Social Security Death Index Comparison across Genealogy Sites

The Social Security Death Index is available on so many genealogy sites—are they all alike?

You might think so—but on looking closer, they aren’t all the same. In fact, there are many differences in the Social Security information they provide, as this article will show.

Here’s an important question to ask when comparing various genealogy websites: how many SSDI records are on each site?

SSDI Search Websites Comparison Chart

SSDI Search Websites Comparison Chart

GenealogyBank and Ancestry update their SSDI records every week and have 91.4 million records.

In contrast, FamilySearch.org has 90.7 million SSDI records and Mocavo has only 88 million SSDI records.

So—just in numbers of Social Security records available—you can miss millions of records depending on which genealogy website you visit.

Let’s look deeper and see what information is in the SSDI record on each site.

For this Social Security record comparison we’ll use Tracy Kemp as our target person, who died in 2010.

GenealogyBank.com (Free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from genealogybank's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from GenealogyBank's Social Security Death Index

GenealogyBank gives his name and tells us that the Social Security card was issued in New Jersey. Importantly, the record also gives complete dates of birth and death, adding the day of the week. The Social Security record also gives a complete and accurate age at death, giving the age in years, months and days.

GenealogyBank also includes the extra information that the Social Security Administration has validated this information, giving it the “Proven” designation—telling genealogists that it is accurate information.

Ancestry.com (Pay site, no free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from ancestry's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from Ancestry's Social Security Death Index

Ancestry gives the basic facts in the Social Security record: first name, last name; birth date; death date; noting that the Social Security card was issued in New Jersey in 1979.

Archives.com (Pay site, no free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from archive's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from Archive's Social Security Death Index

Archives.com gives his name, birth and death dates, and notes that the Social Security card was issued in New Jersey in the online SS record.

The Social Security death record also adds that he was age 39 when he died.

FamilySearch (Free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from familysearch's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from FamilySearch's Social Security Death Index

The FamilySearch website repeats this same basic information in the SS record: his name, dates of birth/death, and place of issue of the Social Security card are all the same.

FamilySearch incorrectly gives his “estimated” age at death as 40.

Mocavo.com (Free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from mocavo's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from Mocavo's Social Security Death Index

Mocavo gives the core facts in the SS record: name, dates of birth/death, and gives the age at death as 39 years old. This site gives the Social Security number. The other sites have all removed the SSN for security concerns.

Mocavo has no SSDI records for 2011 or 2012.

AmericanAncestors.org (Free SSDI)

AmericanAncestors Tracy Kemp SSDI Record

Tracy Kemp's SSDI record from AmericanAncestors.org

AmericanAncestors.org gives the first name, last name; birth date; death date and Social Security number. It has records from 1937 to 2011.

It is quickly apparent that all SSDI sites do not contain the same number of records or display the same amount of information. Clearly GenealogyBank.com has the edge, offering the most complete and accurate SSDI information available online.

New Titles Coming to Our U.S. Newspaper Archives Soon!

GenealogyBank adds more content to our online archives daily—including newspaper titles new to our collection. Here is an advance peek at some of the newspapers that will be added to our rapidly growing U.S. newspaper obituaries collection in the weeks ahead, making millions more genealogy records available for your family history research. Our new newspaper additions include multiple newspaper titles for California, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin.

American Canyon Eagle   (Napa, California)
Obituaries:  09/07/2004 – Current
Death Notices:  01/18/2005 – Current

Californian (Temecula, California)
Obituaries:  07/14/2003 – Current
Death Notices:  10/03/2003 – 07/30/2007

Napa Valley Register (Napa, California)
Obituaries:  01/02/2001 – Current
Death Notices:  01/01/2001 – Current

North County Times (Escondido, California)
Obituaries:  01/03/2001 – Current
Death Notices:  01/02/2001 – 08/31/2007

St. Helena Star (St. Helena, California)
Obituaries:  04/07/2005 – Current
Death Notices:  03/03/2005 – Current

Weekly Calistogan (Calistoga, California)
Obituaries:  09/25/2003 – Current
Death Notices:  09/04/2003 – Current

Garden Island (Lihue, Hawaii)
Obituaries:  12/27/1999 – Current
Death Notices:  11/10/1999 – Current

Leader (Knox, Indiana)
Obituaries: added 11/27/2008 – 11/18/2010
Death Notices: added 8/7/2008 – 9/16/2010

