How to Know If Someone Has Passed Away

Use the web to see if and when someone died

Finding out if someone has died can be a touchy subject. Fortunately, instead of calling up relatives or trying to visit in person, you can utilize a number of online utilities to see if and when someone passed away.

Discovering whether someone is deceased is relatively easy because there are usually public announcements posted in 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.

Person looking up obituaries online
Catherine Song / Lifewire

How to Find Out If Someone Has Died

  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. obituaries search for John Smith

    An online obituary finder might only be useful for bigger 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.

  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 local church's website. If you happen to know the church where the funeral was held or would be held if the person did pass away, the church's website might have posted a blurb or even an entire obituary on the person.

    If you're not sure about the specific church, try looking for website links to churches 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 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.

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.

Was this page helpful?