. I’m stuck on my Dad's family tree: I have his father's name, birth and death dates, and Social Security number (SSN). I can’t find anything on him. I have only his mother's first name, and I can’t get a birth certificate without her surname. Where do I go from here? Can I find out information with a Social Security Number alone? A
. Yes—you can request a copy of your grandfather’s application for a Social Security card, called an SS-5, from the Social Security Administration (that's how I found my great-great-grandmother's maiden name). You’ll find how-tos and a link with the address on the Genealogy Insider blog
The fee is $27. In your request, provide your grandfather’s full name and SSN, and state your relationship and the reason for your request. If your grandfather is living, you’ll need his written consent.
Where do you go from here? A lot of people start with about as much information as you have, so it can be done.
First, fill out a pedigree chart with names, and dates and places (including counties) of birth, marriage and death. Then search an online census database, which you can do free at libraries offering Ancestry Library Edition (you also can subscribe to its sister site, Ancestry.com
, for $155.40 per year) or HeritageQuest Online. The 1850, 1860, 1880 and 1900 censuses are free at FamilySearch Labs
. Start with the most recent census during your grandfather's lifetime and work back.
Depending when your grandfather was born, his record might be on microfilm at the Family History Library
. Run a place search on the county name and look for a vital records heading, then see if any films cover the right year. You can rent the film by visiting a local branch Family History Center (see our list for locations
Do you know the year and county where your grandfather died? (If not, look him up in the Social Security Death Index
.) Death records are often easier to get than birth records. They also may be on microfilm, or by request from the state vital records office.
Was your grandfather an adult during any wars? If so, check military records. Look for WWI and WWII draft registrations on Ancestry.com or Ancestry Library Edition. The National Archives and Records Administration keeps military service records—see the research guide on its Web site
This is all just for starters. Details you uncover and resources you learn about will lead you in new directions. You can get advice and stay up to date on new resources by reading Family Tree Magazine