Tips to Get the Most Out of Your GenealogyBank Subscription

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post Gena provides some search tips, and shows some resources available on the GenealogyBank website, to help her readers better understand how to use GenealogyBank with their family history research.

What are you doing this weekend? Have any genealogy research plans? How about spending the weekend with GenealogyBank and getting to know it better? What can you do to get the most out of your GenealogyBank subscription? Here are a few resources and tips to get you started.

screenshot of the home page for GenealogyBank.com

Tip 1: Start with the Learning Center

It’s in the Learning Center that you can find guidance for using GenealogyBank and researching your family history—there is a tab for it on the top of the GenealogyBank home page. The Learning Center page features six different sections, offering you many free resources to better understand how to do family history research—and how GenealogyBank can help you do it.

screenshot of the Learning Center page on the website GenealogyBank.com

Learn Online

From the “Learn Online—Webinars & Video Tutorials” section, I recommend the video “How to Search GenealogyBank” to start.

screenshot of the Learning Center page on the website GenealogyBank.com

GenealogyBank Blog

You can access the GenealogyBank Blog from the Learning Center, which offers hundreds of genealogy articles. Once there you can search the blog by keyword. Articles on the blog include tips, “how-tos,” and case studies. Reading the blog will give you many ideas for researching your family history.

Newsletter Archives

You can also access the extensive archives of the monthly newsletter GenealogyBank News from the Learning Center, providing hundreds more genealogy articles to help you get started tracing your family tree.

The three sections on the lower half of the Learning Center page provide even more resources for family history research.

screenshot of the Learning Center page on the website GenealogyBank.com

Download Free E-Book

Be sure to download the free e-book Getting Started Climbing Your Family Tree—this provides a great introduction.

What’s New?

I also recommend searching on the list of newspapers available under the heading “What’s New?” to get an idea of what newspapers GenealogyBank has to assist you in your genealogy research. Remember that newspapers are constantly being added to the website on a daily basis, so this list is frequently updated.

Call Our Family History Consultants

The Learning Center also provides a toll-free phone line to reach a Family History Consultant; these GenealogyBank experts will show you how to better use the site for your family history research.

Tip 2: Try Our Other Genealogy Databases

GenealogyBank is known for its historical newspaper archives, but there is so much more to the website. Besides newspapers you can find the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), historical documents, historical books, and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. Why not take some time this weekend to look over these resources and see which ones should be explored further for your family history research?

screenshot of the home page on the website GenealogyBank.com

U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Ever use the U.S. Congressional Serial Set—a collection of the official papers and documents of Congress? Not sure how it can help your genealogy research? 19th century gems like land records, pensioners’ lists and military registers can be found in this U.S. government collection.

One of my favorite finds from this collection is the list that includes the name of my 4th great-grandmother’s husband, who was pardoned by the President for being a “Rebel Postmaster” during the Civil War.

To learn more about the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, see the article “Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research” by Jeffery Hartley, which was excerpted and reprinted on the GenealogyBank blog. Start your search of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set by using the Historical Documents & Records search page.

Tip 3: How to Become a Search Master

Here are three steps to follow to help you become a master at searching for family records in GenealogyBank.

Step 1: Make a Keyword List

First, make a list of the keywords you will be searching on, including the names of your ancestors, places they lived, or events they were a part of. Make note of name variations, including the use of initials for the first or middle name, as well as any alternative spellings. When researching women, remember that they may not be listed by their given name, but instead by their husband’s name—as in Mrs. George Smith. Because names can be misspelled, consider using alternative search techniques like wild cards to catch any mentions that you might otherwise miss.

Step 2: Start Broad, Then Narrow

Second, cast out a wide net and then narrow your search. Techniques for narrowing your search include things like searching for newspapers in just the state that your ancestor was from, or adding other family members’ names, or the name of an organization. If a name is unusual, consider searching by just the surname and then narrowing your search by adding the given name. Casting a wide net is a good technique if your ancestor had a fairly uncommon name—but in the case of Smith, Jones or Adams, it may just result in a bigger research headache.

Step 3: Get Search Engine Savvy

Third, make sure that you understand how to best use the GenealogyBank search engine. This will assist you as you consider different search techniques. From the GenealogyBank Help page you can learn such things as how to search by collection, how to narrow your results, and advanced search techniques like phrase searching and wild cards.

Have some free time this weekend? Spend that time getting the most out of your GenealogyBank subscription and find more information to tell the story of your family history.

SSDI Quiz: Understanding the U.S. Social Security Death Index

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary provides a fun quiz to see how well you know the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA)—and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) it maintains, an important resource for genealogists. Mary uses old newspaper articles to learn more about the SSA and SSDI.

