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How to find out if someone died without asking family

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Have you ever wondered if someone you know passed away but weren’t sure how to confirm it? Whether it’s a friend you used to see at certain functions who suddenly stopped attending or a former colleague who was diagnosed with a terminal illness some time ago, it can be hard to find information about whether they passed away. It might feel uncomfortable asking a family member, especially if you aren’t particularly close to them. 

Thankfully, there are several ways to conduct a little research online that don’t involve asking their loved ones. Below are a few ways to find out if someone has died without asking their family.

7 ways to find out if someone has died recently

1. Confirm with a mutual acquaintance

Think about your connection with the deceased and determine if there are any friends or acquaintances you had in common. This could be a coworker, someone you knew from a hobby or shared interest, a neighbor, your mailman — anyone you might have a mutual acquaintance with. This might not feel as awkward as approaching the family, but you should still pose your inquiry thoughtfully and with empathy. Consider these tips when you check if someone has passed away: 

  • Be respectful. Don’t badger or make the person feel uncomfortable.
  • Offer condolences. Remember, they are probably grieving too. 
  • Be kind. Treat them as you would want to be treated if the situation was reversed. 
  • Avoid asking what happened. It’s natural to wonder, but if they don’t offer the information, don’t press, as it may be upsetting for them to talk about.

2. Check social media

An effective way to find out if someone has died is to check their social media accounts or those of close friends and relatives. If the deceased had arranged for someone to manage their social accounts upon death as part of end-of-life planning, a loved one might have posted a tribute or update for their network to see. If not, check to see if a loved one has mentioned the passing on their own social feeds. 

3. Search for an online obituary

A basic online search may reveal an obituary or information about a memorial service. Type the person’s name and words like “death,” “obituary,” or “memorial” and any personal information you may have, such as their date of birth or names of close relatives who could be mentioned as one of their surviving kin. 

4. Online death indexes 

There are a variety of online resources for searching for death records. Familysearch.com has a database that provides information based on each state’s death records. After selecting the state the death occurred in, it lists when each state began recording deaths and provides links to various databases where you can search for confirmation of their death or request a death certificate. 

You’ll need basic information for this search, such as their full name, date of birth, date of death, and city and state of both birth and death, if possible. The more information you can provide, the better your chance of finding an accurate match.  

5. Check with their house of worship

If the deceased attended a place of worship, it’s likely their family informed the leaders or other congregants or made arrangements to have a funeral there. Visit their website to see if they posted an online tribute or mention the funeral in their announcements or events. If you personally know someone who also attends, reach out to see if they might know. 

6. Local courthouse

The local courthouse is another resource for finding out if someone died. A will enters the public record after the probate process is complete, and records will be available at the courthouse. However, as probate can sometimes be a long process, it may be some time before a courthouse will have this information. 

7. Digital archives

If you are researching an older death that occurred before it became standard to post news on the internet, you may need to dig into some digital or paper archives. Visit your local library and speak to the librarian for guidance — they should have ideas for the best places to search. Some libraries now offer digitized archives online. Free genealogy websites are also good places to look for historical records. 

If someone dies without sharing how they want their death announced as part of their end-of-life planning, then it’s up to the surviving loved ones to spread the word how they choose. It’s a good idea to think about what kind of death announcement you’d like and communicate that to your loved ones so they understand your wishes. If you need advice on how to start that conversation, read this article on how to talk to loved ones about end-of-life plans.

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