Monthly Archives: March 2012

New Social Security Death Index (SSDI) Search

I previously wrote about how many genealogy sites have been removing or restricting access to parts or even the entire Social Security Death Index (SSDI), due to pressure from lawmakers who have tried to make it seem like access to the SSDI was contributing to identity theft. I won’t go over that again, but you can read my earlier post Changes in Access to the SSDI and Vital Records.

One company, Mocavo, seems to be bucking the trend of most of the genealogy companies out there to restrict access to the SSDI, and has actually introduced a very nice new search engine for the SSDI, which seems to include all the information in the database, including social security numbers. In order to see the results, you need to sign up for a free account on Mocavo if you haven’t already. I suspect launching this SSDI search engine is largely a way to bring in users to their site. The search results also allow you to add comments, something I haven’t seen before on SSDI databases. How this will be used will be interesting.

I’m not a regular user of Mocavo, but it seems that this is the first actual database they’ve added to their site, and thus this comment feature is also new. With their search engine, they have the ability to ‘follow’ a page, but this is the first time I’ve seen the ability to comment. I don’t know if you are notified of someone else’s comments on the same record, or if you have to go back and check regularly. I also don’t see a way to send messages to other users (such as if someone commented that the person in the record was their great-grandmother, and they have a picture of her) but perhaps this is coming. If you are notified of other comments, then it might not matter too much, although without private messaging people would have to post their e-mail addresses publicly to take a conversation further, which is not ideal. As this is a brand new feature, however, I’m sure they’re working on something.

Some other features of Mocavo are also interesting, such as being able to mark a search result as already read, and being able to say that a specific result is about the person you were searching for, maybe close, not who you are looking for, or is a broken link. Mocavo presumably uses this data to improve its search results.

As I tell people who ask me about it, we don’t know if lawmakers will decide to restrict access to the SSDI in the future. I always suggest going through one’s family records and searching through the SSDI for anyone likely to have had a social security number and copying down everything into your personal database. If in the future access is removed, you may not be able to get the information later. Information that can be very helpful from the SSDI records includes birth date (take with a grain of salt), death date (more likely to be accurate),  what state their social security number was issued in, the person’s last residence, and where their last benefit was sent (which may be different from last residence and indicate where a spouse moved). So if you haven’t done so already, take a look at your family tree, figure out who is likely to have had a social security number (someone who was working from the late 1930s on) and search through Mocavo’s search engine, or one of the others available online (see my older article about that).

The 1940 Census is just 12 days away…

It only happens once a decade. Seventy-two years after the 1940 US Census was recorded, it is being released to the public. Unlike previous years where it was released on microfilm and took a long time to digitize and then index, this time the census is being released fully digitized. You should be able to see census pages on day 1 (April 2), although no index exists so you will not be able to search by name or address. The work on such an index will only start on April 2, 2012 when the files become available.

There are at least two efforts to index the 1940 Census records, one by Ancestry.com, and another by a consortium called the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project, which includes FamilySearch.org, Archive.com and FindMyPast.com.

It is unlikely that a full index will be completed by either group before at least six months from now, and probably longer, but there is a way to find the enumeration district (ED) for your relative which is the neighborhood that the census enumerator recorded.

Stephen Morse and Joel Weintraub have collaborated to create a number of useful tools that help you figure out which enumeration district you should be looking for, and when the images are released you will be able to locate which images are from the enumeration district you are looking for. To get started with these tools, use the quiz page on Stephen Morse’s site. If your relatives were already living in the US in 1930 and didn’t move by 1940, you should try to find their census records from 1930 which will help in figuring out the correct ED in 1940.

Be sure to go to Stephen Morse’s site before April 2, as it will likely be difficult to reach on April 2 and for some time afterwards. Find the EDs of all your relatives who lived in the US in 1940 now, and then on April 2 you will be able to go directly to the census images and find your relatives using the EDs you already found.

A look at progress on the USHMM records indexing

Back in May I wrote about how the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Ancestry.com had teamed up to index some of the USHMM’s millions of records online. The indexes would be created via volunteers using special software provided by Ancestry.com, and the indexes would be be freely available on Ancestry.com (although not the images which would only be viewable on site at the USHMM itself). This project was dubbed the World Memory Project (similar to their existing volunteer indexing project the World Archives Project) and the first results were introduced some months later.

The World Memory Project currently has over 2400 volunteers and has indexed over a million records. The databases that are currently available include:

All of the databases can be searched at once through the main search page.