Finding out if someone has passed away can sometimes be a little tricky, especially if the person is a long-lost relative or someone whom you do not know personally.
However, there are many alternative ways to find out if someone has passed away, that do not involve uncomfortable phone calls to family and friends.
Here's some ways to find out if someone died.
The easiest way to learn if someone you know has died recently is to do an online search. Here are the different ways in which you can search the web for relevant information.
Perform a general search
If you know the full legal name of the person who you believe has passed away, use that information to conduct an online search. Simply type the person’s name in a search engine followed by keywords like “obituary” or “death” or “died from”.
If the search engine does not show any results, consider including any additional information you have about the individual in quotes in your search term. Here is an example: “Robert Miles” death “car accident” “Calgary”.
Another simple way to find out if someone has died is by doing an obituary search online. An obituary is a notice of a person’s death. It includes identifiers such as the person’s full name, family members, major accomplishments, birthplace, date of death, and more. In the past, death notices were published in newspapers, but nowadays they are mostly posted online.
There are plenty of online Canadian memorials, like InMemoriam and Postmedia Obituaries. You can try any one of them. Simply search with the person’s full name. If you have additional details — like location and birth date — add them to your query to narrow down the search.
You can also try your local mortuary’s website if the individual you are searching for is from your city.
Check out the local church’s website
If you happen to know the person’s church or local place of worship, visit their website. There is a good chance that the church’s site may have posted an obituary or a blurb on the person.
Online cemetery records
You can search through online databases of cemetery records to check whether the person you are searching for has passed. Start with Find A Grave since it is the most popular website dedicated to locating gravestones.
With over 190 gravestone memorials around the world, Find A Grave makes it easier for you to search for the final resting place of an individual. All you need is the name of the person, but the more information you have, the better. For example, it might be helpful to know their birth date, their place of birth and death, or their spouse’s name.
If Find A Grave fails to provide relevant information, give other similar websites like Billion Graves and Ancestor At Rest a try. They offer pretty much the same service and will give you an image and the GPS location of the gravestone in case the person you are searching for is listed. You might also be able to see photos, memorials, and other information about the decedent.
In this day and age, almost everyone uses social media, which is why it should be your next choice when trying to confirm if someone related to you has passed away.
Often, friends and relatives memorialize the Facebook or Instagram profiles of their loved ones. If you happen to know the deceased’s social media account, head to their profile page. If it is memorialized, you will see a notice or even an obituary. Even if their profile has not been memorialized, you might see loved ones sharing memories.
If you do not know the social media account of the person you are searching for, do a simple Facebook, Instagram or other media search using their name. Social media websites such as Facebook let you filter the search results with location and check if you have any mutual friends with the person. After you locate their profile, go through their latest posts or messages published by their friends or relatives on their profile page.
However, if the person’s Facebook or Instagram account is set to private, you will not be able to view their profile. In such a case, you should view the profiles of their friends and relatives.
Genealogy or Historical Site
Social media search is great for recent deaths, but it might not work for deaths that occurred decades ago. If you are looking for someone who died many years back, consider using a genealogy website.
These websites have searchable databases. Therefore, finding someone who may have passed is not hard, especially if you know more about them than just their legal name, like their birth date, spouse’s name, city of birth, etc. If all you have is their name, be prepared to sift through pages of records.
While there are a few free genealogical websites, most require a subscription. But these sites may be worth a peek if the free search does not get you anywhere because most offer a free trial period (usually 2 weeks). Be sure to take printouts of any records you find because the free look-in period does not include the option to save results.
Look at Government Records
Local governments keep death records for their residents, though they are not always free and readily available. That said, in most cases, you might be able to access records digitally if you have sufficient information about the person and do not mind paying a fee. Besides their name, knowing their birth and death date, the name of the city where they were born and died, the name of their spouse and parents might prove helpful.
If the person you are searching for died within the last three or four decades, there is a strong chance that you will find an online record. Older records, however, are much less likely to be available digitally.
Keep an Eye Out for Newspaper Articles
While online obituaries and social media have made publishing memorials in print less common, some families still like to do things the old way. In some cases, this may be the only public record of death that is available.
If you read physical newspapers, check the obituaries sections to see who recently died. Searching for someone who passed away more than a month back? Try online databases (like Google News Archive) that offer access to digitized archived newspapers, both free and paid.
These databases have hundreds of old newspapers that might contain some information regarding the person you are searching for. Start by going through the papers from the city where the decedent was born or died before browsing other relevant newspapers.
Search an Archive Facility
Nearly all cities have an Archive Facility, which contains public records, historical information, and other records that might help you confirm whether the person you are looking for is dead. So, visiting this facility can be a good option, especially for searching for a death that occurred in the past. Be prepared to sift through print newspapers and documents though, because not all documents might be digitized.
If you are searching for a person who you believe has died recently, a general online or social media search might be a better option.
Try the Local Courthouse
If online research does not get you far, try hands-on research to find out if someone died. The probate court that serves the city or town in which the person died is a good place to start. It should have records about the decedent’s will.
While some courts have digitized records, many do not. Finding records online is less of a possibility if the person has passed away many years ago. Therefore, visiting the local court in-person is the best strategy.
If the court has the necessary records, it may ask you to pay a small fee to access them. Although dealing with the court system is time-consuming, and at times frustrating, it is perhaps the best way to finding out if someone is dead, especially if other methods (like social media search) fail to yield any results.
If you are interested to find out if someone died, your best option may be to search online. If there are no online records, consider doing some hands-on research, like visiting the local court or archive facility of the city or town where the person died.