Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Nonexistent Information in Genealogy ----- Social Security System Part 3

What's My Number?

When the Social Security Act of 1935 was signed into law, the social security number was developed.   The social security number was designed as a unique nine digit identifier which is assigned to an individual after completion of an application. It is presently used to track Social Security benefits, authentication and identification purposes.  Once an individual dies the number is not recycled. But are these statements  true?

In March 2015, the Office of the Inspector General* for the Social Security Administration* identified 6.5 million social security number holders age 112 or older who did not have death information on the Numident (acronym for "Numerical Identification System). There are approximately 35 people worldwide who are known to be 112 years old. In the report, a man fraudulently opened two banks accounts using social security numbers of individuals born in 1886 and 1893 who did not appear on the Death Master File.

ID Analytics is a company which develops consumer software solutions for authentication and identification purposes and a subsidiary of LifeLock.*  Lifelock is an identity theft protection company.  ID Analytics has discovered that:

  1.  More than 100,000 people have 5 or more social security numbers
  2.    15% of social security numbers are associate with two or more people 
  3.  More than 140,000 social security numbers are associated with 5 or more people
  4.  More than 27,000 social security are associated with 10 or more people
  5.  6.1% of Americans have 2 social security numbers associated with their name 

I have been researching my maternal family tree on Ancestry.com  in the U.S. Social Security Application Claims Index 1936-2007.  I found  three results for an ancestor Chalmers Bearden.  His name is listed three times differently.

           Name                                 Date of Birth               Place of Birth         Application     Parents
Chalmers Bearden  29/Nov/1889   McComb     June    Harriet
                                                                   Ms              1937   Stacher
 Chalmern Bearden  29/Nov/1886   McComb    Nov    Harriet
                                                                   Ms              1941   Stacher

CH Bearden        29/Nov/1885      McComb        Dec     Harriet
                                                                    Ms          1943      Stacher

 Many of the errors are thought to secondary to duplication errors and fraud.  In genealogy research the social security number may not be a definitive source of information. 

* I am not an employee or representative of these organizations
 ----- The Tree Gardener

Friday, October 9, 2015

Nonexistent Information in Genealogy Social Security System Part 2

 In the process of my performing genealogy research, I could not find some ancestors and people that I sought in Social Security Death Index .  I then began to realize that some people may have never been included within the Social Security data base. Many of my ancestors were farmers, cooks, maids and worked in the lumber industry.  I do not know if a person was prohibited from completing a Social Security application in one of the excluded classifications. I think it is conceivable that a person might not bother to  complete a Social Security application if they knew they would not receive any benefits.  Ancestors may have died after 1935 and before they were included in the Social Security System.  

My purpose is not to present an exhaustive presentation of the Social Security System exclusions. I would also like to mention I am not an expert in the nuances of the Social Security System. The Social Security System has evolved since 1935.  There have been 37 versions of the Social Security cards and 3 types of cards.  For example from 1946 to 1972 printed on the card was "Not For Identification".  This might also affect locating individuals by their Social Security number in other records. Possibly knowing the exclusions and inclusions in the Social Security Programs can prevent looking for nonexistent information. 

 The Social Security slowly began to decreased the exclusions 

  1. 1939 Exclusion of of workers 65 years old and older was eliminated
  2. 1950-1956 Agricultural workers were included with certain limitations based on pay and days worked
  3. 1950s Coverage extended to workers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island
  4. 1960 Coverage extended to workers Guam and America Samoa
  5. 1951 Coverage was extended to Domestic workers which included maids, butlers, gardeners and chauffeurs with certain limitations based on pay and days worked
  6. 1951 State and local government employees where included
  7. 1983   Coverage was extended to civilian employees of Federal executive, judicial, legislative branches hired after December 31, 1983. This coverage was given members of federal judges, executive level political appointees, Congress, the President and Vice President 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Nonexistent information in Genealogy --- The Social Security System

 The  United States Social Security Act  was signed into law in August 17, 1935. Social Security was initially to provide retired workers a small income after the age of 65.  Benefits were to be paid to workers based on payroll contributions paid  during their working life. Social security applications and death index can provide not only the social security number the name of  an individual, date of birth and death,race, parents  and last known residence. 

Now a parent can request a social security number for a baby before it leaves the hospital. If you plan to use your child as a deduction on your income tax, the child is required to have a social security number.  All employers are required to use an employee social security number to provide information to the IRS. The social security number is a unique piece of information because once an individual dies the number is not recycled. It is reasonable that a genealogist would look at social security records to find information.  

It would also be reasonable to assume every natural born citizen working in the United States after 1935 had a Social Security number.   If you were to make that assumption, you would be wrong.

Social Security in 1935

When Social Security was initially established it was recommended that benefits would be limited to industrial workers. The following groups were excluded from coverage
  1.  Self-employed workers ( which included farmers and domestic workers) 
  2. Workers in the Non-Profit Sector
  3. Professionals such as doctors, lawyers and ministers
  4.  Merchant marine seamen
  5. Employees in charitable or educational foundations
  6. Causal laborers
  7. Persons who are 65 or older
  8. Employees for the American Society for the Cruelty to Animals 
  9. Members of Congress
  10. Employees of federal, state or local government. That includes the President of the United States to postal workers 
Excluded from coverage were 24 % of the Caucasian and 65 % of the African Americans workforce. The professional employees of the NAACP as well as the farmer sharecropper and maid were initially excluded from Social Security.

As a genealogists looking for information we must keep in mind that the Social Security laws of today were not applicable 80 years ago. We maybe looking for nonexistent information  about our ancestors in the Social Security System.
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70 No. 4 (released November 2010)
by Larry DeWitt

----- The Tree Gardener

Friday, October 2, 2015

Nonexistent Information in Genealogy


As a family historian and genealogist, I am constantly looking at records which relate to my research families. We are taught in performing our search to gather information and travel from the known to the unknown.   I have used vital records, court documents, census, school records, some government documents and Internet message boards looking for family connections. Living in the era of information technology, the Internet has increased possible sources of information.  With years of effort I have hit many brick walls. I finally realized that I may have used tools available today to find evidence which never existed about people who lived decades ago. The information that we collect today is not the same as years ago. It is possible that I have been looking for information that may have never existed. I plan to launch a series of blogs which I have titled Nonexistent Information. Possibly others have lumps from hitting brick walls and discovered their roots travelled in a different direction.   

----- The Tree Gardner