Mt. Vernon Democrat (Indiana)
Obituaries: added 9/2/2009 – 2/15/2012
Death Notices: added 12/23/2008 – 1/19/2011

South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana)
Obituaries:  01/04/2011 – Current
Death Notices:  01/01/2011 – Current

Muscatine Journal (Muscatine, Iowa)
Obituaries:  10/12/2000 – Current
Death Notices:  10/01/2000 – Current

News Journal (Corbin, Kentucky)
Obituaries:  01/04/2012 – Current
Death Notices:  01/04/2012 – Current

Bethany Republican-Clipper (Bethany, Missouri)
Obituaries:  11/30/2011 – Current
Death Notices:  10/26/2011 – Current

Daily Journal (Park Hills, Missouri)
Obituaries:  07/08/2000 – Current
Death Notices:  06/20/2000 – Current

Democrat News (Fredericktown, Missouri)
Obituaries:  07/23/2003 – Current
Death Notices:  01/31/2003 – Current

Farmington Press (Farmington, Missouri)
Obituaries:  02/12/2003 – Current

David City Banner-Press (David City, Nebraska)
Obituaries:  09/26/2011 – Current
Death Notices:  09/13/2011 – Current

Fremont Tribune (Fremont, Nebraska)
Obituaries:  09/27/2000 – Current
Death Notices:  08/16/2000 – Current

Schuyler Sun (Schuyler, Nebraska)
Death Notices:  10/20/2011 – Current

Akron Beacon Journal: Blogs (Akron, Ohio)
Obituaries:  08/15/2005 – Current

Sentinel (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)
Obituaries:  08/20/1998 – Current
Death Notices:  06/01/1997 – Current

Shippensburg Sentinel (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania)
Obituaries:  09/23/2010 – Current

Daily Herald (Provo, Utah)
Obituaries:  02/27/2001 – Current
Death Notices:  07/23/2003 – Curren

Daily News (Longview, Washington)
Obituaries:  11/02/2000 – Current
Death Notices:  11/01/2000 – Current

Baraboo News-Republic (Baraboo, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  01/01/2004 – Current
Death Notices:  01/01/2004 – Current

Columbus Journal (Columbus, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  09/26/2011 – Current
Death Notices:  01/26/2010 – Current

Daily Citizen (Beaver Dam, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  01/27/2004 – Current
Death Notices:  01/03/2005 – Current

Daily Register (Portage, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  07/12/2005 – Current
Death Notices:  01/07/2004 – Current

Juneau County Star-Times (Mauston, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  01/22/2004 – Current
Death Notices:  01/29/2005 – Current

Reedsburg Times-Press (Reedsburg, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  01/28/2004 – Current
Death Notices:  06/11/2005 – Current

Sauk Prairie Eagle (Sauk City, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  04/28/2010 – Current
Death Notices:  05/18/2005 – Current

Wisconsin Dells Events (Portage, Wisconsin)
Obituaries:  04/30/2005 – Current
Death Notices:  02/26/2005 – Current

How to Do Genealogical Research: Damon Family Case Study

Sometime during the next few weeks, as we continue to add new content to our online archives, GenealogyBank will reach a milestone: we will have 1 billion more records than the total we launched our website with five years ago. Wow, that’s a lot of additional genealogy records!

I wanted to see what I could find in GenealogyBank with all this added material—so I chose a family at random and set out on a genealogical research investigation.

Researching the Family of Minnie M. Damon

I picked Minnie M. Damon who married James W. Wright on 31 December 1890 in Keene, New Hampshire. With Christmas still in the air and New Year’s Eve approaching, the couple was married by the Rev. C. E. Harrington.

A search in GenealogyBank found their marriage announcement in the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 7 January 1891, page 8.

wright damon marriage notice new hampshire sentinel newspaper january 7, 1891

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 7 January 1891, page 8

This marriage announcement is a great genealogical find. It gives terrific details about the wedding.

And—what about those “white silk slippers” the bride wore, the same ones her mother wore when she got married 38 years before? Does someone in the family still have them?

Hmm…they were married “at the home of the bride’s mother.” Why no mention of the father? Had he died? Was there a divorce?

Genealogical Research Find 1: George Damon (Minnie’s Father)

The next step in our genealogical research is to find out even more about Minnie’s dad. Digging deeper into our online archives I found the death notice of the bride’s father. He had died just six months earlier.

george damon death notice new hampshire sentinel june 4 1890

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 4 June 1890, page 8

George Damon was “aged 68 years 8 months and 27 days” when he died on 2 June 1890.

