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The Social Security Number is a number issued by the US government to individuals for taxation, old-age, survivors, and disability benefits, and other purposes. In the US it is an essential unique identifier of individual people. Because of its many uses in financial matters, it is important not to disclose the number of living persons.
SSNs of deceased persons are routinely published by the Social Security Administration with a limited amount of information that may identify the deceased person. The publication is called the Death Index. It is a public record used by financial institutions and other to prevent identity fraud. The Social Security Administration does not provide online access to the Death Index, but sells it on electronic media.
Some genealogical businesses sell access to these records, but others allow free access.
There is a rough correspondence between the first three digits of a Social Security number and the state in which the number was issued. Apparently this was so that pre-numbered cards could be shipped to Social Security offices in the various states, and for many years, cards were issued immediately to applicants at local offices. Applications are no longer processed this way, but for genealogical purposes the rough correspondence can be a useful rule of thumb.
Note that the correspondence is to the place the card was issued. This may not be where the cardholder was born. For many years it was not common for small children to have Social Security numbers and numbers were not required for school or college attendance, so numbers were not usually acquired until a person was a working adult.
Several states have more than one block of numbers because population changes have exhausted the blocks originally allocated. In some case state Social Security offices have borrowed parts of a block from other (often neighboring states). Railroad employees had a separate retirement plan, so those who were issued cards as railroad workers have blocks of their own, although this practice was discontinued in 1963. Persons who obtained cards upon immigrating may have numbers from particular blocks.
The number-place correlation should not be taken as evidence of anything, but can sometime provide a useful hint.
|Number||Place of Issue|
|577-579||District of Columbia|
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