How to Know if Someone Has Passed Away

Use the web to see if and when someone died

What to Know

  • Check online obituaries, social media, search engines, or the website of the place of worship.
  • Consult genealogy websites. You'll be able to view their death date if they're included in an updated family tree.
  • Use a people finder search engine. It may display the person's death date along with basic biographical information.

Finding out if someone has died can be difficult in more ways than one. You can utilize a number of online websites to see if and when someone passed away.

How to Find Out if Someone Has Died

Discovering whether someone is deceased is relatively easy because there are usually public announcements posted on obituaries and websites. However, what you likely won't find for most people is how the person died—that information is usually only circulated by word of mouth.

  1. Read through online obituaries. A report covering the death is the first place you should look to see if someone has passed away. There are websites for both recent obituaries and historical ones.

    An online obituary finder may be more useful in big cities. A small town might not post the obituary online, in which case you should check the local newspaper or the website for the mortuary. obituaries search for John Smith
  2. Social media should be your next choice. If you can find a social media account for the deceased person, you'll likely find their friends and family posting sentiments and memories.

    Learn how to find people on Facebook for some examples.

    Facebook search results for John Smith Dallas
  3. Visit the website of a local place of worship. If you happen to know the church, synagogue, or other place of worships where a funeral may have been held, then its website might have posted a blurb or entire obituary on the person.

    If you're not sure about the specific place of worship, try looking for website links to institutions in the area where you know the person is from or where they died.

  4. Do a general search on a search engine. Type the person's name followed by obituary and/or death.

    Be sure to include any other relevant information you can, such as a family member's name, the location where they lived or died, their occupation, your guess on their cause of death, etc.

    Here's an example:

    "john smith" death accident "las vegas" "wife mary"

    When you're including multiple words as part of a phrase, such as a name or location, be sure to surround them in quotes.

    John Smith obituary Google search

    If the person you're looking for is a celebrity but a general search wasn't helpful, search directly on Wikipedia or IMDb. These are the best websites for seeing if a celebrity has died because they're updated quickly.

  5. Check local news websites. It's common for deaths to be reported in the news, but you might have luck only if it was an "out of the ordinary" death, which might include everything from a car accident to a murder or the death of someone really young.

    This method for seeing if someone has died can help when coupled with the other techniques on this page. News stations are usually not allowed to post the deceased's name, but a location and general date/time are often given.

  6. Locate the person's grave site to confirm whether they've passed away. This shouldn't be your first pick because a grave site isn't typically updated as soon as an obituary is posted, but they're still helpful and especially useful for deaths that you've suspected happened a long time ago.

    Find A Grave search results for John Smith
    Find A Grave.
  7. See if they're on a free genealogy website. You'll be able to view their death date if they're included in a family tree that's been updated since they died.

  8. Use a people finder search engine to see if he or she died. This method is the least helpful since these websites don't usually focus on death, but they might show the person's death date along with information they do normally keep, like the birth date, phone number, address, etc.

Catherine Song / Lifewire

Can You Find Out How Someone Died?

Determining someone's cause of death can be tricky. Short of asking a close friend or relative, your only real option is to search through the death record for the specifics.

If the above methods for finding out if someone is deceased weren't helpful in seeing how they died, you might try something a little different. For example, if you're doing a web search like in Step 4 above, try adding "cause of death" to the search.

The Answers May Be Difficult to Locate

Usually, however, the story about how someone has died is only posted online or somewhere with public access if it's newsworthy. For example, this information might surface if the person was a celebrity, passed away tragically, or was involved in a police chase.

Otherwise, for everyday folks who pass away, like a colleague, old friend, family member, neighbor, etc., the cause of death is typically not public information.

  • How do I find out if someone is married or divorced?

    Since marriage records are public records, you can go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to find out where to find marriage records for your state.

  • How do I find out if someone is in jail?

    If you think someone is in a federal prison system, you can use the federal online inmate locator service. For other places of incarceration, including county jails, use the Free Inmate Search website to find inmates according to state.

  • How do I find out if someone has a warrant?

    The easiest method is calling the court and asking them to look up a warrant status by name. Some states, including California, allow you to search for warrant status on the sheriff's department and superior court websites. There are general online warrant status websites, but these can be unreliable and disreputable.

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