How to Find Out When Someone Died

Birth, marriage and death certificates

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The practical information surrounding a death can be vital in some instances. The date of death can be key to insurance matters, historical or legal documents, or benefit claims. There are several ways to go about finding the date of death for any person. All involve a bit of research and some minor detective work, but the process has become much easier with the use of online resources.

Visit the Department of Health

Visit the Department of Health in the state where the deceased was a resident. Visit in person, or submit a request online or by telephone or mail for a copy of the official death certificate. You must be a member of the immediate family or someone with legal authority to do so. If you have a lawful right or claim, have a documented medical need or have a court order, you may qualify to search the official death records. The processing time varies from state to state but can be as long as two to four weeks if you request a copy of the death certificate by mail. There is usually an expedited service option for a higher fee if time is of the essence.

Check Religious Records

If you can't locate the death certificate at the Department of Health for any reason, locate the church, synagogue, temple, mosque or other religious institution with which the deceased was affiliated. Religious organizations maintain official death records of their members and the clergy of the religious may have even officiated at the funeral. Be aware that errors in spelling, location and other key factors can result in the delivery of incorrect records. Take caution to ensure all your information is accurate.

Check the Local Obituaries

If you just need to know that date that someone died but do not need an official record, check the local death notices and obituaries in the area where the person in question has died. Death notices specify the name of the person who died and give details of the funeral or memorial service. Obituaries offer a detailed biography of the person who died and usually list the date and details of every notable death. Both are printed by local newspapers in the days immediately after a death, although you should be aware that not everyone has an obituary.

Other Useful Resouces

Contact the cemetery where the deceased is buried. Request a record of the burial which will include the date of death. This can be done by telephone or in some cases via the cemetery's online search engine. If you are geographically close enough to visit the cemetery, the headstone will also reveal the birth and death date.