Easy Ways to Find Out If Someone Died
In today’s busy world, it’s easy to lose touch with someone, even family members. If they move, you may not have a current address or phone number to get in contact with them. As more time passes, you may even wonder if they are still living.
If you are the executor for an estate, you may be attempting to find the beneficiaries to notify them of the decedent’s passing. In this case, it is expected that you will make every reasonable effort to find the person. You may need to figure out how to find out if someone died to know if your search is in vain.
Reasons You Might Need to Search If Someone Died
If you have lost touch with a family member over the years, you may need to find out if they are still living or deceased. One reason is if you suspect they left you an inheritance. Perhaps it was an aunt who you were close to as a child or a grandparent who developed dementia and didn’t remember you.
While you would hope that other family members would attempt to track you down, that isn’t always the case. If you have moved a lot, they may have lost track of you even if they did attempt to find you. In this case, you may have to find out what happened to your family member to know if you were included in the will. If you were estranged from a parent, you may have been left in the will even if you have been out of touch for many years before the person died.
Another situation that would require you to search for a possibly deceased relative is if you were the personal representative of an estate after the owner died. One of your jobs as administrator is to locate the beneficiaries or heirs. You would need to make every effort to locate the missing beneficiary to ensure they were notified and were able to receive their inheritance.
You may need to locate a beneficiary and prove their death before their heirs can inherit. If parent left their estate to their children with the grandchildren listed as secondary beneficiaries, it would be importnat to locate the children or produce a death certificate for them to allow the grandchildren to receive the inheritance.
It may be helpful to know how to find out if someone died as you begin your search and whether it can be done online or in person.
Look at Online Obituaries
One of the easiest ways to try to locate someone who died is to check online obituaries. An obituary is a written account of someone’s passing. It usually tells of any remaining family members as well as those who preceded the person in death. It also includes accomplishments and other identifying information to help you determine if you have located the correct person.
Obituaries used to be posted in local newspapers, but today they are often found online. Many times, the obituary is included on the funeral home’s website, a local newspaper’s online site, or on other news sites if they were well-known in the area. It is easier to do an online search if you don’t know where the death occurred.
Look Them Up on Social Media
One of the methods on how to find out if someone died is through their social networks. If the person had an active account on Facebook or other social media, their page may have been turned into a memorial page. If it hasn’t been memorialized, you may still see information posted by family and friends to give you an idea about their death.
Even if you don’t find out any details about the person on social media, it doesn’t mean that nothing exists. Some people set their accounts on social media to private, which means you won’t get any information unless you are one of their friends.
Check a Genealogy Site
If the person’s death happened some time ago, you may find out by looking on a historical site or through an online geneology website. Historical societies often have their own database or access to a major site. They are usually willing to help for a small donation, but this avenue only works if the person was a prominent member of local history.
You would need to look up local historical societies near where the person lived. The society would likely provide you with whatever historical information is known up to the person’s death.
Genealogy websites can provide a wealth of information with online databases, but most of them require a subscription to a premium service. They can provide records of births and deaths and other information that may be important if you are willing to pay the subscription fee. They have access to public government records, such as a birth certificate or death record.
While looking up death records is something you can do, it can be difficult if you don’t know a location to begin your search into public records. Many of these websites will show you a copy of the death certificate along with anything else that is of public record.
More counties and cities are putting their records online. It’s becoming easier to research death certificates through online records. If the person you are trying to find has died recently, you have a better chance of finding a record online.
If you are looking at an older death or one in a rural community, you may be out of luck in an online search. Many of those birth and death records are still kept at a physical location only. If you know the county where they lived and probably died, you can check the county health department’s website for death certificates. You can also do a Google search for death records with the state or county where the person lived.
An archive facility can provide information and historical details about a death that wasn’t recent. You can look through census records to determine a general timeline of when someone may have died along with other such information. Archive facilities are found in every state and in many counties. These facilities may not provide digital content, so you may want to visit in person to the area where they previously lived. These facilities are your best bet in searching for older deaths.
Look for Online Newspapers
More newspapers publish at least portions of their news online, which includes the obituaries. If you know where the person lived, you can search for newspapers for that area. You can do a search on the papers’ websites.
If the newspaper doesn’t publish a version online or doesn’t have a website, you can contact them by phone and ask about records. They can often look it up easily from an in-house database or other feature to give you a definitive answer.
Another option is to visit the local library. They are often an archive facility for old newspapers. You can view these on microfilm if they haven’t been updated to a digital archive. For those who died early in the 20th century, this may be the only record available. At that time, not everyone had a birth or death certificate issued. You can also use the search feature to look up news reports and old photos about a specific person, historical deaths, and other information if the person had a prominent role in the community.
Check with the Local Courthouse
If all online searches fail, you may need to visit the local courthouse in person or by phone for records related to the person you are searching for. You’ll want to find out where the person was last known to be living and contact that county courthouse. The clerk’s office can look up deaths or even see if there is a will on file with the probate court. Official death certificates are filed with the probate court along with the will.
Be prepared to pay a fee to have the court clerk look up the information. You can request copies of any important documents for an additional fee. You won’t need to prove any relationship for the search though. These are public records, which means anyone is entitled to view them.
You can also visit the local funeral home where the person lived. They keep records when someone has died and you could find what you need if you are looking for recent deaths.
Contact Family Members
It’s a good idea to reach out to any surviving family members of the person you are asking about. They may have more recent information about them and can provide new contact details. If you happen to remember a friend they had or others who were in contact with them back when you knew them, you can talk to them. You may need to look up other records and conduct your own research to learn who they worked with or became friends with.
Be considerate when taking this option. You never know how long ago the person died, and they may still be dealing with grief.
Challenges to Face to Find Out If Someone Died
While all these resources, such as genealogy websites, a social media account, online obituary finder, and even a general search can help you find the person you are looking for, it’s not always easy. It’s helpful to know about the challenges you may face and how to overcome them on your quest for information.
Do You Have the Right Person?
If you decide to perform a general search on a search engine with just the person’s name, you are likely to find numerous people in the search results. They won’t all be the same person, even if the name isn’t common. If the person had a fairly simple or common last name, your search could result in thousands of people. It is too time-consuming to sort through every result posted online.
To help reduce the results that come up and to narrow down your search, you need to know as much information as possible. The more vital records you have, the better your chances of finding the person. It’s helpful to know the birth date of the deceased person and at least a rough date of their death to help you find death records.
It’s also important to know where they lived before the person died. You will find that rural areas will have few deaths to sort through compared to a major city. Any other burial details you have may be helpful as well, such as the date of death and cemetery of interment.
Finding information about if and when an individual died can be time-consuming. Fortunately, you have many resources, including those that governments provide, to help you in your search.