Next we want to subtract those figures from his death date to see when he was born.

George’s date of birth works out to 6 September 1821.

There is a handy site for calculating these dates: see TimeandDate.com

time and date calculator

Time and date calculator

Genealogical Research Find 2: Lucy Bowker/Damon (Minnie’s Mother)

Digging deeper into our historical newspaper archives I found the marriage record of her parents: George and Lucy (Bowker) Damon.

damon bowker marriage notice weekly eagle newspaper september 20, 1852

Weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont), 20 September 1852, page 3

Their marriage announcement was published in the Weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont), 20 September 1852, page 3.

Whoa—hold on: their marriage announcement was published in the Weekly Eagle, a Brattleboro, Vermont, newspaper?

But they lived in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The newspaper even said that they were “all of” Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.

So, why did a Vermont newspaper publish the announcement of their wedding?

map of fitzwilliam new hampshire

Map of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire

Because newspaper editors wanted to sell papers, that’s why.

Brattleboro is only 40 miles from Fitzwilliam, and the Weekly Eagle was regularly bought and read by the residents there.

Genealogical Research Find 3: Elijah Bowker (Minnie’s Maternal Grandfather)

And here is a newspaper article about Lucy Bowker’s father, Captain Elijah Bowker, praising his life of service. It was published in the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 June 1877, page 1.

elijah bowker tribute new hampshire sentinel newspaper june 28, 1877

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 June 1877, page 1

What else could I find out about the Damon family in my genealogical research?

Branching Out the Damon Family Tree

I decided to do a broader genealogy search by searching on only the surname (Damon) and their hometown (Fitzwilliam).

screenshot of genealogybank's search form

GenealogyBank search form

Both “Damon” and “Fitzwilliam” are uncommon words. It is likely that all Damons from Fitzwilliam are related, but we need to sort them out to make sure.

This broad genealogy search produced a few hundred surname record results.

That is a reasonable amount of genealogy records to sift through, so I started reading through all of them.

Genealogical Research Find 4: Martha Damon (Minnie’s Aunt)

One death record in particular caught my eye. It was published in the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 April 1826, page 3.

martha damon death notice new hampshire sentinel newspaper april 28, 1826

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 April 1826, page 3

There in the third paragraph: “In Fitzwilliam, an infant daughter [Martha Damon, 1825-1826] of Mr. Geo. Damon.”

This little girl was the aunt of Minnie M. (Damon) Wright—the woman I started my investigation with.

Genealogical Research Find 5: George Damon and Deacon Oliver Damon (Minnie’s Paternal Grandfather and Her Paternal Great-Grandfather)

The “Geo. [George] Damon” named in this death notice was Minnie’s paternal grandfather [George Damon, 1796-1840] and the “Deacon Oliver Damon” [1758-1837] also named was her paternal great-grandfather.

OK. This newspaper obituary was for a two-year-old infant, and it would be easy to assume that such a notice would have minimal genealogical clues. But, I like to read every document.

As it turns out this obituary gives us lots of critical genealogical information:

“Deacon Oliver Damon and wife have lived in Fitzwilliam 42 years, and this [is] the first instance of mortality that has occurred in his family or among his descendants, (25 in all) during that time. Printers for Massachusetts are requested to notice this death.”

As of 1826, there were 25 descendants of the family in that area and none of them had died over the previous 42 years.

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s online archives I found more details in Deacon Oliver Damon’s obituary, published by the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 9 November 1837, page 3.

oliver damon obituary new hampshire sentinel newspaper november 9, 1837

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 9 November 1837, page 3

He was a Deacon of the Congregational Church, and he fought in the Revolutionary War. Clearly there is more genealogical research that we can do on this family.

Do you remember seeing in these obituaries the phrase “Printers in Mass. are requested to notice this death”? This note from the newspaper’s editors gives a strong indication that the Damon family has a family connection to Massachusetts.

So, the next steps in our genealogical investigation are to sort through all of the “Damon” references in and around Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, and extend that search out to Massachusetts.

Damon?

The only “Damon” I ever heard of is the actor, Matt Damon.

I wonder if Minnie M. (Damon) Wright and Matt Damon are actually related.

