Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Might You Find in the NEW database, Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007?

While at GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh) last week, the news at dinner one night was that Ancestry had released a new database. It was called "Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007" and offered more information than the "Social Security Death Index." But, we were told, do your homework first! (Yes, classes at GRIP have homework in the evenings!)

(image from Wikipedia)
I didn't access the new index until a couple of nights ago. I decided to work with one of my more unusual surnames: Kaechle. And, I found a lot of new information!

If you don't know how to find a specific database on Ancestry, here's one way:
  • Go to the "Search" drop-down menu at the to of the page and select "card catalog"
  • Type in at least part of the database's title - I typed in "Social Security"
  • Click on the one that includes "Applications and Claims"
From here, you can search for a specific person OR surname. Or, you could even search for everyone with a certain surname who was born in a specific state. I typed "Kaechle" in the surname box and clicked "exact" for spelling. I received 21 matches and was able to identify all but four of them.

What kind of information can you find on this index? You can see a list by clicking "learn more about this database" on the left-hand column. It tells you the information MAY include:
  • applicant's full name
  • SSN
  • date and place of birth
  • citizenship
  • sex
  • father's name
  • mother's maiden name
  • race/ethnic description (optional)
  • details on changes made to the applicant's record, including name changes and life or death claims
What NEW information did I uncover on the 17 people I viewed?
  • date of death
  • middle name
  • correct (or at least different) spelling of spouse's last name
  • maiden name!
  • names of spouse's parents
  • a daughter I didn't know about
  • an alternate name for a mother
All of this was terrific new information! But, the most interesting finds were the last two.

A daughter I didn't know about

How did this happen? Well, Myrtle Marie Sommers, born 1891 in Toledo, Ohio, was the daughter of John Sommers and Lena Kaechle. She would have been about 9 years old in the 1900 census. But, I can't find her family in 1900. By the time I find the family in 1910, Myrtle Marie was already married and gone. So, I didn't know she existed!

There is a note on this application that says: "Jul 1963: Names listed as MYRTLE MARIE MAHER." So, I also have her married name! From this, I've been able to find her husband and some of her children.

An alternate name for a mother

Clarence Alexander Kaechle Jr's parents are listed as Clarence Alexander Kaechle (Sr) and Christine A Zelmer on a marriage record index found on Ancestry. I was 'shocked' to see this new index listing Clarence Jr's mother as Ann Simmons who I already had as another wife of Clarence Sr.

My working theory at this time... Ann Simmons might be Clarence Jr's real birth mom, since this is a Social Security application. But, perhaps Christine Zelmer either adopted him or raised him, so he called her "mom" and listed her as his mother on the marriage record. 

Yes, more research is necessary!

So, as "good genealogists", what's the next step after viewing these new Social Security records? Order a copy of the "real" thing! You can find a copy of the SS-5 online request form here. But, at $27 each when you know the SSN and $29 when you don't, these are expensive! I'll only be ordering more significant discoveries.

Have you seen the new Social Security database? Have you found anything new or made any breakthroughs? 


  1. Bear in mind that the application should always list the names of the individual's parents and place of birth, as reported by the individual. Thus, if you find your ancestor on the recently released claims file and it doesn't have that information, you have a good reason to spend that $27 to get the application.

    What I wish was available would be some information on the documentation that was necessary to go with that application. Tens of thousands of people, if not more, acquired delayed birth certificates in order to apply for social security. Those can be tough to locate, especially if you don't know they exist. There's no telling what other documentation might have been used and might still be available if one knew where to look.

  2. Great points, Chris! I'll have to go back and order some of these applications. I just wish they weren't so expensive!

    And, we have a copy of my grandmother's delayed birth certificate. But, that's because she had it in her paperwork. I think she told us what documents she had used, but I don't remember... will have to ask my mom if she remembers.

  3. I've been meaning to write for nearly a year that I'm happy for your discoveries. I haven't had as much luck but I'm so glad someone else did.

    1. Devon, I'm so glad you replied to this post. I haven't really looked at this database since I wrote this post! I know there are more things I can uncover... I just need to search. I hope you are able to find more things through this database. I tried an unusual surname for this example, but I'm sure there are things to be found on other family lines, too.


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