A search result for my great uncle Salvador M Campos appeared recently in the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 on Ancestry.

Salvador M Campos  
birth date: 1 Jul  1886
Claim date: 10 Sep 1954
Type of Claim: Life Claim
Notes: 09 Sep 1954: Name Listed as SALVADOR M CAMPOS.

Does anyone know how I can get a copy of the death certificate and also perhaps where he might be buried?

  • 2
    I don't understand what you meant by "and also come under Death and Wills" - can you clarify, please? This entry is for a Life Claim which is for disability or retirement benefits, so it has no evidence for his death date. See the information "About this Database": search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60901
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 15:00
  • Thanks for clarifying the Life Claim. The only thing is he was 68 years at the time so probably he was a disability benefit. I had assumed that he died on that date. Cant seem to find where I saw it in Death and Wills but sure it was there.and will refind it. Do you know if using that Life Claim I could possibly get his Social Security Number.? I checked here but it looks like you need an address in the US.. secure.ssa.gov/apps9/eFOIA-FEWeb/internet/main.jsp Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 23:15
  • 1
    What information do you hope to get, by knowing his Social Security Number? While it has been used for other purposes other than benefits associated with the Social Security Administration, there's nothing else a member of the general public can do with it except requesting information from the SSA. Death Certificates and other records may have the SSN on the record for identification purposes, but no non-SSA database that I know of allows genealogists to look up the records by SSN.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 3:27
  • Hi, So my objective is to find where he died and where he was interred. Any information I get is a means to getting there and I was hoping the SSN might help. I have found that there was this Life Claim on 10/9/1954 and as you mentioned it should relate to pension or disabilities. But he appears with that date also in ancestry under 'All Wills, Probates, Land, Tax & Criminal Results'. There is no SSN given. Have you any recommendation on what my next step could be? Thanks Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 11:07
  • Joe, "All Wills, Probates, Land, Tax & Criminal Results" is a category, not a collection, What specific collection results are you getting? What records do you see?
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 15:39

1 Answer 1


There is not enough information in this single record to directly answer the question about your great-uncle's death or burial.

Let's look at this record a little more closely.

Ancestry's database U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 has the following information for where the data came from:

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

Looking at the URL for the record, we have another clue -- it contains the word Numident. The Social Security Administration describes the Numident records as follows:

A Numident is a query display of the information taken from an individual's application for an original SSN card and subsequent applications for replacement SSN cards.

Ancestry's About the database section explains the different types of records that can be found in this index-only collection:

You may also find details on changes made to the applicant's record, including name changes or information on claims that were recorded. 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)
  • 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).

This record is from a Life Claim, which may explain why no death date is included. Nor does it include a Social Security Number. It tells us that your great-uncle was likely to be alive on 09 Sep 1954, and applied for some kind of benefit -- probably retirement benefits, since on the claim date he would have been over 68 years old.

A quick search of the Social Security Death Index at Ancestry did not bring up any results. There are several reasons why this might happen. His record might be in the index but badly indexed, or he might not be in the index at all. The FamilySearch Research Wiki's article says:

The "Social Security Death Index" is an online searchable database. It only includes the names of deceased individuals whose deaths were reported to Social Security. Beginning in 2014, rules governing the "Social Security Death Index" changed. Records for the most recent 3 years are not available.

This index is a master index file of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration. It has been kept since 1962, when operations were computerized. The index includes about 50 percent of deceased persons from 1962 to 1971 and about 85 percent of deceased persons from 1972 to 2005. It also includes a few deaths from 1937 to 1961.

If you want to request whatever information the Social Security Administration may have, you can do so by making a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. Since your great-uncle was born over 120 years ago, his record does not fall under the privacy restrictions and should not be redacted, according to the information on that page. They say:

You can request a copy of the following, using online Form SSA-711.

  • Social Security Number Application (Form SS-5) of a deceased person.

  • A computer extract of the Social Security number application (Numident) of a deceased person.

But let's assume that you do that, and all the information they send is what Ancestry has shown you already. Now what?

Source record checklists such as Sources of Genealogical Information suggest other places besides the SSDI where you can look for information about someone's death. But the basic principle in genealogy and family history is to start with what you know, and to work from there -- and it is more productive to try and make small steps instead of big leaps.

