Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SS-5 Waiting Game

I ordered my great-grandfather's SS-5 this week. For those that don't know, an SS-5 is the form one fills out to get a Social Security Number. You can request these documents for deceased individuals through the Freedom of Information Act.

It's been a while since I ordered a SS-5. So long, in fact, that this is the first one I've ordered using the new-ish Social Security Administration online order form. This is also the first time I've ordered a SS-5 for someone who is not in the Social Security Death Index.

I am hoping this form lists the names of my great-grandfather's parents. I already know who they are, but their connection is made using lots of indirect evidence. For example, I have documents that say Noel (my great-grandfather) is brother of Elizabeth. I have documents that say Elizabeth's parents are Noel Sr. and Lizzie. I do not have documents that state Noel's parents. Hopefully with this SS-5 I can document that Noel's parents are Noel Sr. and Elizabeth.

Noel Sr. was the guy who got shot in 1889. The newspaper articles don't mention the family by name, so this is where it gets sketchy. Complicating matters is the lack of an 1890 census.

I'm also hoping this SS-5 tells me where Noel Jr. was living and working at the time of his SSN application. He moved around so much! Many documents, voter records, census entries and city directories have helped me map Noel Jr.'s multiple relocations in Louisiana and California.

SS-5 records are expensive ($27 and $29) so I don't order many. However, this I felt was too important not to have such a record. Now I play the waiting game for a present in my mailbox,


  1. How do you know that they have filled out a SS-5? My great grandfather died in 1930 (a little early) and great grandmother in 1939?

  2. Claudia, thank you for the question. My great-grandfather's death certificate has his Social Security Number on it. He died in 1962 and was not in the Social Security Death Index.

    You could fill out the form and see, but even if the Social Security Administration doesn't find anything, it will still cost $29 each.

  3. Thanks Amy, I guess I should quit my procrastination and send for the death certificates. I have gotten as far as printing them from the computer....

    Some of my great Aunts died in 1949 and 1955, their occupations were listed as servants. I am thinking that perhaps their employer did not pay their social security.

  4. Good luck, Amy! Let us know if you find what you are looking for. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  5. Good luck Amy. I am interested to know how long does it take. I am also interested to know what the difference between the long and the short LOOKs like. I think I'm going to have to send for my mother's and her mothers to answer question #2.

    Keep us informed.

  6. Thanks Amy for this post as you just gave me another idea for trying to determine what happened to a great grand uncle. Never thought about trying to get an SS5 if you didn't have a SSN for the person. Not sure he had one but it's worth a try as I've run out of ideas for trying to determine what happened to him after 1919.

  7. You can go to ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com and look up people by name if you're not sure of their SS#. It helps if you know at least their birthdate and/or date of death. They have a ready made form by clicking the mailbox icon in the same row as their name and information. I would also suggest you know as much as you possibly can about the individual you're looking up so that you're not spending money on the wrong person.

  8. Wait, wait, wait Amy! I know it's probably too late, but before wasting your money by requesting the ss-5 card, you know your grandfather didn't have one simply because he died before the social security program had even begun! Your grandmother very likely didn't have one either because of her age....

    1. You're confusing Noel Sr. (who died in the 1880's) and Noel Jr. (who died in the 1960's). I requested the record for Noel Jr., and it had the information I was looking for. My maternal grandmother is still alive and I didn't discuss her in this post. I know it's confusing, but it all worked out. Trust me. :)

  9. Hi Amy,

    I have filed for an SS-5 form and am playing the waiting game for my grandfather's form, its rather frustrating. I am trying to prove my filipina heritage to get dual citizenship to play for the Philippine Women's National team for soccer. How long did you have to wait for the SS-5 form? I sent in for mine (both via mail and online) on August 14th. Any information will be super helpful.

    Natalie Sanderson