with an opportunity for errors at each step.
- Many of the records prior to 1962 (when the SSDI database was first computerized) were never added.
- Your ancestor's death may have never been reported to the Social Security Administration.
- It may be possible that your ancestor did not have a Social Security card. Many occupations prior to 1960 were not eligible for social security enrollment.
More:Search the SSDI for FREE
How to Request a Copy of the Social Security Application Form SS-5