Tracing the Damon family tree: to be continued…

Tracing Genealogy with Pennsylvania Death Certificates

Every day we get interesting genealogy questions from our members via our Ask the Genealogist service. The following is a good example: a member asked for help finding information about a great-grandfather.

Question:

I am looking for more information on my great-grandfather, Edgar Rhue Harner. He was born in Berks Co., PA, in 1860. He married Naomi Sines and they lived in Delaware Co., PA. No one in the family knows what happened to Edgar. I tracked census info and the last one he appears in with his family is the 1910 census, enumerated in Delaware Co, PA. After much research, I found him in the 1920 census in Norristown, PA, as a patient in the “State Hospital for the Insane.” That hospital, Norristown State Hospital, is still in existence, but I haven’t been able to get any info from them. Everything dead-ends at the 1920 census. I can find NO obituary or death record or any other info at all.

Any suggestions?

Answer from our genealogist:

Since there was no obituary published for him, you want to look for his death certificate. The state of Pennsylvania makes that easy to do. They have put up online indexes for all death certificates from 1906 to 1961 here: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1085804&mode=2

pennsylvania dept. of health public records death indices

Pennsylvania Dept. of Health Public Records: Death Indices

You need to click on each year and then search the index. This indexing system uses the Soundex system familiar to many genealogists; it assigns codes to sounds to track down surnames and their variants. Harner would code out to H-656.

1922 Pennsylvania death index

1922 Pennsylvania death index

And there he is listed in the deaths for 1922.

Here is your great-grandfather’s entry:

H-656:   Edgar Harner, Certificate Number 106302, Norristn (abbreviation for Norristown), died 11/17 (17 November 1922).

Pennsylvania considers death certificates that are over 50 years old public records. So, your next step is to order a copy of his death certificate.

To apply for a non-certified copy of a death certificate from 1906 through 1961: download the death application form here: 

pennsylvania dept. of health death records application

Pennsylvania Department of Health Death Records application

Mail the completed application to:

Division of Vital Records
ATTN:  Public Records
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA  16103

There is a $3 fee for each non-certified copy ordered. Check or money order should be made payable to Vital Records. Mail requests are processed in approximately 4 months.

Search Irish Genealogy Records Online at GenealogyBank!

missing family member ad irish world newspaper Dec. 3, 1904

Irish World (New York, NY), Dec. 3, 1904

GenealogyBank has created a special search page for the Irish American newspapers in our extensive online historical newspaper archives. With this new search page, you can focus your family history research on these eight Irish American newspapers:

Each one of these Irish American newspapers was published in New York City, but their circulation extended around the country and up into Canada.

Family researchers will especially want to focus on the “Information Wanted” columns, in which readers took out short classified ads in search of their relatives. America was a big country for arriving Irish immigrants. They used the columns of these Irish American newspapers as a quick way to reach their relatives in Irish American communities around the country.

Another key resource unique to these newspapers is Irish marriage and death records. Irish families in the United States wanted news from Ireland and these newspapers supplied them.

One of the titles in our Irish American newspapers collection is an especially good source for these hard-to-find vital records from the Old Country: the Irish American Weekly, which published thousands of marriage and death records from Ireland between 1849 and 1914.

Discover your family heritage in Irish genealogy records that cannot be found anywhere else online. Learn more about how you can explore these exclusive Irish vital records in our previous blog article entitled GenealogyBank Adds Irish Vital Records to Historical Newspaper Archive.

irish american newspaper article clippings

Irish American newspaper clippings

Gather the family this St. Patrick’s Day and dig in to see what you can find out about your Irish ancestry!

GenealogyBank Adds 22 Million Newspaper Records in March!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, expanding our online collection to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available anywhere.

Here are some details about our most recent additions to our website (we actually added new content to thousands of titles, but the following is a representative sample):

  • A total of 85 titles from 29 states plus the District of Columbia
  • Titles marked with an asterisk (*) are obituaries only and are new to our archive
  • Those marked with a plus sign (+) are historical newspapers new to our archive
  • We’ve shown the date ranges so that you can determine if the new content is relevant to your personal research

If a recent addition to our online archive interests you, simply click on that newspaper’s title: it is an active link leading to that paper’s search form.

