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

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