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How to Find Out How Someone Died

Finding out that someone died is some of the worst news a person can get, especially if they weren't expecting it. If you’re trying to find out how they passed away, especially if it was unexpected, here are some ways you can go about finding out how someone died.

How to find out how someone died

If you're wondering how to find out how someone died recently, there are a few places you can begin your search. In general, you should have at least the following information before you begin your search:

  • The decedent’s full name
  • Their most recent residence (city and state)
  • Their date of birth (or at least the year, or an estimate)

The first place to start is with the death certificate. In the United States, death certificates are public record, so you should be able to obtain a copy from the vital records office in the state where the person died. The death certificate will list the cause of death as well as other important information, such as the time and place of death. The procedure to find out how someone died when consulting a death certificate is to wait a few months before attempting to obtain a copy of the death certificate.

Death certificates can take a bit of time to become available, especially if the cause of death still hasn't been determined, so you'll want to wait before filing a request for one.

Ask family members and friends

One of the easiest ways to find out how someone passed away is to ask their family members and other friends or members of their community. If you're close to the person's family, they may be more likely to tell you how the person died. In some cases, the person's family may not want to talk about how the person died, so it's important to respect their wishes.

If you don't know anyone in the family or any friends, consider reaching out to other community members. Was the individual a part of a church? A volunteer organization? Do you know where they worked? Each of these places is a great place to start to gather more information about the person who passed away.

Search social media

The first place to look is social media. If the person who died was on social media, their profile may still be up. You can check to see if there are any posts from close to the time of their death that might mention how they died.

Look through online obituaries and obituary websites

Want to know how to find out if someone died for free online? Consider looking through online obituaries and obituary websites. You may be able to find an obituary of the person who died, or at the very least a death notice that shows the date they passed away. An easy way to do this is to simply use a search engine such as Google and enter in the full name (or the first and last name) of the person you're searching for and the word "obituary". This will pull up top results and you may be able to find the obituary that way. An alternative way of searching is to go directly to an obituary website and look through their database. The following websites are good places to start:

Browse the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

If you're looking for someone who died in the United States after 1962, another way to find out how they died is to search the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The SSDI is a list of all individuals whose deaths were reported to Social Security, primarily after 1962. If you're searching for someone who possibly passed away prior to 1962, you can still search the SSDI, but it may be difficult to locate the death record for the individual since the SSDI is not a complete database.

Look through local newspaper websites

If you know the city and state of the individual who passed away, you may be able to find an obituary that was published in the local paper. The first step here would be to find a list of newspapers that are local to the area the person passed away in. Some suggestions to Google include, "city state list of newspapers" or "city state local newspaper obituaries". You can also perform a search on Legacy.com, which should include obituaries that were posted in the local paper if they use Legacy.

If you've found a list of newspapers, go to the newspaper's website and look for the obituaries section. Typically, there's a way to search the obituaries that have been published in the paper. If you don't have any luck there, you can consider contacting the newspaper's obituary department and asking them directly if they have an obituary for the individual you're looking for.

Visit a local city records office

If you know where the person passed away, pay a visit to the local city records office to see if they have any information on the individual's passing. They may have a death certificate on file that can provide you with information on how the person died. It's important to note that death records are typically public record, but there may be a fee to obtain a copy of the death certificate. Keep in mind that if the person passed away recently, it may take some time for the death certificate to be filed. In this case, it may be best to wait a few months before checking back with the city records office.

Call the local police station

If you're still having trouble finding out how someone died and you know the city or county they passed away in, your next step should be to call the local police station. The police may have a report on file of the individual's death. If they do have a report, they may be able to provide you with information on the individual who passed. In some cases, the police may not be able to give you any information over the phone and they may ask you to come down to the station in person, or they may not have any information to share.

Go to the courthouse

If you know the county the individual passed away in, go to the county courthouse and look through their public records. The records you're looking for will likely be kept in the county clerk's office. You can also pay a visit to the probate court, which has information on wills, testaments, and estates. Some courts may have an online database or online resources for you to use, so it's a good idea to perform an internet search before paying a visit.

You should be prepared to pay a fee if you're able to search the records and locate the one you're looking for.

Looking for an obituary? Browse obituaries that have been posted on Ever Loved. Obituaries posted on Ever Loved let you post condolences, share photos and memories, and contact the person who set it up for additional information and much more.

Browse obituaries

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Last updated April 8, 2022
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