Can You Find My Grandfather’s Date of Death?

A reader asked: “I am seeking the date of my grandfather’s death. His name was John L. Gray and died in Missoula, Montana. Can you help?”

I recently received this question—so I reached into GenealogyBank to help her find the answer.

Social Security Death Index record for John L. Gray

Source: SSDI – John L. Gray

She gave me his name and the city and state where he died, with no additional information.

Bang—first search in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)—and John L. Gray came right up.

Using GenealogyBank, I was able to find an SSDI record that matched the information about her grandfather that she provided me. I will send the SSDI record to her to see if this is the same John L. Gray that she is looking for.

Enter Last Name

Ancestor Search Tip: Look for records created throughout a person’s life. In this case his granddaughter wanted to know his date of death. Since a person’s DOD is recorded in multiple records, target those records first.

I knew that his Date of Death would be included in his SSDI Death record, so I searched this first with the brief information I had—and the record came right up.

Related Articles:

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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.

Celebrity News: Michael Jackson Tells His Story

Read the news as it happened.

You can easily find the back stories of your family or celebrities – it is all in GenealogyBank.

GenealogyBank has over 9,000 articles about Michael Jackson.

Like this article from the 3 July 1995 issue of the Afro-American Gazette where Michael Jackson tells his own history.

Or when:

Michael Jackson sales top $11MillionChicago Metro News 16 January 1988

Michael and Randy Jackson joined a tea ceremony - Chicago Metro News 6 June 1973

Editorial columns like this one by Ferman Becless: Between Michael Jackson and (Grambling coach) Eddie Robinson. 20 October 1984 – Chicago Metro News.

Or the grim report of his death.

GenealogyBank gives you access to the backfiles of newspapers whether your ancestors were unknown or world famous.

Indiana wants me …

Searching for Indiana family history?
GenealogyBank has Indiana newspapers from 1817 – Today.

Click here and search Indiana historical newspapers 1817-1930
Click here and search recent Indiana Obituaries 1990 – 2010
Click here and search Indiana Death records 1937-2010 (SSDI)

Newspapers in GenealogyBank
American Nonconformist. 11/11/1886 – 4/2/1896
Amigo del Hogar. 11/22/1925 – 4/13/1930
Batesville Herald-Tribune. 10/2/2009-Current
Bremen Enquirer. 10/7/2009-Current
Brookville Enquirer. 2/5/1819 – 12/26/1820
Chronicle-Tribune (Marion, IN). 3/18/1999-Current
Commercial Review, The (Portland, IN). 4/10/2003-Current
Decatur Daily Democrat. 3/11/2008-Current
Elkhart Truth. 12/29/2007-Current
Evansville Courier & Press. 6/19/1991-Current
Evening News and Tribune (Jeffersonville-New Albany, IN). 6/3/2006-Current
Fort Wayne News Sentinel. 6/29/1901 – 2/22/1923
Freeman. 6/12/1897 – 2/4/1899
Goshen News, The. 10/26/2007-Current
Greensburg Daily News. 10/2/2009-Current
Herald Bulletin, The (Anderson, IN). 11/13/2008-Current
Huntington Herald-Press. 5/13/2005-Current
Indiana Centinel. 3/14/1817 – 12/30/1820
Indiana Democrat. 10/30/1830 – 3/9/1838
Indiana State Journal. 6/24/1846 – 12/27/1899
Indianapolis Ledger. 4/13/1918 – 10/28/1922
Indianapolis Sentinel. 7/2/1872 – 9/30/1882
Journal Gazette, The (Fort Wayne, IN). 2/14/1992-Current
Madison Courier, The. 5/1/2001-Current
New Albany Daily Ledger. 2/11/1854 – 9/15/1860
News-Dispatch, The (Michigan City, IN). 4/1/1997-Current
News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN). 8/6/1990-Current
Paper of Montgomery County, The (Crawfordsville, IN). 11/26/2004-Current
Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, IN). 10/2/2009-Current
Post & Mail, The (Columbia City, IN). 10/7/2009-Current
Post-Tribune. 9/17/2000-Current
Reporter, The (Lebanon, IN). 6/18/2008-Current
Shelbyville News, The. 6/2/2009-Current
Terre Haute Express. 12/25/1878 – 3/22/1881
Times, The (Noblesville, IN). 10/22/2008-Current
Vincennes Sun-Commercial. 10/7/2002-Current
Wabash Courier. 2/18/1836 – 1/1/1853
Washington Times-Herald, The. 11/5/2007-Current
Zionsville Times Sentinel, The. 10/2/2009-Current

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Chicago, IL Key Genealogy Resources Online – Handy Guide

Chicago Genealogy Resources.
Bookmark and save this page – so you may easily refer to it often.
Your handy guide to the sources you will actually use to build your family tree.


