Wondering how to find out if someone has died? We’re here to help. Are you curious whether or not an old friend named you in their Estate Plan and passed on before letting you know? Perhaps you believe a long-lost relative left you his or her family fortune and you want to collect what’s rightfully yours. Maybe you’re organizing your genealogical records and think you’re tied to a deceased historic figure.
Regardless of your reason, pursuing one (or any combination of) these six options should help answer your questions:
1. Start an Online Search
Arguably the best way to find out whether or not someone you know has passed is to begin an online search. There are several ways to do this:
A General Search: To start a general inquiry, collect any identifying information about the person you believe to have passed. Type into a search engine the person’s name followed by the word “death” or “obituary”. If nothing is found, include additional information you have about the person or the person’s death in quotes. An example search might look something like this: “Molly Jean” death “motorcycle accident” “California”. Another useful piece of information to include in your general search is the name of the decedent's church (if you have those details.) Church websites will often have a list of congregation members who have died or held their funerals at that church.
Obituaries: Online obituary finders — like for example — will reveal recent as well as historical deaths. All you need to navigate an online obituary finder is the full name of the deceased (although other criteria, like birth date and location, can help narrow down your search.) If the person you’re searching for passed away in your same city, it can also be helpful to visit your local mortuary’s website.
Genealogy Websites: Genealogy websites can be especially valuable if the person whose death you're inquiring about happened many years, even centuries, ago. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a historian to get started. Many genealogy websites are free and require only some basic information. Libraries and historical societies also often have thorough online databases to help you retrieve those trickier personal details (particularly if the individual you’re researching played some type of prominent role in his or her community.)
Locate Gravesite Records: Sites like FindAGrave.com, Interment.net, and FamilySearch.com are specifically designed to help you track down genealogical records or find gravesites. Because a majority of cemeteries have digitized their records, it’s easier now than ever before to locate the resting place of your friend or loved one.
Keep in mind that it will likely take more than a quick internet search to find detailed information about a decedent. In fact, it’s best to use a combination of the above search tools for an in-depth account of a person’s life. Want more tips? Keep reading.
2. Check Social Media
Social media has become a part of most people’s daily lives, which is why it can be a great place to turn when searching to confirm whether or not a person has passed. Many use platforms like Facebook and Instagram to announce a death in the family or to post memorials about their loved ones. On the anniversary of a death, or even on the decedent's birthday, family members may share old photos or stories in remembrance.
If you’re trying to find out if someone has passed using social media, scroll through the profiles of that person’s family members and closest friends. If the death happened recently, you may be able to quickly find an answer to your question. If, on the other hand, you believe the death to be older, it may take searching deep into a person’s archives to confirm.
Another way to use social media to verify someone’s death is to view the profile of the person you believe has perished. After the death of an individual, less immediate family and friends often flock to the person’s profile to pay their respects in writing.
3. Use Word of Mouth
It may sound obvious, but another great way to find out if someone has died is to simply ask around. If you have any type of relationship with the person who passed, friends and family will likely be willing to answer your questions. When reaching out to family members inquiring about a death, be sure to broach the topic respectfully and with sympathy. In addition, be prepared that some people may choose to forego answering questions if the memory is too painful. Be courteous and pursue one of the other options listed in this article if this is the case.
Not sure how to to locate a decedent's friends and family? Reach out on social media! Start by drafting a gracious note to ask if they would be willing to answer some questions.
4. Read The Paper or Watch The Local News
People with no social media presence or those who are less technically savvy may opt to announce the death of their loved one in the newspaper alone. If you receive a physical newspaper, review the obituaries section to see who recently passed.
Searching for someone who died more than 30 days ago? Turn to sites like Google News Archives, US News Archives, or International News Archives. These online databases are home to thousands of old papers that may contain information regarding the person for whom you’re looking. Start by browsing newspapers from the city where you believe the decedent originated and go from there.
Watching the local news or visiting a local news station’s website could be helpful if the person you’re looking for died in a more “out of the ordinary” way. Perhaps they passed on particularly young, of a rare disease, or were murdered. Stories like these will often make the local news.
5. Go To An Archive Facility
One in-person way to locate information about a person’s death is to visit an Archive Facility, which almost every city has. Here you’ll find historical information, public records, and other documents that will help you find out if someone has died. Archive facilities are typically employed by historians or other researchers that can help you sift through official paperwork that hasn’t been digitized, which can be a timely process.
Note that most archive facilities will only house information about people who died years in the past. So if you’re searching for someone who passed away recently, it would be best to investigate using one of the above tactics.
6. Review Government Records
Reviewing government records can be a time consuming but effective strategy to find reliable information. One way to secure these records is to visit your local courthouse. Most information at a courthouse is publicly available but may require some hands-on digging as there is rarely a digital archive. In addition, the probate court will have information regarding a person’s will and testament and should also be able to tell you if a person left behind any estate to their family. Note that most public courthouses will charge a fee in exchange for exploring their records, but the cost is typically negligible compared to the value of the information you may receive.
Conducting your own research about a friend or family member’s death may offer the closure you’re looking for to cope with their passing. While it may be more difficult to discover the cause of a person's death, employing one of the methods listed above should help you find confirmation if a person has died. You also have the option to pay for a premium service to aid in your search if the above options are not sufficient.
When embarking on your own Estate Planning journey, you may find yourself asking more questions about other deceased members of your family. So we’re striving to make this process as simple and painless as possible.