One of the exciting features of GenealogyBank is the ability to search the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). This important genealogical database is updated by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA). GenealogyBank’s SSDI search page provides an easy way to access this data.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

Not all the fields on the search page have to be filled in, and some of GenealogyBank’s SSDI features are the ability to:

  • specify a specific date or a range for a decedent’s birth and death
  • specify by zip code or last known residence, or non-U.S. location

Data from the U.S. SSDI is frequently misinterpreted. If you think you are well versed in the subject, try this handy Social Security Genealogy Quiz and then check your answers below.

Social Security Genealogy Quiz

When did the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) system start?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on 14 August 1935, but taxes for the system were not collected until January of 1937. For more information about the history of the Social Security system in America, see www.ssa.gov/history/hfaq.html.

Roosevelt Signs Security Act as Cameras Grind, San Diego Union newspaper article 15 August 1935

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 15 August 1935, page 1

Who is covered by the Social Security program?

Many groups are/were exempt, including railroad workers, and certain employees of state and local governments and schools.

The railroad workers are covered by the Railroad Retirement Program, and contribute a portion of their wages to both systems with a calculation adjustment done at retirement. It’s a bit complicated, so please see U.S. Social Security Administration: An Overview of the Railroad Retirement Program.

Prior to 1983, when Congress changed the law, various municipalities and other groups had opted out of the Social Security system. For example, the Texas counties of Galveston, Brazoria, and Matagorda opted out of the system prior to 1983, and are covered under an independent system. After 1984, municipalities who had not previously opted out of the system were required to be covered by the SSA, along with civilian federal employees.

Does that include the President, Senators and Congressmen?

Yes. The SSA’s Frequently Asked Questions website states:

“All members of Congress, the President and Vice President, Federal judges, and most political appointees, were covered under the Social Security program starting in January 1984.”

Here we see the SSDI record for President Richard M. Nixon.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI) record for President Richard M. Nixon

Is the SSDI’s birth and death information reliable?

After 1974, proof was required to obtain a Social Security number (SSN). For persons who entered the system prior to that date, one should cross-reference birth dates with other records. Death dates are more reliable, as proof of death (such as a death certificate) has to be submitted in order to claim a death benefit.

Proof Now Required for Social Security, Chicago Metro News newspaper article 6 July 1974

Chicago Metro News (Chicago, Illinois), 6 July 1974, page 3

Does the SSDI report the location where a person passed away?

No. It reports the last known place of residence, or the final address where Social Security benefits were sent.

What are the three parts of a Social Security number (XXX-XX-XXXX)?

The three parts are, in order:

  1. the 3-digit area number (XXX),
  2. the 2-digit group number (XX)
  3. and the 4-digit serial number (XXXX).

The SSA maintains a table explaining the assignment of the numbers. For instance, Alabama was assigned numbers from 416-424, and Louisiana 433-439. However, the location doesn’t necessarily indicate a residence, and could indicate a variety of locations—ranging from where one applied for a card (not necessarily one’s residence) to an office that processed the application.

According to the document Meaning of the Social Security Number (Nov. 1982, Vol. 45, No. 11): Table 1.–Assignment of area numbers by State:

“Until 1972, the area number indicated the location (state, territory, or possession) of the Social Security office that issued the number. When the numbering system was developed, one or more area numbers were allocated to each State based on the anticipated number of issuances in the State. Because an individual could apply for a SSN at any Social Security office, the area code did not necessarily indicate where the person lived or worked. Since 1972…[the] area code now indicates the person’s State of residence as shown on the SSN application.

“The group number has no special geographic or data significance. It is used to break the numbers into blocks of convenient size for SSA’s processing operations and for controlling the assignments to the States.

“The last four digits, the serial number, represent a numerical series from 0001-9999 within each group…”

Will the SSA run out of Social Security numbers (SSNs)?

It is not known how many Social Security numbers have been issued. However, the nine-digit system allows for nearly one billion SSNs, so the current system has not run out of numbers.

Does the SSA reuse numbers?

No, although some people claim they do.

Does GenealogyBank have the ability to make corrections in the SSDI?

No. The Social Security’s Death Master File Data is supplied to publishers of the SSDI, so corrections have to be addressed with the U.S. SSA. GenealogyBank has no method to process updates to this government-supported system.

Does the SSA have a smart phone app?

Yes, although it does not include the Social Security Death Index.

