A Quick Start Guide to Researching Your Roots, Part 3

A Quick Start Guide to Researching Your Roots, Part 3

By Shannon Warnick

Most of the family is gone. Money is short. Long distance calls are out. What do you do? Write letters? You bet you do! And then you wait...

And wait... and begin to wonder if you sent them to the right address... and wait some more... and finally...

Get tired of waiting and start taking matters into your own hands! So, grab your hats, folks, this could be a bumpy ride! But where do you go when you want to strike it out alone?

First gather the the information that you already have. Here is the information that I have:

My father: William Alan Warnick Jr b. Oct 30, 1935 d. Aug 1984 in CA

His father: William Alan Warnick (Sr) d. @1970 in CA

His mother: Phyllis Shannon (Warnick) d. @1992 in CA

WAW Sr's father: Paul Warnick d. >1965 in CA

WAW Sr's mother: Nellie (Powers?) (Warnick) d. >1965 in CA

WAW Sr's brother: Paul Warnick Jr

WAW Sr's sister: Phyllis Warnick (?)

Do you have your information handy? No? Well, go get it! I'll sit here and just savor this new Caramel Caribou ice cream while you're getting organized...(this stuff is remarkable, if you have access to Texas Gold Brand Ice Cream and like chocolate and caramel, you should try it! Vanilla, caramel sauce swirled through and hidden treasures of chocolate covered goo... a perfect way to beat this Houston heat... mmmmm)...Ooops, sorry, I got lost in my ice cream! Are you ready, now? Good! Let's get going...

Did you know that for a small fee, the Social Security Administration will actually give you information about your deceased relatives? That's right, with just a little information, you can get a copy of your relatives Social Security Card Application, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. Want to know what information will soon be in your hands?

I thought you might! Well, here you go:

Full name

Full name at birth (including maiden name)

Present mailing address

Age at last birthday

Date of birth

Place of birth (City, county, state)

Father's full name "regardless of whether living or dead"

Mother's full name, including maiden name, "regardless of whether living or dead"

Sex and race

Ever applied for SS number/Railroad Retirement before? Yes/No

Current employer's name and address

Date signed

Applicant's signature

Now, how much it will cost you depends on how much you already know. If you know the full name, state of birth and date of birth, it will cost you $16.50 to have the Social Security people figure out which application you want. (You may also need to provide proof of death, since applications of living people are not publicly available). But I'm going to show you how to save $9.50 and you won't even have to type the letter!

The secret? Are you sure you really want to know? Well, since you've stuck with me this far, I guess you deserve that much. The secret is... the Social Security Death Index - and it's available online!. Basically, this is just a huge database of all the folks that have ever had a social security card and for whom a lump sum death benefit was paid. It has the at the very least: First Name, Last Name, date of birth, date of death, social security number, state and year of card issue. Since I'm sure of my father's information, I going to test the waters using him. Not him actually, but his information. I wonder if he would mind being my guinea pig? Couldn't be any worse than being a taste tester for my bricks, oops, I mean bread, but that's a whole other story... lol...Anyway...

Off to the database! (don't worry, I'll tell you where in a minute). I enter in William, Warnick and CA. Search and... Voila! There he is... And here is what I found:

Name Born Died Residence Last Benefit


WILLIAM WARNICK 30 Oct 1935 Aug 1984 94402 (San Mateo, CA) (No Location

Given) 567-40-6613

Issued Request

California (Before 1951) Write Letter

Okay, nothing too earth shattering here. If you're wondering about the San Mateo, that's where we lived (but don't go looking for our old house, it got flattened by the people that bought it...poor house :(...yet another story). But, wait... what's that Write Letter thing?

A quick click to satisfy my curiosity and EUREKA! the letter to the Social Security people all ready to go! All I have to do is print it, sign it, add my address (so they know where to send the application to), drop in a check for $7 and send it off! That's right, I said $7 - having the social security number just saved me $9.50! Whoo hoo! And the good news: $7 is all you will have to pay, too!

And now it's your turn! But before you go, I just want to thank you for sharing this journey with me. I'll meet you here again next month - we can compare notes - and dive into one of the newest and largest collections of genealogical information in the world.

Well, it's back to the Social Security Death Index for me, looking up the rest of my relatives I'm not so sure about. Hope to "see" you there!

Happy Hunting!


Oh, you thought I forgot about the URL didn't you? Well, I didn't, I just wanted to say my goodbyes and good wishes before you get lost in a sea of records! If you can't find the person you're looking for, try searching with the state set as Any, or just the last name and the state, or if you're really having trouble, just the last name... but be warned, using only the last name could leave you a lot of people to choose from! Finally, here's the URL:


For more about the Social Security Death Index (including more tricks for searching it), check here:

Social Security Tricks

About the author

Shannon Warnick is Mom to Lisa, Collin, Daniel and Sarah. She loves to research on the internet and help those around her find what they need. Shannon loves the freedom the Internet has given her. She is also a Independent Technology Consultant.


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