States Social Security Application
SS-5: A Useful Genealogical Resource
Security system in the United States was established during the
Great Depression of the 1930s as a safety net for Americans during
their old age. Signed into law 14 Aug 1935, the Social Security
Act (R.R. 7260, Public Law No. 271, 74th Congress), workers had
a source of income when they were too old to continue working. Significant
changes have occurred over the decades since this federally mandated
old-age income went into effect, and American workers don't expect
much "security" from this source, but the program has helped many
life a descent life after their working career is over.
this help me?
form used by people to enroll for Social Security is a valuable
resource for Sepahrdic genealogists. All of the application forms
have been archived by the U.S. governement, and are stored away
on microfilm. A copy of which is available to you for a small fee
of $7.00. First, find your ancestor on the Social Security Death
Index (SSDI) to obtain their Social Security number, with it you
can request a copy of your ancestor's application form.
Fig 1. The
1951 version of a Social Security application. The misspelling
of the Sephardic name "Loya" for "Lawyer" (as used in the document)
is discussed in the text. (Source: Alfassa/Benson/Yerushalmi family)
form is a good source of genealogical information. You will find
an ancestor's birthdate, birthplace, father's name, mother's name,
and more. What if you already know this information? There are other
reasons to order a copy of the SS-5. For instance, since the information
was provided by your ancestor and not a secondary party, the SS-5
is good supporting documentation for corroborating previous research.
Also, you may find that the SS-5 does not corroborate what you already
know to be "fact". The SS-5 can also be a source of unexpected information.
Figure 1. and 2. on this page represent two SS-5 forms from two
sisters of the same family. Notice in Figure 1. the surname "LAWYER".
This is not obviously a Sephardic name, but when the SS-5 of the
sister from the same family was examined, it became clear that the
name was really "LOYA" (an old Spanish name). This
corresponds with other documents later supporting this conclusion.
If the person
you're searching for was alive and working sometime from 1937 on,
there's a good chance there's an application on file for him (unfortunately,
this is a less useful resource for women until recent decades when
virtually everyone started to get a Social Security card). What
makes the Social Security application so valuable is that the names
of the parents were provided by the very person being researched!
In addition, the Sephardic Genealogist obtains a treasured copy
of the applicant's signature!
2. The 1972 Version of a Social Security Application. Note the removal
of the employer information. (Source: Alfassa/Benson/Yerushalmi
format of the Social Security Number Application (SS-5) changed
from year to year (see Fig. 1 - 3), but should contain the following:
first, middle and last names
women, the maiden name or previous married name
Applicant's employer and employer's address
Applicant's age at last birthday
date of birth
Applicant's place of birth
Full name of applicant's father
Full maiden name of applicant's mother
the application was filled out
work name if different than name above
Wife's maiden name if applicant is male
Beginning or ending date of employment