How Do I Find Out for Free If Someone Is Dead?

By David Sarokin

Everyone's time comes eventually.
i thai funeral image by Adrian Hillman from

The time comes to everyone that we "shed our mortal coils" and pass on from this life, but if you want to know if a specific person has died, it can be difficult. Not everyone gets an obituary notice about their passing and even if they do, such a notice can be hard to find. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration maintains a free and easily accessed database of virtually every death in the United States.

Visit the web page for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

Enter the information about the person you're searching for in the SSDI search box. Don't uset the other search boxes that appear on the same page.

Search using the person's Social Security number, if available, as that is the most precise search possible. If not, search on their name. If you're uncertain of the spelling of their last name, use the pull-down menu to choose "Soundex" or "Metaphone" (try both), which will look for spelling variations. Otherwise, use the "Exact" option.

The SSDI search will return information on the person's death, including full name and the places they lived when their Social Security card was first issued, and at the time of their death.

Use the "Advanced Search" for more sophisticated searches. You can fine-tune your search results by entering the date of birth or death or state of residence. You can even search without entering a surname, although this tends to produce large lists of search results unless the first name is very unusual.