3 Things I Learned from Alfred Mueller’s Social Security Record

2016-10-11-ss-5-formThe SS-5 form was more valuable to me than the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) in my quest to prove my great-grandfather’s date of birth.

Why? Because it had been completed by the subject of my search. Not to mention the oodles of additional information the form added to my understanding of Alfred’s life.

Remember when I was inspired by Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques to create an ancestor timeline to break down a genealogical brick wall?

One of the steps I took was to review my sources for my great-grandfather Alfred Jacob Mueller on Ancestry, which included the US Social Security Applications and Claims. Seeing the index listed as a source made me realize I had never ordered a copy of the application itself, so I requested one. (Click here to see how I did that.)

Response from the Social Security Administration Division of Earnings Records Operations came so quickly, I thought the envelope contained my earnings records.

2016-10-11-mueller-alfred-ss-formBut it actually contained this:

The first thing I noticed was the street address; 3046 N. Leavitt Street. It matched Alfred’s address in the 1940 census when he worked as a laborer for the park district. This was a marked change from the four previous censuses in which the adult Alfred had appeared.

According to the 1930 census, Alfred owned his home at 4217 N. Meade Street in Chicago. He worked as a bread salesman for a bakery, the same occupation listed in the 1920 and 1910 censuses. This was presumably an advancement from his role as baker per the 1900 census. From just these records I can conclude Alfred worked for the same company, Sawyer Biscuit, for at least 30 years. Had he been impacted positively or negatively by the company’s merger in 1925?

Chicago’s 3046 N Leavitt Street is currently a multi-unit dwelling. Built in 1904, the 2500 square foot home had been divided into apartments. Four families lived there when the 1940 census was taken. This change in living arrangements and the change in his occupation shows the effect of the Great Depression on Alfred and his family.

The next item of interest was the field labeled Business Name of Present Employer. Although I knew that Alfred had worked for the WPA (Works Progress Administration), his Social Security application confirmed that fact and gave more specifics. Like the number 122 and the WPA address of the Merchandise Mart in the city of Chicago. More details about this employment appeared further down the card; If Registered with the U.S. Employment Service, Give Number of Registration Card. Both 1405 and 69157 had been handwritten. Alfred also stated he had not previously filled out a card like this.

That field told me I didn’t need to look for any additional forms, but the other fields Alfred filled in prompted me to search for WPA employment records. That’s how I found this page of the National Archives; the National Archives at St. Louis Works Progress Administration (WPA), Personnel Records. Where I completed the PDF form and mailed my request for Alfred’s records! (More on that later – as soon as I receive the response to my request.)

Lastly, and very interesting to me, were the names of Jacob’s parents. Jacob’s middle name Koebe rarely appears anywhere, so the fact that Alfred included in on an official record makes it that much more “real” to me. And the “misspelling” of Alfred’s mother’s name… Elizabeth/Elisabeth/Lizzie/Elise and the sometimes (I previously thought) misspelling Eloise. Did Alfred fill out the form himself and spell his mother’s name this way? Did a clerk fill out the form and spell Alfred’s mother’s name the way he pronounced it? But I digress….one record at a time…

Was the SS-5 form worth $27? Absolutely! It provided additional information about my great-grandfather Alfred and gave me more clues to pursue.

The three things I learned

  1. how Alfred was impacted by the Great Depression
  2. specifically who employed Alfred during the Great Depression
  3. and a verification of alternate spellings of his parents’ names

made the SS-5 a valuable tool in my Mueller family history arsenal.


Sources (in addition to the links provided above)

  • 1900 Census Chicago Ward 30, Cook, Illinois; Roll 283; Page 7A & 7B; Enumeration District 0940; FHL microfilm 1240283
  • 1910 Census Chicago Ward 31, Cook, Illinois; Roll T624_277; Page 4A; Enumeration District 1335; FHL microfilm 1374290
  • 1920 Census Chicago Ward 26, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll T625_336; Page 19B & 20A; Enumeration District 1509; Image 543
  • 1930 Census Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll 482; Page 1B; Enumeration District 1528; Image 414.0; FHL microfilm 2340217
  • 1940 Census Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll T627_1012; Page 10A; Enumeration District 103-2882

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