Summary of Our Recent October 12, 2010 Genealogy Program

Hi Everyone!

We had another great turnout at our recent Genealogy Program held at the Schaumburg Township District Library on Tuesday evening, October 12, 2010.  Our program for the evening was titled “Social Security Death Index (SSDI) – New Things to Know”.  The guest speaker for the evening was Larry Olson.

We had 65 people in attendance for our program.  The room was hopping with a lot of enthusiastic researchers all wanting to know more about tapping into the SSDI.  Larry was there to encourage us to not only use the SSDI but also to consider using multiple SSDI databases available to researchers, most of which are free, some of which are subscription based and costing some money.

Participants Started Arriving Early for the Evening's Program. There Were Many Engaged Pre-Program Conversations

We had about 7 new participants attend this program.  I had each one introduce themselves to us and give us each an idea as to how new they were to genealogy as well as to share some key surnames they are researching.  I shared with each new participant a complimentary library genealogy handout package to help them become familiar with researching and what materials are in our library.

After the introductions of new participants, I spent about 15 minutes reviewing the “electronic” handout material that I post as a PDF to our library’s genealogy blog.  Anyone visiting this blog can find this material for the recent program as well as going back about one year.  These can be found in the right sidebar of the blog under the title of “Handouts”.

Some of Our Avid Researchers Awaiting the Start of This Informative Program.

Our monthly library genealogy newsletter can also be found on the right sidebar of the blog under the title of “Newsletters”

I encourage anyone visiting to take a look at this material.

Larry started his presentation at around 8:05 PM using a nicely put together PowerPoint presentation of his material that was in paper handout material for those in attendance to take home and refer to.  I hope to receive a “lite” version of the handout material from Larry so I can post it to this blog.

Our Guest Speaker Larry Olson Preparing to Start His Presentation

Larry provided a good deal of information on the historic aspects of the Social Security Administration (SSA).  He gave us the following information on the SSA from a Timeline perspective:

  • 1935 Social Security Act signed
  • December 1, 1936 was the date the first SS card was issued
  • 1937 Numbers began to be issued
  • 1937 to 1963 Railroad workers had a separate plan and separate numbers
  • 1940 Some payments began to be made
  • 1942 Use of SSN optional on tax returns
  • 1946 Use of SSN made mandatory on tax returns
  • 1951 Other categories of workers began being included in the plan

Larry also provide a nice overview on who actually received a card over time as the system expanded.  He noted the following:

  • 1936 – Workers under age 65 in commerce and industry eligible to receive a card.
  • 1941-1945 – Elderly and women who might never have applied received a card.
  • After 1951 – Employees working abroad, government workers, farmers, self-employed, domestic workers and self-employed professional were now added to the rolls.
  • 1965 – Those over 65 who had still not applied for and received a card were provided one for purpose of Medicare registration.  Employees of non-profits companies that had previously been included were now included.
  • 1988 – All children claimed as dependents for tax purposes were now issued a card.

There Are Many Attentive Researchers Listening Closely to What Larry Offered About Using the SSDI File

Larry indicated that he has used the following well-known and some not so well-known organizations from which he has accessed the SSDI that is offered by them.  Be aware that there are more places where you can find an SSDI, but these are the ones included in his analysis.  Places mentioned were:

  • Ancestry
  • FamilySearch
  • GenealogyBank
  • New England Historical Genealogical Society (NEHGS)
  • State of Washington
  • Rootsweb
  • World Vital Records
  • Stephen Morse One-Step Search
  • Indiana State Digital Archives

Larry Olson Presenting His Program on Using the SSDI

Larry shared what he discovered when he used the various sites above for a particular ancestor of his that he knew would be in the SSDI.  Results were close but not exact among the SSDI sites visited.  Some sites included a name in their site that was not included in another site.  Some sites had the name but other sites may have indicated the person was a “Jr. or Sr.”. Some sites included a middle initial, other sites did not have one.  Some sites may had a full middle name while other sites had no middle name or just an initial.

The conclusion reached by Larry that we should take into account when we use the SSDI is to use multiple SSDI files to access because we may very well see more of the data of a particular ancestor in one of the SSDI files that we do not necessarily see in the one and only SSDI file we are by “habit” just using!! 

Larry also offered the following reasons to consider as to why you may NOT find someone in the SSDI when you believe they should be there:

  • Person never paid into Social Security
  • Person never collected a benefit
  • Person’s death was not reported to the SSA
  • Person died before 1962
  • Person was a participant in the Railroad Retirement Program
  • Person is in the file but may be listed under an initial, a middle name or a nickname rather than their given name as you may know it.
  • Person’s name was shortened in the index inadvertently because the system only allows for twelve (12) letters in the last name field and nine (9) letters in the first name field.  Consequently, additional characters past the limits notes are simply left off!
  • Person is in the file, but the original data was reported or recorded incorrectly.
  • SSDI being used  by you may simply not be up-to-date!

Larry Olson Interacting with Our Audience During His Presentation on Using the SSDI

The SSDI is a valuable resource tool.  Obviously, we now know we need to tap into more of the SSDI files that are available rather than just using one and only one that we may use simply by habit!

Larry ended his presentation by around 9:20 PM and stayed around to take questions by anyone interested in learning more about his program presentation.

This was certainly a great program having a great topic with a great speaker!  Larry definitely knows his material on the SSDI!

Thank you Larry for offering to provide your program to our audience.  We all appreciated it and certainly left with much more information on the SSDI than we ever realized existed.

I also want to thank those of you that attended the program.  I hope we left you with plenty of information to take home and make your family history research even more successful when you will be accessing the SSDI information on the Internet.

I hope to see you come back for another one of genealogy programs that we offer on the 2nd Tuesday evening of each month at 7:30 PM at the Central location of the Schaumburg Township District Library.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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