Several weeks ago, I read this blog post by Judy G. Russell a.k.a. The Legal Genealogist, entitled "Ordering the SS-5." The SS-5 form is the form one uses to apply for a Social Security Number. It is filled out by the person requesting the number, or for more recent cases, by the parents of the child that the number is for. So, the information listed on this form is often (not always) first-hand information from the applicant herself! (A person must be deceased in order to obtain his/her SS-5 form.)
My great-grandmother, Sofia Krupa Bodziony, immigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1910. I was able to find her village of birth on her naturalization forms, but I did not know the names of her parents. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio makes it pretty difficult to obtain parish marriage records (where the parents of the bride and groom MAY be listed), but the Diocese also states on their website that parental information is often withheld (yes, even if they were married way back in 1911.) So, I decided to order my great-grandmother's SS-5 form using the online order form. The document cost $27, which I admit I sort of cringed at when I submitted my credit card information.
The turn-around time on this request was pretty darn quick. A couple of weeks later I received an envelope from the Social Security Administration with a letter explaining what document they sent me AND a photocopy of the document itself. It turns out my great-grandmother filled out an IRS form to obtain a Social Security number, but the form itself contains the same information as the SS-5. (Gotta love government bureaucracy.) While she did not list the name of her ancestral village, she does list the names of her parents, 'Katherine Mourdas' and 'Joseph Krupa'.