SS5 Question for Immigrants #Poland #USA #Help #BrickWall

Marjorie Geiser

Hi all,

I've been trying to find ANY living ancestor on my grandfather's side, Levine, hitting brick walls at each turn, and just hit another.

My g-grandfather was Isaac Levine (in the US - Lewin in Poland, born in Grodno), and my g-grandmother was Sarah Silver (Silbernagel/ Zylbernagel - born in Warsaw). Isaac came to the US in 1903. Sarah came in 1906 with my grandfather, Jacob, and his two older sisters, Elizabeth and Helen.

They were in Philadelphia for the 1910 census and I found them in the 1915 NY census. By the 1920 census, Isaac had died. I still haven't found exactly when and why he died.

I was able to find all of my grandfather's siblings, his youngest three all born in Philadelphia. And I could find who they all married, and even found some children from a couple of them. I think I found ONE living ancestor, whose grandmother was Helen. But I can't get any response from her, and when I look at the family tree she has, I suspect she knows less about her grandmother than I know about my grandfather. There HAS to be someone, though, and I'd love to find photos.

That gives a bit of a background. I still can't find any birth info for ANY of the family born in Poland/Belarus. On all my grandfather's  records, he said he was born in Warsaw, and the birth locations of my great-grandparents came from their marriage record that Stanley from JRI-Poland kindly found for me. I was even in Poland in May, and met with one of the genealogists at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. She was able to track my grandfather's family back to the late 1700s, thanks to revisionist lists, but no birth certificates for anyone.

I have a 1952 ship manifest when Helen and her husband, Murray, went to Burmuda, which listed where she was born (which I believe is incorrect - it's the exact same location as her husband which is MILES from even where her father was born), as well as when and where she was naturalized, along with a number. None of that has helped and I still can't find her naturalization papers. So, I still don't know where she was born.

Since my grandfather's SS5 had been so helpful when I didn't even know the names of my great-grandparents, I decided that I'd request one for my g-aunt, Helen, whose married name was Denison.

However, when I received it last week, it had that she was born in Philadelphia. So this is where my question of genealogists comes in: Everything else on the form matches the info I have; parents' names, where she lived, her married name. the same date of birth that I have, which is 1900. She requested her SS# in 1977 (she was 77 years old). She had to have been naturalized in order to get a SS#. But my question is, if she wasn't born in the US, how could she get a SS# without a birth certificate or naturalization papers? She was NOT born in Philadelphia.


Margie Geiser
Arizona, USA


Known locations: Plawno, Warsaw, Grodno, Lodz, Rodomsko, Mozydlow


I'm not convinced she could not have a Social Security Number even if she wasn't a citizen, but maybe others can cite the official rules on that question.  I went to look at the 1952 manifest mentioned.

The numbers associated with Murray and Helen on that 1952 passenger list look to me like Certificate of Naturalization (CN) or Naturalization Certificate (NC) numbers (which are the same thing).


My guess is Murray’s NC 2166347 would date from sometime in the 1920’s.

Helen’s NC 6517534 would date from right after WW II (ca 1944-46 or so, maybe a little later).


If you can find a court record of Helen’s naturalization and confirm she was issued that certificate number (it should be written on the back of her granted petition for naturalization or might appear on an index card), then you might want to request that C-file by number from USCIS (  The C-number is above 6.5 million, so it should be a substantial file with many documents showing place of birth—perhaps even her sworn testimony with that question.


Marian Smith


"She requested her SS# in 1977 (she was 77 years old). She had to have been naturalized in order to get a SS#. But my question is, if she wasn't born in the US, how could she get a SS# without a birth certificate or naturalization papers? "

Actually, anyone who works in the USA must have a Social Security number.  They do not have to be born here nor must they be naturalilzed citizens.   Women of Helen's generation may never have worked outside the home, but might have to get a social security number in order to receive Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits, for example, which would explain her getting one at age 77. 

Through the early 1900s, women were naturalized on their husband's naturalization papers. Therefore, Helen may have been naturalized with her husband.  

I found some of my "missing" relatives and more information on them at the cemetery.  When I went to visit the grave of one, I found several buried adjacently.  This might be another avenue of research. 

Best of luck!

Barbara Sloan

Marion Werle

I don't know how late they go (probably depends on the court), but Family Search has US naturalization records from various courts as part of their unindexed collections. I believe you need the certificate number (you can double check the naturalization index records) and the court name/district. I found one from 1951 issued in the Eastern District of New York. 

Also, according to the Social Security website, noncitizens can have Social Security numbers. 

Marion Werle
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab

Danielle Weiner


Are you certain that you had to be a naturalized citizen to receive a SS#?  My father received his SS# in 1936.  It states he was born in St. Louis, MO but he was actually born in Vilna in 1908 - I found his birth record after researching a Vilna birth index.  I have other paperwork (like marriage licenses and Armed Services documents) where he claimed to have been born in St. Louis.  I imagine many immigrants made such claims for various reasons at some point after spending some time in this country.  I have never been able to find any evidence of naturalization or petition for naturalization for him in public records, so I believe he might very well have received a SS# without proof of citizenship.  I doubt seriously that he had a birth certificate either, having come to this country in 1922 at the age of 13 with his grandparents.  I am not so sure proof of naturalization/citizenship was required in the early days of Social Security administration.

Danielle Weiner
Dallas, TX

Searching:  Vainerovich, Geler, Berenshtein, Burshtein, Rabinovicz, Cykinski, Fin, Gurwicz, Jablonowski, Kamionsky, Kotlovsky, Levit, Merkel, Okun, Shibovsky, Shimanovich, Stziplevsky, Szejman, Szesol, Taub, Winogron, Zalkind, Zetler

Known locations:  Vilna (Vilnius), Butrimonys, Rudamina (Vilna gubernia), Anyksciai

Sheila Toffell

We immigrated here in 1978 when my husband was asked to open an office for his company in the US.  We had to get SSNs for the two of us and our toddler daughter to be able to rent, get health insurance, establish credit, pay taxes  etc. Just as an FYI  - a credit history from one country does not transfer to another country – at least it didn’t back then. We were starting from scratch!


Sheila Toffell

Glen Rock NJ