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How to Find a Dead Person

Locating someone who is deceased is sometimes critical to legal proceedings or tracing family histories. Many genealogical resources are valuable materials that can also be used to locate the dead.

The two largest genealogical libraries in the United States are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints library and archives located in Salt Lake City, Utah, with branch libraries throughout the United States. The second-largest genealogical library, the Allen County Public Library, is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Its genealogical department has no branches, and all information must be used within the main library complex.


Things You’ll Need

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Some sort of computerized or pen-and-paper system for recording information


6 Steps to Find a Dead Person

How to Find a Dead Person

1. Gather any known information about the deceased

Even partial information is valuable in corroborating material that might be found during the research. Record first, last and middle names of any person related to the dead person. Also record any alternative spellings of the first and last names of the deceased.

Nicknames might come in handy when researching through local newspapers or educational materials. Names of spouse(s) and children might assist in the search. Birth date and location and the date of marriage will assist in researching government sites.

Also record any verifiable addresses and known dates of residence.


2. Do a general Internet search for the name in quotation marks and without quotation marks

Print any information that appears to be marginally related. This might include matching surnames in the same general geographic area, because these individuals might be related to the deceased.


3. Check the Internet locator websites

Many provide a date of birth and cities of residence. If the information matches the research material, consider purchasing a basic research package from one or more companies.

Recently deceased individuals are commonly still listed on these information sites.


4. If Social Security information is available, search the federal Social Security website

The search might be done using the assigned number or the person’s given name. Name searches are more difficult if both first and last names are common.

A middle initial or name is helpful in searching. Actual and possible birth dates assist in providing definite matches.


5. If information is available for the last state of residence, look online to locate state and county offices for dead records

Recorder’s offices might have information on past home ownership. County coroners keep death records, and in some cases these might be available online.

Smaller offices might offer to research records, while metropolitan locations might have search services available for a fee.


6. Locate a library or agency with a subscription to online genealogical services

These sites have access to many unique state and county databases that are not available from any other source.

The sites frequently offer a free trial of several weeks or a month of site access.


Tips and Warnings

  • Online paid subscription research services, such as Ancestry.com, are also available for detailed searches. Locate any photographs of the deceased, if available. These will assist in search if photographic research is possible.
  • Names are often misspelled, even on government forms. Collect any information with names similar to the deceased for possible matches, if other information appears to match.


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