On 6 May 2013 Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced:

“…the agency is offering a new mobile optimized website, specifically aimed at smartphone users across the country. People visiting the agency’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov, via smartphone (Android, Blackberry, iPhone, and Windows devices) will be redirected to the agency’s new mobile-friendly site. Once there, visitors can access a mobile version of Social Security’s Frequently Asked Questions, an interactive Social Security number (SSN) decision tree to help people identify documents needed for a new/replacement SSN card, and mobile publications which they can listen to in both English and Spanish right on their phone.”

For more information, see: http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/ssa-mobile-pr.html.

Note: if you experience issues with the SSA app on your smartphone, you can give Social Security a call (1-800-SSA-1213) to get help troubleshooting the issue.

Additional Social Security Resource for Genealogy

Acquiring Records from Social Security for Genealogical Research

Use the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) to Document Your Relatives

Keep your research simple. Knowing the first step to take when doing your family history searches can save you time and effort.

Here’s one good genealogy search tip to keep in mind: target your relatives using GenealogyBank’s online Social Security Death Index.

What if you know that your family has lived in a certain county for a long time, but you don’t know all of their names?

A good first step to take: use the Social Security Death Index as a quick way to survey death records about your family from that county.

In the following example, this easy search finds all of the deaths in Fairfield County, Connecticut, for everyone surnamed “Carlucci.”

GenealogyBank's SSDI search form for Carlucci family in Fairfield County, Connecticut

GenealogyBank’s SSDI search form for Carlucci family in Fairfield County, Connecticut

This is a simple way to pull back records for many of your relatives with one easy search.

search results in GenealogyBank's SSDI for the Carlucci family in Fairfield County, Connecticut

Search results in GenealogyBank’s SSDI for the Carlucci family in Fairfield County, Connecticut

Use this direct survey approach to gather the records for multiple relatives with one search. This approach will save you time and get you the documentation you need.

Then go on to the next simple step: search in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives and find the obituaries and other newspaper articles about these people.

GenealogyBank newspaper articles about the Carlucci family in Fairfield County, Connecticut

GenealogyBank newspaper articles about the Carlucci family in Fairfield County, Connecticut

By approaching the SSDI with clear, brief searches you can find your relatives, save time and get the best results.

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.

I am looking for my family tree. Can you tell me how to find it in GenealogyBank?

GenealogyBank – is an online library of resources – millions of them. Like a library it has an index – in our case an index on every word making it easy to find references in each of the issues of the newspapers, books etc. It has over 1 billion names.

(
Illustration: Wikipedia Commons)
Documenting your family tree is a lot like putting up the family Christmas tree. You have the bare tree and now you need to look in the boxes of Christmas decorations and put up each one.

It takes time to pick out and put the items in just the right place on the tree – but when you’re done – wow – it always looks great.

So – let’s get started on putting together your “family tree”.

What do you know about the family?

Who are you looking for?

For example – what are your grandparents or great-grandparent’s names?

When and where were the born?
When, where were they married?

So – you’ll see who you are looking for and with the when/where of their birth, marriage and death – you can decide where in GenealogyBank will I be likely to find that information.

If they died in say, 1982 – then look in the Social Security Death Index and in the America’s Obituaries section.

If they served in the Revolutionary War – then we’ll look in the early newspapers for articles and in the Revolutionary War Grave Index in the “Historical Documents” section.

Tell me more about your family and we’ll start researching in GenealogyBank to discover the original sources that document their lives.

Taking the time to gather together the facts to document your family tree is worth it – just like it is to take the time to put together the family Christmas tree each year.

We can do this.
Tell me more about your family.

Tom

Michael Jackson (1958 -2009) – SSDI, Only on GenealogyBank

If you’re looking for Michael Jackson in the SSDI – you’ll only find him on GenealogyBank’s copy of the Social Security Death Index.

Why? Because GenelaogyBank is the ONLY site that updates the SSDI every week.

Michael Jackson (1958 -2009) You’ll Only Find Him on GenealogyBank’s SSDI

If you’re looking for Michael Jackson in the SSDI – you’ll only find him on GenealogyBank‘s copy of the Social Security Death Index.

Why?
Because GenealogyBank is the ONLY site that updates the SSDI every week.

Be a part of GenealogyBank – Sign up Now.

Find and document your ancestors in GenealogyBank – the best source for old newspapers on the planet.
Period!
Thank you to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak for alerting me.
.

GenealogyBank.com Celebrates Second Anniversary Online — Reports 67% Growth in Family History Records

GenealogyBank has added over 80 million historical newspaper articles, recent obituaries and other vital records in the past two years – growing 67% – going from 160 million records to over 240 million articles, records & documents.

To celebrate its expansion and success, GenealogyBank is now offering a 30-day trial for only $9.95 along with membership savings up to 50% after the trial period.

