How to Find Out If Someone Died?

How to Find out if Someone Died?

Finding out if someone has died should be a very straightforward matter, as such an event is an issue of public interest. However, with the demise of newspapers there are fewer outlets for the information. Newspapers once carried public notices of such things, as well as obituaries that were eagerly anticipated by neighbors and associates.
Fortunately, public records can fill the gap of knowledge but they take some effort to uncover, unlike opening a newspaper. Try these techniques for determining if an acquaintance is deceased:

Tips for Finding Out If Someone Died

  • Start An Online Search

Many newspapers and news outlets continue to publish obituaries, which are editorialized death records that are easily searched online. Several major databases, including, make death records accessible online.

  • Check Public and Death Records

A death triggers several cascades of public records. Start with the clerk of the city hall where your acquaintance lived. By asking for death records you’ll learn what resources are available. If the city does not have direct access to the death record you may approach from another office, including the registry of probate where wills are adjudicated. The registry of probate is generally a county office, so it’s probably not in the same building as city hall. Settling a will takes a while, so it’s unlikely anything would take place until months or even a year after the death. At this point, the will should be settled and some portions made public record. This will allow you to learn about the individual and his heirs as well as the extent of his estate.
The RecordsFinder tool is another resource that makes it easier to find out a person’s death than going from one city office to another. By combing through millions of pages of public documents it culls information on individuals including births, deaths, marriages, addresses, schools attended, and work history.

  • Check Social Media

Lots of news hit social media before it’s public knowledge, and social media can be a solid source after a person has died as well. Oftentimes if an individual’s family seeks to keep mum about a death or needs a lot of time to make arrangements (often due to long-distance travel) they’ll postpone notice and services until a convenient time, making it more difficult to find information. Other cultures dictate burial within a short period of death, compressing the potential period for mourning and public notice. Social media will sometimes be the best outlet for information under these circumstances, with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members taking to the various outlets to post remembrances, memorials, and reaching out to loved ones. In order to locate this information you may check the deceased’s own pages but also search those of family members and friends. Even if a family seeks to make an unfortunate passing confidential it’s very difficult to keep the information off social media if the person or a family member has an active account.

  • Talk to Family and Friends

Talk to family and friends

The most direct way to find out about an individual’s death is to contact family members or close friends. It’s a good idea to prepare some comments in advance because if the person has passed away you’re likely to encounter a variety of strong emotions from their close family and friends. In order to handle that delicately it’s best to be familiar with protocols such as, “I’m sorry for your loss,” “My condolences,” “I know this is a hard time for you,” and “Is there a memorial fund I can contribute to?”

  • How to Find An Obituary For A Specific Person?

Online, obituaries are usually posted by funeral homes. You may want to do a Google search on the individual’s name, hometown, and the word “obituary” or “death.” This should turn up any newspaper announcements as well. If the person died years before, a reference librarian at a library that archives newspapers from the individual’s hometown may be able to help. Historical societies may also archive obituaries of locally significant individuals, and genealogy websites can also be helpful, particularly if you’re familiar with some individuals’ names from the same family.

  • Go to An Archive Facility

Go to An Archive Facility

Archives are places where records are kept indefinitely, so if the person whose obituary you seek died some years ago this is where you may find them. Archives generally are not updated quickly, so you may not find records of someone who died within the year. States maintain archives for vital records in their bureaus of vital statistics, but complete death records, including official documents, are usually kept from the general public until a certain period after the individual’s death, sometimes as many as 50 years afterward, in order to prevent identity theft. Still, unofficial copies of records may be retrieved with a request.

  • Review Government Records and Locate Official Death Certificates

If the death occurred recently you should inquire with the city hall where the individual lived – or died. City officials are required to draw up official death certificates within days of a person’s passing. These are issued to allow funeral homes to conduct business and to family members who are responsible for settling the individual’s estate. Official death certificates contain identity information such as the deceased’s social security number, which are confidential under law, so unless the person making the request is a direct family member or has a court order, they may only receive an informational copy in most states.

Can You Find Out How Someone Died?

Few deaths make the news, so sometimes it’s not possible to find out conclusively how a person died. Families of those who died under unpleasant circumstances often use euphemistic language about any lingering illnesses, suicides, overdoses, or accidents in obituaries, with phrases like “died after a brief illness,” “died suddenly,” or  simply no clear indication of the cause at all. Death certificates can be similarly baffling, listing medical terminology or vague terms like “accident” or “natural” as causes on a death record without further explanation. Family and friends can sometimes fill in the gaps, but here a police report may further illuminate the situation if law enforcement was involved.