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How To Find Out If Someone Died

How To Find Out If Someone Died

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Knowing how to find out if someone died may come in handy someday. Certainly, asking a person’s closest relatives is the most tried and true method. Doing so can also be one of the most awkward ways of discovering the truth. There are other ways to find out if someone died which may be preferred by those who don’t want to outright ask others. Some of these ways include online research, checking government records, searching genealogy databases, and scouring newspapers in the person’s hometown. In some cases, a combination of these methods may be used to find out if someone died.

The Basics of Finding Out if Someone Died

Before trying to determine whether or not someone has died, a little background information will be necessary. This includes:

The person’s full name – This should include any aliases a person may have used, as well as their name given at birth and any names acquired through marriage. Knowing the exact spelling of the person’s name is helpful, but be prepared to research alternate spellings, too. This would include nicknames and shortened names a person may have commonly used. Finding out the person’s full legal name may also be of assistance as many people who have middle names may also use them in place of a first name. For example, Jane Monique Doe may be known to some simply as Monique Doe.

The person’s date of birth – Cross-referencing a person’s name with their exact date of birth may be necessary to determine whether or not information on the right person has been discovered. While several people may have the same name, the chances of more than one person also having the same date of birth is less common and may tremendously narrow search results. This is particularly important if multiple people in the same family have the same name.

The person’s last known location – A general sense of the last state, city or town the person lived in will help in knowing where to search for information. If the person was known to move around a lot for work or other reasons, it may be difficult to know exactly where their most recent location was. Having this information, however, is important for anyone looking for the most accurate results.

Find Out If Someone Died

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The Direct Approach

Flat out asking a person’s family members and others close to a person is the most direct, surefire way of finding out if someone died. A word of caution with this approach, however, is that it may stir up sad or other negative emotions. Using this approach requires a certain amount of tact and sensitivity. It also requires taking an assessment of one’s own relationship to the person who is possibly deceased. For example, if the person asking is a former friend, the question as to whether or not a person is still alive may be met with compassion if they are not. Conversely, if the person was not on good terms with a person who is now deceased, a range of other emotions may be triggered by questions about whether or not a person has died.

A Research-Based Approach

Without directly asking a person’s loved ones, there are other ways to find out if someone died. Some of these methods include:

A vital records search – Armed with information about a person’s last known residence, it is possible to check with local governing agencies to determine whether a death certificate has been filed for a person. Typically, records like this are kept at a local courthouse or clerk’s office. In some areas, this information may be accessible to the public online for a fee.

Searching genealogical records – Increasingly more people are interested in learning about their forebears. This information is often achieved through genealogical research, much of which is published digitally through membership websites dedicated to family research. In some cities, public library cardholders can access this information at local libraries. For people who worked in the United States, the Social Security Death Index may have a record of their demise. Other corporate-owned and operated databases may also be useful. However the information is accessed, many people have found birth and death information by using this valuable method.

Visit Relevant Websites – Knowing where a person worked, where they attended school, what charitable organizations they were affiliated with, or even which church they attended can be quite useful when trying to find out if someone died. Often, these organizations will publish information about a person’s passing directly on their website or in a newsletter distributed to other members. When using this method, including websites that may be relevant to people close to them. For example, an association close to the parent or a spouse of the person being investigated may also publish condolences.

Reading social media posts – Friends and family members often post information about a loved one’s death on social media sites. Sometimes, knowing the name of just a single friend or family member may be all that is needed to connect to a larger network of people who know the person being investigated.

Searching for an obituary – Websites like specialize in publishing obituaries online. By inputting a person’s full name while searching by state and city, it may be possible to find out if someone died. 

Searching For a Burial Site – In addition to being able to search for obituaries online, people can also search for where a person’s body is buried. A search like this isn’t the greatest for uncovering information about a person recently deceased, as most entries are user-submitted and may take some time to make their way to a particular database. For those who may have passed away many months or years prior to a search, however, this type of search may prove to be invaluable.

