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In researching a gg uncle, William (Wilhelm) Stahnke, I came across this record:

Name:   William Stahnke
Birth Date: 24 Mar 1879
Birth Place:    Federal Republic of Germany
Claim Date: 25 Sep 1945
SSN:    396051787
Notes:  30 Sep 1977: Name listed as WILLIAM STAHNKE

After checking near relatives, no one else died in 1945, so I thought it was a fair assumption that this was my uncle. Since then I have found both a Massachusetts Death Index and a headstone showing his death as 1956. The birth date is the same.

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You don't say where you found this record, but a common way to find this information is via Ancestry's database U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007.

Ancestry's About the Database information, which can be found below the search box on the main page to search the database, contains information about what can be found in the records and includes this passage:

The most common types of claims noted include: Original SSN (when the original application was submitted to obtain a SSN), Life Claim (when a claim was made for disability or retirement benefits), Death Claim (when a claim was made by a surviving family member for death or survivor benefits), and Duplicate SSN (usually used when an application was made to replace a SS card, it may also indicate a change in SSN or that more than one SSN was assigned).

We can reach the About the Database information quickly by clicking the Learn More link underneath the Source Information on an entry's Record Page.

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The problem is that Ancestry doesn't always explain what type of claim the entries are. How can we find out more?

Ancestry tells us:

Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.

But what information is that exactly?

The data is drawn from the Social Security Administrations computerized index of applications and claims files. Some of these files are also available to the public via the US National Archives (NARA) Access to Archival Databases (AAD). These records are part of NARA's Record Group (RG) 47. On the main page under "What's New", NARA describes their database as follows:

Numerical Identification Files (NUMIDENT) This series contains data from the Social Security Administration's Numerical Identification Files (NUMIDENT). The Claim Files contain information extracted from Social Security life or death claims for 25 million deceased individuals. The records include information such as name, social security number, birth date, and birth place. This is in addition to the nearly 50 million NUMIDENT death records and 72 million NUMIDENT application (SS-5) records already on AAD.

The search page has a global search box, and a Series Description which includes a list of files contained in the database, and Scope and Content information. This is more tech-oriented than Ancestry's About the Database, but NARA also has a FAQ describing the records which you can download. The FAQ and the Scope and Content materials explain the restrictions of the database and how the information was modified from the SSA's NUMIDENT database to create NARA's public-use version.

According to the FAQ "The NUMIDENT records contain three types of entries in NUMIDENT: death, application (SS-5), and claim records." If you search here, unlike on Ancestry, you can see what type of claim was made. I searched using the SSN and got this result from the File Unit Claim Files, 1936 - 2007 (Last Names R through T).

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Here you can see that the claim is a Life Claim. The claim date may refer to William Stahnke's Social Security retirement payments or to a disability claim. A next step might be to research historical newspapers to see if you can find an article about his employment or retirement using the claim date as a starting place for your search.

The icon to print the results is at the top right of the header, to the left of the link to the help page. This makes it easy to print out a copy or print to PDF.

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  • I had previously always assumed that claims were about death benefits. Obviously that's not the case. Since he was born in 1879, this would probably have nothing to do with disability. Thank you for the help with this record, and more importantly, the information about how to access the SS Claims database. – Joy Dec 27 '19 at 2:40
  • Since this is a claims index, I'm assuming that a separate search in a different database would be needed for the SSDI. In addition, I find myself wondering whether this would be the place to search for a SS application, or is this for claims applications only? – Joy Dec 27 '19 at 2:50
  • The FAQ explains what files are in the AAD database , and what applications are too early to be included. Highly recommend you read the FAQ and scope and content information. aad.archives.gov/aad/content/aad_docs/rg047_num_faq_2019Sep.pdf The list of all the file units in the database is in the Series Description: aad.archives.gov/aad/… – Jan Murphy Dec 27 '19 at 5:05
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    Thought I'd left this comment, but don't see it so here goes: In addition to all that Jan has laid out in the answer, I find the applications index to be helpful in cluing me into potential maiden names, prior spouses, and dates of marriages. – BobE Dec 29 '19 at 1:50
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    @Jan, with respect the Q says: "What does the Social Security Applications and Claims Index really show" , so when the index shows (among other things) prior names and dates when names were changed, that is something that the index shows, so I don't see how it is irrelevant to the Q that was asked. – BobE Dec 30 '19 at 0:14

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