Tell FamilySearch That I’ve Not Had My Birthday

The devil is, as they say, in the details. There’s an apparent bit of coding detail that’s not quite right at FamilySearch as far as the “United Social Security Death Index” is concerned. At least that’s how it appears from my informal study.

Three entries are anecdotal and most certainly not a random sample, but there’s an apparent problem here. The “United Social Security Death Index” entries for three of my relatives has the wrong ages at their date of death.

  • Ida Neill–born 1 September 1910, died 21 July 1994. She was 83 when she died. She would have been 84 if she had lived until her birthday. FamilySearch‘s entry indicated she was 84.
  • Luella Barnett–born 19 December 1900, died September of 1980. She was 79 when she died. She would have been 80 if she had lived until her birthday. FamilySearch‘s entry indicated she was 80.
  • Mimka Habben–born 11 November 1881, died February of 1969. He was 87 when he died. He would have been 88 if he had lived until his birthday later that year. FamilySearch’s entry indicated he was 88.




There’s always a chance that I just happened to pick three people where the age was calculated incorrectly. I’m leery of making that conclusion as the age calculation is probably programmed into the system.

I was really doubtful that the age itself was one of the pieces of information as a separate data field in the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (this is the raw database used to create the various “SSDI” databases floating around online). Entries at GenealogyBank for these same three people suggest that the age is not provided in the Death Master File. The ages shown at GenealogyBank for these individuals are different than those ages shown at FamilySearch. It’s also apparent that the ages are calculated correctly at GenealogyBank. Note that the calculation is only as precise as the dates given.

Is it the end of the genealogical world? I suppose not. However, I do wish that:

  • Database providers would only include information that was in the original database. I can do my reckoning myself. I realize age calculation is a minor thing, but how does the user know where information given in the original database ends and information calculated or inferred from the database begins?
  • Calculations, if they must be made, need to be made correctly.

If there’s cause for an update to this post, we’ll post one.


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