Checking local newspapers – Obituaries are not only published online. Many are still published in local newspapers. Death notices are also routinely published in local press outlets, as are funeral announcements. When using this research method, do note that online and print editions may differ, so it is always a good idea to check both mediums. 

Hire an Investigator To Find Out If Someone Died

Most people prefer to do their own sleuthing to find out if someone died. For others, time may be of the essence or other matters may be too pressing to rely on the methods already discussed. In these cases, it may be a good idea to hire a special investigator. Often, professionals have access to people and databases the general public simply does not. While there is a higher cost associated with hiring someone to perform this task, many professional investigators don’t need more than a couple of days –or even a couple of hours –to uncover the information being sought.   

Find Someone That Died

How to Find Out if Someone Died in Another Country

A location-based search is a little different if it is suspected a person died in another country. For one, depending on the country, that information may not be available to the public, it may not be available online, or even easily researched in-person. If the person believed to be deceased was a citizen of the United States, there is a possibility that information may be available through the National Archives.

How to Find Out if Someone Died in the Military

If the person was an active member of the United States military, that information may not be available through the National Archives. Instead, people inquiring about active military deaths may want to check with the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Piecing it All Together

In a quest to find out if someone died, many tools are available and the final answer may rely on combining more than one of them. Most of the ideas presented in this article will only give general information and are unlikely to reveal details on how a person died (if it is the case that they’ve already passed on). Some, such as church and newspaper announcements, however, may supply information about a person’s exact cause of death.

By using every available resource, it is possible to find out if someone died. Patience, a keen eye for detail, and time are most necessary in any investigative process and the same is true in determining whether a person is alive or not. For more information on how to find out if someone died, or on how to locate a missing person, as well as other related topics, please visit our article archives.

How to Access Social Security Death Records

Where life was once simple, it is now complex.  It is an unfortunate condition of our world in that some people will take every advantage, legal and illegal, to make their lives easier and better at the cost of destroying or using someone else’s life to do so.  It has become an everyday, common situation where everyone must take extraordinary steps to keep one’s self, family, and work safe.  People will use a dead person’s social security number to gain government benefits or more if possible.  Each individual needs to be aware of the threat and at times take necessary precautions or legal actions.  One of the ways to do this is to check if a social security number used is real or a dead person’s number.  Apparently the Social Security Administration does not or cannot correlate the fact that a dead person’s number is being used, even if the number is queried.

Searching for a death record in the Social Security Administration database (SSDMF) is not free.  Most queries are by entities that want to insure that a social security number being used is not being used fraudulently, belonging to a person who has deceased.  As of October 15, 2012, the prices, or subscriptions for queries are as follows:

1 query            $10      $10 per query

5 queries          $40      $8 per query

25 queries        $150    $6 per query

50 queries        $200    $4 per query

100 queries      $300    $3 per query

While there are other databases available online that one can search and possibly pay less, the Social Security Administration (SSA) only endorses its own database as being correct and up to date. As with any search the more information one has to provide, the better and more precise will the search be.  Social security number with full name including middle initial, full address, even residential phone number will all help in finding and confirming the stored information.  As with any search of this type, confirm as much of the returned info against others sources, hopefully not sources that are online.  One example would be if the user of the number were of one race and the info from the database returns the fact that the stated ethnic background of the filer was of a definite other race, it would potentially lead to other concerns and additional questions.

One drawback of this “Death Master” file is that it can only tell an inquirer that a person with a specific social security number is listed as dead in this master file.  If there is no record of the person sought it is not a specific indication that the person being sought is actually alive.  At that point some correlation of information from a number of different databases would be necessary to try and draw a definitive conclusion.  If one person is using another’s identity and does not use credit cards or bank accounts or use one’s social security number, it is almost impossible to track such a person in this day and age of electronics.  Information is only as good as the data available.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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