Birth Certificates – 1878-1922
FamilySearch Pilot
Birth Registers – 1871-1915
FamilySearch Pilot

Census
1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920
1850 – Mortality, 1850 – Slave Schedule
FamilySearch Pilot

City Directory
1844; 1855; 1856; 1863-1864

Deaths – pre 1916. Illinois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives
Deaths 1916-1950. Illinois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives

Deaths 1937-Present. SSDI

Land Records – Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales
Illinois State Archives

Marriage Records – 1871-1920. Chicago, IL
FamilySearch Pilot
Marriage Records – 1763-1900. Illnois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives

Military – WWII Draft Registration Cards
FamilySearch Pilot

Illinois State Archives- Military Database Projects
Illinois Veterans’ History Project
Illinois War of 1812 Veterans
Illinois Winnebago War Veterans
Illinois Black Hawk War Veterans
Illinois Mexican War Veterans
Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls
Illinois Civil War Veterans Serving in the U.S. Navy
Illinois Civil War Veterans of Missouri Units
Illinois Spanish–American War Veterans
Database of the 1929 Illinois Roll of Honor
Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home Residents

Newspapers: 1854 – Today
Bags & Baggage. (Chicago, IL) 1937-1943
Bulletin. (Chicago, IL) 1968-1969
Central South Sider. (Chicago, IL) 1929
Chicago Courier. (Chicago, IL) 1974-1975
Chicago Herald. (Chicago, IL) 1890-1891
Chicago Metro News. (Chicago, IL) 1973-1990
Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago, IL) 1/1/1986-Current
Chicago Times. (Chicago, IL) 1854-1888
Chicago Tribune. (Chicago, IL) 1/1/1985-Current
Chicago World. (Chicago, IL) 1925-1935
Daily Inter Ocean. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1896
Daily Southtown (Chicago, IL) 7/31/2004-11/17/2007
Illinois Sentinel. (Chicago, IL) 1937
Inter Ocean. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1896
Latin Times. (Chicago, IL) 1868-1975
Metropolitan Post. (Chicago, IL) 1938-1939
Noticia Mundial. (Chicago, IL) 1927-1928
Olivet Baptist Church Herald. (Chicago, IL) 1936
Pomeroy’s Democrat. (Chicago, IL) 1869-1879
Skyline (Chicago, IL) 12/8/2005-12/6/2007
Sol de Chicago. (Chicago, IL) 1960
SouthtownStar (Chicago, IL) 11/18/2007-Current
Sunday Times. (Chicago, IL) 1869-1876
Vida Latina. (Chicago, IL) 1952-1963
Vorbote. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1875

Slave Records
Database of Illinois Servitude and Emancipation Records
Illinois State Archives

Obituaries – From Annual Reports – Congress has chartered many national associations – among them the American Instructors of the Deaf.

Julia Child (1912-2004)

This week the nation is remembering Julia Child – how much she contributed to our lives and how much fun she was to be with – via her books, newspaper columns, TV Show – The French Chef and interviews.

Julia Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams – this week – August 15, 1912 in Pasadena, California and died this week – August 13, 2004 in Montecido, California. She married Paul Cushing Child over a long Labor Day weekend – 1 September 1946. She had met Paul Child while stationed in Sri Lanka with the OSS during World War II. The OSS is now known as the CIA. For her life’s work she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2003. She was 92 years old.

She is celebrated in Meryl Streep’s new movie – Julie & Julia


and she is in GenealogyBank too – from her numerous recipes; articles about her books & TV series; numerous obituries published in newspapers across the country and her death record in the SSDI.

Cook like Julia Child

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Deaths at the US Soldiers’ Home – Washington, DC 1898-1899

Get the most out of GenealogyBank!

GenealogyBank has more than 250,000 historical documents and reports – like the Annual Reports of the War Department.

The War Department, like all US Government Agencies issues an annual report that includes the report of each of its component departments.

The 1899 report of the Secretary of War is 708 pages long – and it is packed with information for genealogists. (See: Date: 1899-12-04; Publication: Serial Set Vol. No. 3899, Session Vol. No.2; Report: H.Doc. 2 pt. 1)

For example – on pages 490-491 in the Annual Report of the Attending Surgeon of the US Soldiers’ Home in Washington, DC is a list of the old soldiers that died at the Home in 1898-1899.

Discover your heritage, preserve it and pass it on!

Be a part of GenealogyBankSign up Now.

Find and document your ancestors in GenealogyBank – the best source for old newspapers & documents on the planet.

Period!
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