Berwyn Group

Historic Death Records

Three Million Historic Death Records Will Be Added to the Death Master File

Last year the Social Security Administration (SSA) added 8 million records to the Death Master File (DMF). These additions were all quite old with the year of death ranging from 1937 to 1976 which does not affect users of death data. However, the additions mitigate some of the criticisms outlined in the 2016 Office of Inspector General report and add to the completeness of the file. This year the DMF will get another boost in data. The assumption is that they will be older deaths, but they could be as recent as three years ago since they are being released in the Public DMF too. It is impossible to tell when the deaths occurred until the actual data set is released on March 2, 2019.

The full message from National Technical Information Service (NTIS) to subscribers:

Dear subscriber,

SSA prepared the following message:

“In December 2018, we sent the below email to our Death Master File customers to inform them of the continuation of our Death Data Improvement Initiative for 2019.  We also promised to send an email a week prior to receiving an increased volume of death information in your files. This note is to inform you of our release for March.

On March 2, 2019, you will receive 1,593,325 historical death records in addition to your normal death record update. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.”

The referenced message is:

“SSA continues to be actively engaged in an initiative to improve our death data.  As a part of this initiative, in fiscal year 2019, SSA will add nearly 3 million death records to the full and publicly available Death Master File (DMF) over the course of several months.  These records are deaths currently maintained in our records that we determined should be included in the DMF.  This effort to update the DMF with these records may result in an increase to the volume of the death reports that you receive.  Additionally, these historical records may reflect a higher volume of zeroes in the date of death field.  This generally occurs on older records because SSA’s prior death reporting process did not require a valid date of death.   As a result, the zeroes could have been present in the death information SSA received.  The zeroes also could have been used to indicate information that was missing in the death report or, in the case of paper records, simply illegible when we keyed them into our electronic database.

Sharing these deaths will increase the accuracy, integrity, and completeness of our records as well as the DMF.  We will notify you a week prior to receiving an increased volume of death information in your files.  You can expect to receive an anticipated volume along with that communication.   Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.”

If you have any questions about DMF data or how the Berwyn Group helps identify more deaths than with the DMF alone, we are here to help. Just request a call on our contact us page.