Use the Social Security Death Index for free on a number of genealogy websites, including Genealogy Bank, Family Search and Mocavo. Search parameters include the decedent's first name, last name, date of birth, date of death and Social Security number. On some search engines, narrow the search further by entering the location of the decedent's last known residence.
Social Security compiles its Death Index, or SSDI, from its Death Master File, a record of deaths since the Social Security system began in 1936. The SSDI does not have records of all decedents with Social Security numbers, but only those whose survivors reported the deaths to receive survivor's benefits or stop the decedent's Social Security payments. Because the Social Security Administration began recording the deaths in a computer database in 1962, most of the entries in online databases are from 1962 and after, although some date back as far as 1937.
A decedent's SSDI file contains his name, Social Security number, last known residence, and dates of birth and death. It also has the date and place of the Social Security number issuance and the location of the last benefit payment. Use this information to locate documents such as the decedent's death certificate, obituary, and Social Security application and claims files. This can lead to further information, such as the last known address of the lump sum beneficiary and the decedent's birth place, maiden name and parents' names.