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).