GenealogyBank, a leading provider of historical and recent newspapers for family history research, is celebrating its second anniversary online.

GenealogyBank has added over 80 million historical newspaper articles, recent obituaries and other vital records added in the past two years, GenealogyBank is the fastest growing newspaper site for family history research and an ideal resource for exploring the real stories behind the lives of past generations.

“We now have 67% more family history information online today than when we launched and we only plan to continue growing, with new documents digitized every month.”

GenealogyBank‘s 3,600+ newspapers provide a firsthand glimpse into the everyday lives of millions of Americans who lived from 1690 to the present day. In addition to names, dates, places and events, newspapers offer real-life stories of the triumphs, challenges and turning points that formed communities and shaped lives. GenealogyBank‘s exclusive newspaper content — from all 50 states — can help family history researchers dig deeper into their family’s past.

“Most importantly,” adds Kemp, “GenealogyBank provides substantial runs from big-city dailies, regional weeklies and small-town papers from across America. There is literally coverage from every day of the week across a 300-year span.”

“And with the most complete Social Security Death Index available–as well as government documents, rare books, military records and more — GenealogyBank has truly become the ‘go-to’ source for family history information.”

Special Anniversary Savings – Save up to 50% on memberships
To celebrate its expansion and success over the past two years, GenealogyBank is now offering a 30-day trial for only $9.95 along with membership savings up to 50% after the trial period.

Subscriptions to GenealogyBank include access to more than 240 million records including an estimated one billion names from all 50 states, each of which can be viewed as a single document and printed.

Millions of additional records are added monthly.

SSDI – Free on GenealogyBank

GenealogyBank has the most comprehensive; the most complete version of the SSDI online and now it is free online for genealogists to search.

We are celebrating Ida May Fuller’s birthday – she would have been 134 years old this year – and we’re getting a jump on celebrating our own birthday – GenealogyBank will be two years old – next month – on October 18th.

Ida May Fuller was the nation’s first Social Security benefit recipient and was a native of Vermont and lived all of her life there. In fact she lived for many years in nearby Ludlow, VT – a neighboring town to Chester, VT where GenealogyBank has its offices.

To celebrate both events we are giving back to the genealogical community and putting the most complete and up-to-date version of the SSDI free online.

So – here’s to a happy birthday to Ida May Fuller (1874-1975) – who was born September 6, 1874 and to GenealogyBank – born Oct 18th, 2006!!

GenealogyBank has not only the most complete SSDI online – it has expanded & enhanced the data – adding the day of the week when the person’s birth or death occurred and the GPS coordinates that many genealogists like to have for their records.

No other site updates the SSDI weekly.
Give it a try – search it right now – click here!

SSDI – By the Numbers

Social Security Death Index has:
82,637,474 – Death records
17,125,521 – Persons born in the 19th Century
1,040,516 – Persons that died between 1937 – 1962
5,983,919 – Persons who died in New York
191,268 – Persons named “Ida” in the SSDI
1 – Person who died in Palau

It’s a great day for genealogy!

Virginia is 401 years old today!

Happy Birthday to Virginia!
The first colonists arrived in Jamestown, Virginia on May 14, 1607 and with ups and downs the Commonwealth has prospered ever since.

GenealogyBank.com is packed with early Americana – including millions of Virginia items go back to the 1700s.

Newspapers
GenealogyBank has more than 100 Virginia newspapers – containing more than 2.3 Million articles. There are multiple titles going back to the 1700s and early 1800s.
Click here for a complete list

Also – GenealogyBank has more than 4 Million Virginia obituaries and death records in the America’s Obituaries and Social Security Death Index (SSDI) sections.

Other Virginia Resources in GenealogyBank

Search for Virginia documents in:
American State Papers and US Serial Set in the Historical Documents section.
There are thousands of Virginia documents in the Historical Books section that are unique to GenealogyBank.


For example – here is a petition to Congress signed by the local Virginia residents south of the James River that were seeking improved conditions on the Turnpike to Richmond.



Here is an example of an early Virginia funeral sermon – for Mrs. Ann Boyd who died 1819.



Terrific sources.

Beyond GenealogyBank – here are other useful sites for Virginia research
Virginia Census Records
1850, 1880, 1900 – Free Online – FamilySearchLabs


Virginia Digital Books Online
American Memory Project
Documenting the American South

Google Books
Making of America

Library of Virgina – Virginia Land Records

Virginia Genealogical Society
Be sure to see the back issues of their newsletter that you can download and read online

Virginia Historical Society
Current issue of Virginia Magazine of History & Biography
Be sure to see their online research guides

Virginia Vital Records
See the collection at the Library of Virginia
Virginia Department of Vital Records