Judy G. Russell, on her blog The Legal Genealogist, has been reporting on the problems involved with making a FOIA request. In her entry Ordering the SS-5 posted on May 31, 2013. she says:
... the SSA has made it harder to get the very information most useful
from the SS-5 forms: the date and place of birth and the names of the
parents. Here’s what the SSA says now: “under our current policy, we
do not release the parents’ names on an SS-5 application unless the
parents’ are proven deceased, have a birth date more than 120 years
ago, or the number holder on the SS-5 is at least 100 years of age.”
In a large number of cases, people who have ordered SS-5 forms since
2011 have found the copies they receive have had the names of the
parents redacted (blacked out) and even on occasion the date and place
of birth as well. To avoid that, you need to provide evidence that the
parents are deceased, or that they would have been born more than 120
years ago, unless the person whose SS-5 you’re ordering was born more
than 100 years ago. And, again, there’s no way to attach that proof in
the online system.
It seems as if you've gotten burned because the person whose records you seek was born less than 100 years ago. Check the information given at the bottom of Russell's post where she advises what records might help with your case, if you want to send in an appeal.
There are lots of ways to prove your case that may carry the day with
the SSA. I’ve personally used some combination of the following in a
number of cases:
• An obituary of the person saying the parents predeceased the person
• Death records of the parents
• Tombstone photos
• A census record showing the ages of the parents
Do you have any census records that show your paternal grandfather in the census along with his mother? If you can show his father was absent from the family, it might help your case.
A couple of notes:
- Be sure to read the comments on the blog posts, too -- Russell's readership is good and there is often useful information there. Note the discussion that the Numident can contain information that the SS-5 image lacks and vice-versa.
- Russell cites other bloggers who discuss the problems of restricted access to the SSDI, so checking their sites and blogs may yield more updates.
In the same post, Russell explains why we can't expect the SSA to accept their own records as proof the person's parents are deceased.
It's precisely because of problems like this that I haven't ordered the SS-5 records for either of my parents (born 1914 and 1916). (I don't need them for the parents' names, but I want them to find out when the SSNs were applied for, and what their residences were at the time).
In 2015, Ancestry.com published a new collection, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. This index includes information from some applications and claims made to the Social Security Administration.
Be sure to read Ancestry's description of the collection so you can see what information might be in the index, and understand the limitations on coverage. The claim types are described here (the text is Ancestry's, but I have re-formatted it for easier reading):
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).
Ancestry is publishing the names of the parents for some of the original applications in this record set. The About the Database section says:
Why can’t I see certain parents' names in the records?
Ancestry follows publishing guidelines similar to the approach used by
the Social Security Administration when individuals request related
records. Unless the deceased would be at least 75 years old today, we
do not publish the parents' names in these records.
The Social Security numbers are redacted under these rules:
Why can’t I see the Social Security Number?
If the Social Security Number is not visible on the record index it is
because Ancestry.com does not provide this number for any person who
has passed away within the past 10 years.
Coverage issues are discussed under the section Why can't I find the person I'm looking for? Be sure to read this section and all the search tips carefully because this database is far from complete. However, if you can find your relatives in this database, some parents' names are included in it.