Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security Number

One of the most valuable forms I’ve come across in my research into my immigrant ancestors has been form SS-5, which is an application for a U.S. social security number.

Here is what the SS-5 looks like using an example from one of my relatives (with personal information blurred out):

Example Form SS-5

More importantly, here is the kind of information you can find by reviewing one of your ancestor’s applications for a social security number:

  • Parent’s names, including the mother’s maiden name (this is one of the best sources for this information if you don’t have birth records from an immigrant ancestor)
  • Place of birth
  • Date of birth
  • Citizenship status at the time of their application
  • Address at the time of their application
  • Their signature (this came in very handy when I discovered different names tied to one relative’s social security number; the signatures on their SS-5 and another form matched for the first name, adding to the confirmation that a name change actually took place)

You can learn more about this form and requesting one from one of your ancestors on the Social Security Administration’s website. But note there seem to be newer rules in place than when I first requested documents (as they did include the parents’ names on my copy even though they weren’t 120 years old yet). So your mileage may vary.

Have you had any luck using the SS-5 form of an ancestor to discover something new — maybe even the next branch in your family tree?

Jenn is a professional writer and publisher, and the founder of Climb Your Family Tree.

She first became interested in genealogy as a teenager. Since that early start, she's spent 28 years putting her personal passion and professional research skills to use in exploring her own family history while assisting others in their genealogical journeys.

In addition to running Climb Your Family Tree, Jenn is a long-time PR, social media, and online marketing specialist and she's been a digital publisher / web developer for over 20 years. She owns a variety of web properties including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, Kiss My Biz, and NakedPR.

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