State Abbr Title City Start Date End Date
AL Mobile Register Mobile 1862 1870
AR Arkansas Gazette Little Rock 1823 1900
CA Free Angela San Francisco 1971 1971
CA San Diego Union San Diego 1937 1983
CT Connecticut Courant Hartford 1843 1843
CT Litchfield Republican Litchfield 1851 1851
CT American Mercury Hartford 1831 1831
CT Norwich Aurora Norwich 1858 1872
CT Columbian Register New Haven 1836 1875
CT Times Hartford 1834 1840
DC United States Telegraph Washington 1827 1829
FL Hometown News* Fort Pierce 2006 Current
GA Daily Constitutionalist Augusta 1862 1862
GA Marietta Journal Marietta 1987 1989
IA Globe Gazette* Mason City 2012 Current
IA Mitchell County Press-News* Osage 2005 Current
IA Forest City Summit* Forest City 2003 Current
IL Common Bond East Moline 1974 1978
IL Crusader Rockford 1952 1971
IL Illinois State Register Springfield 1844 1844
KS Wichita Times Wichita 1975 1975
KY Frankfort Argus* Frankfort 1822 1834
KY Palladium Frankfort 1807 1807
LA Times-Picayune New Orleans 1852 1907
LA Courrier de la Louisiane New Orleans 1821 1822
MA Weekly Messenger Boston 1829 1829
MA Hampshire Gazette Northampton 1840 1840
MA Massachusetts Spy Worcester 1866 1875
MA Salem Register Salem 1850 1871
MA Boston Courier Boston 1845 1855
MD Advocate of Hampstead and Manchester, The* Hampstead, Manchester 2011 Current
MD Baltimore American Baltimore 1904 1904
MD Political Intelligencer Fredericktown 1819 1819
ME Portland Advertiser Portland 1829 1833
MN Broad Axe St. Paul 1891 1891
NC Durham News, The* Durham 2011 Current
NC Southwest Wake News* Apex, Holly Springs 2011 Current
NC Garner-Cleveland Record* Garner, Cleveland 2011 Current
NC Midtown Raleigh News* Raleigh 2011 Current
NC Charlotte Observer Charlotte 1901 1901
NC North Raleigh News* Raleigh 2006 Current
NC Clayton News-Star, The* Clayton 2011 Current
NE Omaha World Herald Omaha 1980 1980
NE Plattsmouth Journal, The* Plattsmouth 2007 Current
NH Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics Portsmouth 1869 1872
NH Dartmouth Gazette Hanover 1801 1804
NJ Genius of Liberty Morristown 1798 1808
NV Elko Daily Free Press* Elko 2003 Current
NY Gold Coast Gazette* Glen Cove 2010 Current
NY Cabinet Schenectady 1813 1814
NY Commercial Advertiser New York 1836 1836
NY Waterford Gazette Waterford 1802 1802
NY New York Herald New York 1875 1876
NY Plattsburgh Republican Plattsburgh 1845 1850
NY New-York Morning Post New York 1787 1788
NY Ontario Messenger Canandaigua 1812 1812
NY Geneva Gazette Geneva 1815 1815
NY Spectator New York 1819 1819
NY Albany Argus Albany 1830 1872
PA State Journal Harrisburg 1884 1884
PA Public Ledger Philadelphia 1867 1867
PA National Gazette Philadelphia 1832 1841
PA Valley Advantage, The* Olyphant 2006 Current
PA Pennsylvania Journal* Philadelphia 1749 1791
PA Harrisburg Republican Harrisburg 1817 1817
PA Patriot Harrisburg 1890 1916
PA Washington Reporter Washington 1853 1872
RI Providence Evening Press Providence 1862 1871
SC Charleston Courier Charleston 1822 1870
SC Charleston News and Courier Charleston 1822 1870
SC Southern Chronicle Camden 1824 1824
SD Collegian, The* Brookings 2002 Current
TX Rancher, The* Sugar Land 2011 Current
TX Dallas Morning News Dallas 1984 1984
VA Virginia Patriot Richmond 1814 1814
VA Richmond Whig Richmond 1835 1870
VA Richmond Examiner Richmond 1862 1863
VA Richmond Times Dispatch Richmond 1930 1930
VA Alexandria Gazette Alexandria 1870 1873
VT Vermont Republican Windsor 1822 1822
VT North Star Danville 1831 1862
VT Vermont Phoenix Brattleboro 1834 1866
VT Vermont Journal Windsor 1821 1823
VT Vermont Centinel Burlington 1825 1825
VT Brattleboro Messenger Brattleboro 1825 1833

Click here to see our list of newspapers by state.