Rebecca’s Reel Hints: Social Security and Delayed Birth Certificates

So, you’ve been searching for Grandpa’s birth certificate but just can’t find it?  Let’s pretend Grandpa was born in 1900, but the county clerk informed you that their county’s birth records do not start until after 1910.  What do you do?  Answer: If Grandpa was a working adult after 1937, try requesting a form SS-5 and go back and ask that county clerk about delayed birth records! 

Some states began early birth registration (such as New Jersey in 1848 and New York in 1881), but most did not, and even when they had state-wide registration, compliance was not strictly adhered to across the country until after approximately 1915.  Check individual states for their birth registration dates, each state is different.  Consequently, some people born as late as 1910 may not have an official birth record.  With the announcement of the Social Security Act in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, our ancestors quickly realized the benefits of this program and were anxious to sign up.  The first payments began in 1937 (  But there was a problem –participants needed a birth certificate to qualify.  To satisfy the requirement, people went back to their birth counties for a “Delayed” Birth Certificate.  This was, in effect, an affidavit signed by someone who was present at the birth (a parent, midwife, or older sibling).  More often than not, these are filed separately from the other birth certificates, so you need to ask or search for the delayed certificates specifically.

If you know or suspect that an ancestor was issued a Social Security number (it may be listed on the death certificate, or you may find them on the Social Security Death index at, you can order a copy of your ancestor’s SS-5.
The SS-5 is the application for a social security number, and it usually lists the ancestor’s birth date, place, parents’ names, and current residence.  For a copy of the order form, go to; costs range from $27 to $29.  Hint: Not everyone who applied for a social security number is on the Social Security Death index.  They may have died before receiving a benefit, but you may still find an application for them.

Never think your genealogical journey is over just because you’ve had a bump in the road.  There are so many types of records to open our understandings about our ancestors’ lives.  We at Reel Tributes enjoy hearing how you have been able to use some of our blog articles to help you in your ancestral quest.  Write your comments and let us share in your adventures in family history.  Keep checking back for more hints and inspiration from our staff.

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