We 'know' that he was likely to be alive on 10 Sep 1954, and from your tag, I see that you think he lived or died in New York City. Assemble all the information you have, noting how you know what you have learned so far. Then look for any information you can find around the early 1950s -- residence information, the names of other living family members, prior employers -- anything that might help you identify a record about your great-uncle.

Death records are always difficult to find because there is no guarantee that people will die in the community where they live. If they are out of state visiting a relative, the death certificate will be in the county where they died, not in their home county.

If you are searching newspapers for obituaries, the deceased person's name might not be spelled properly, or the underlying OCR might be defective. I have found many obituaries by searching for the name of the siblings or other survivors instead of the deceased. Obituaries can also be published in the towns where the survivors lived, as well as the town where the deceased lived.

Start in 1954 and see if you can inch your way forward to narrow the possible date of death.

In late 2016, the US National Archives added some information from the Social Security Administration's Numident files to their Access to Archival Databases (AAD) website.

The Scope and Content notes explain what data is in the database:

Scope & Content Note: This series contains records for every social security number (SSN) assigned to individuals with a verified death or who would have been over 110 years old by December 31, 2007. There are three type of entries in NUMIDENT: application (SS-5), claim, and death records. A NUMIDENT record may contain more than one entry. Information contained in NUMIDENT records includes: each applicant's full name, SSN, date of birth, place of birth, citizenship, sex, father's name, mother's maiden name, and race/ethnic description (optional). NUMIDENT includes information regarding any subsequent changes made to the applicant's record, including name changes and life or death claims. The death records in NUMIDENT do not include any State reported deaths in accordance with the Social Security Act section 205(r). There are 72,182,729 SS-5 records entries; 25,230,486 claim record entries; and 49,459,293 death record entries.

These files come from the same source as Ancestry's U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, but the data is presented in a different way, and in some cases, reveal more information than Ancestry does. However, not all deaths are in the SSA's Death Master File, so your great uncle's death date may not be in these files.

The instructions on ordering NYC death certificates and the restrictions on who can receive the "long form" death certificates with cause-of-death information or only the short form are on this page at the NYC Department of Health: Death Certificates

If you have difficulty finding the exact record you seek, look for other records that can supply the same information, using a checklist or record finder such as:

As you consult general research guides like these, keep in mind that New York City has different record-keeping than the rest of New York State, so advice about finding records for New York State often won't apply to New York City.

You could also consider hiring a professional genealogist who is experienced in the area. See this answer for links and guidelines.

  • So Im still on the search for my Uncle and I found this: Salvatore Campos / Rosedale and Rosehill Cemetery, NJ While the name might not be exact, the age matches. My uncle would have been 73 that year in 1959. (18/11/1959) findagrave.com/memorial/122187956/salvatore-campos However I could not find this person in the NJ Death Index newjerseydeathindex.com So I'm trying to get hold of the death certificate which is no easy task as I live in Switzerland. My question is this: Could there be circumstances where hes buried in NJ but the death registered somewhere else? Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 18:30
  • If he was buried in a place different than where he died, there may be two death records, one in the place he died and one in the place he was buried. See The Legal Genealogist Death in the Wrong Place and Following Up on Death.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 20:15
  • Be careful about Find a Grave. People can put up memorials on Find a Grave without knowing for sure they are buried there or whether there is actually a marker, and there can be a stone in cemeteries but no burial. If you are registered at Find a Grave, you could try making a photo request to see if a volunteer can find a marker. There's no guarantee the information on a gravestone is accurate, but if there is a stone, there might be clues that would tell you if this is your relative or someone else.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 20:27
  • Here's an interesting thing, though -- the Find a Grave memorial has a plot number. You could try writing the cemetery and asking if they can make copies of any records for you (ask to cover expenses or offer a donation). If you can find out who owns the plot or paid for the burial or put up a stone, that would be important information. It might be easier and cheaper to register at Find a Grave first and ask the memorial creator what information they have, but they have set up their profile not to take messages.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 20:31
  • ancestry.com/sharing/… might be the same person in the Find a Grave memorial. ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/118041428/person/…
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 20:42

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