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Source Information

Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

About U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010

This index contains birth and death dates for more than 14 million veterans and VA beneficiaries who died between the years 1850 and 2010. The majority of information in the index comes from the BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification Records Locater Subsystem) Death File; however, the veteran's name has been added by cross-referencing the Social Security Number in the BIRLS Death File with the Social Security Death Index. No names were provided directly in the BIRLS Death File.

What’s in the Records

The BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem) Death File is a Veterans Benefits Administration database that lists information for deceased individuals who had received benefits from the Veterans Administration while they were alive. These include veterans who received educational benefits and veterans’ survivors who applied for benefits. Details listed in the index can include

  • name (provided by cross-referencing the Social Security Number with the Social Security Death Index)
  • gender
  • birth date
  • death dates
  • Social Security Number
  • cause of death (unknown, natural, combat, other)
  • branch(es) of service
  • enlistment date(s)
  • release date(s)

This collection’s scope and the potential for providing birth and death dates make it a significant source for anyone researching ancestors who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. In cases where a veteran was deceased before the Social Security program began, the Department of Veterans Affairs may have used the Social Security Number of a spouse or child of the veteran in their records. Therefore, in a small number of cases, the name obtained via cross-referencing with the Social Security Death Index may not be the actual name of the veteran.

Why can’t I see the Social Security Number?

If the Social Security Number is not visible on the record index it is because Ancestry.com does not provide this number in this database for any person who has passed away within the past 10 years.

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