29 August 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jack Garber's Social Security Card Application

Yesterday, in response to my previous post mentioning my plan to try to find Alice Garber's maiden name by acquiring her Social Security Account Application (Form SS-5), a reader asked how does one acquire the SS-5 and what's on it. So, here is my grandfather, Jack Garber's SS-5.

Jack filled out Form SS-5 on 28 May 1937. The Social Security program was established in 1936 with passage of the Social Security Act. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Act into law on 14 August 1935 and the first Social Security taxes were collected in January 1937.

By the time Jack applied for Social Security, his business as a glazier had failed. The Depression had, apparently, taken its toll. He reports that he is working for McKinley Edwards. McKinley Edwards is also the business that my father, Bernard Garber, worked for prior to enlisting in the Army Air Corps in February 1942.[1] My father did office renovations: moving and putting up walls. I do not know what my grandfather did for the company.

Jack reports that he was born on 15 December 1894 in Russia and that his parents were Abraham Garber and Ann Morris. As is so typical with immigrants, he Americanized his parents' names. While Abraham Garber did emigrate and did use that name, Jack's mother Chana Mazewitsky Garber died in the Old Country. Morris was the surname adopted by her brother Isidore (Jack's father-in-law/uncle) when he settled in the U.S.A.

Jack's SS-5 provides the following information:
  • Social Security number
  • Name
  • Address
  • Business and business address
  • Age, date of birth, place of birth
  • Father's name; Mother's name
  • Gender; race
  • Date of Application
  • Signature
Ordering an SS-5 is easy, but pricey. The first step is to locate, if one can, the Social Security number of the deceased person. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI), includes deceased people who had Social Security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. For the most part, the list will include only those deceased since 1962.

Initially, the list was made available and published by several entities to ward against unauthorized use of old numbers. The notion was that if Social Security numbers of deceased individuals were available to all, then it would be easy to check old numbers and prevent fraud. Recently, in (over)reaction to concerns about the reported use of old accounts, some of the online indices no longer include the deceased person's Social Security number. Go to SteveMorse.org for the most complete access to several online versions of the index.

I have checked a variety of versions of the SSDI for Jack's record and I find that it is not listed under Jack Garber, but under Jacob Garber. Jack/Jacob used both names. If one runs into this problem or one finds too many people of the same name, one may usually enter year of birth and/or death and a few other parameters to help locate a record.

One may order the SS-5 from the Social Security Administration (SSA) with or without providing the Social Security Account number. It is $27 if one provides the number and $29 if one does not. Go to this SSA page to order the SS-5. Note that the SSA will
not release the parents' names unless they 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.
One need not provide all the requested information in the online request form (especially if one can provide the Social Security number).

Access to the SSDI and possibly SS-5s is under attack. To read further about these issues and the stay up-to-date, read SSDI postings by the Judy Russell and the IAJGS's Public Access Monitoring Committee.

1. "U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 February 2013), entry for Bernard Garber; citing "Beneficiary Identification records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File," U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.


  1. Wow! Thank you for this post! I'm going to order up a few SS applications right now! Super helpful.

    1. Hope they provide you the info you seek. Thanks for reading, Jenny!


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