I got an amazing genealogical gift through the mail – a new surname for the family from Minsk, Belarus! I received the Social Security Application for J’s Great Grandfather, Meyer Pearlman, in the mail which gave me the maiden name of his mother, Ida Woodinski. We believe Meyer (1880-1951), our immigrant ancestor, came over without his parents, Julius [Jacob] and Ida Pearlman who stayed in Minsk (then Russia) where they were born around 1845 and died between 1900-1910. I had requested the application from the Social Security Administration about 5 weeks ago. It was incredibly exciting to open and see new information, because I wasn’t keeping track of when it would come and I wasn’t sure if they would even be able to find it.
The record was signed by Meyer Pearlman on December 1, 1936. It gave me information on his address during that time, his employer and employer’s address, his birthdate, his place of birth (listed as Minsk, Russia), his father’s name and his mother’s maiden name. We had seen most of this information before, but Woodinski was new! Woodinski could also be a variation of of Yiddish Budinsky, or Budensky.  This find gives us a whole new line to look at and another possible way to link us to somewhere in Minsk.
The other interesting piece I found on this document to explore was Meyer’s father’s first name, Jacob. I had his name as Julius Yuna Pearlman until we saw this document. His name Julius came from genealogical research done by J’s Great Uncle 20 years ago so I will need to do some more digging and cross checking with both of the names.
US Social Security Applications – What is it and how to get it
The Social Security Administration grew out of the period after the depression in the 1930s – which began a call for change to support the Americans in times of economic shock, leading to the signing of the Social Security Act in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Social Security Act included several provisions for general social welfare as well as a continuing income for retired workers, aged 65 and older (a major issue of the depression being our elderly population was living on complete dependency and unable to work).
I found my ancestors’ Social Security Application through two steps; 1) Searching for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) where you might a social security number and then 2) Send in a request for their Application for a Social Security Number, Form SS-5 – which has all of this information I listed above!
You can search for a deceased person’s Social Security Death Index (SSDI) if they passed after 1962 on familysearch or ancestry sites. The Social Security Act was passed in 1935, so any person alive after 1935 could have a SSDI and/or an application record. The SSDI has limited information (it can be used as a proof of death) but you can take the Social Security Number listed on the SSDI and send away for the original Social Security Application that was most likely completed and signed by your ancestor. A request for this document can be done through the Social Security Administration using a Form SSA-771 under the Freedom of Information Act. This can be done online if you are sure you do not need a proof of death with your application. The Social Security Administration is only able to send you documents for persons who are at least 100 years old along with proof of death and/or they are more than 120 years old.
Here are a few links that helped me::
- Various census records of children who mother and father from Minsk Russia: 1910 Federal Census [Database online, ancestry.com]
- Social Security Application, 1936. United States Social Security Administration Archives
- JewishGen search for potential matches
- History of Social Security Administration: https://www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html
- FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 53-227(1733).(picture)