How to Find a Person's Date of Death
By Erin Carson
You might need to find a date of death to fill in gaps in a family tree or to probate a will or other legal document. While locating a date of death for a long-lost ancestor can be a laborious process involving detailed genealogical research, finding this information for an individual who died within the past 50 years can often be quick and easy. Armed with the full name of the person you seek, you can use free government records to locate his date of death.
Begin your search at sites offering access to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The SSDI contains the names of over 84 million individuals who possessed a social security number and whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Go to Rootsweb.com or GenealogyBank.com and follow the link for the SSDI portal. These sites offer free access to the SSDI server, but you can also find subscription sites, like Ancestry.com, that allow you to search the database as well.
Enter as much information on the individual as possible. While you can search the databases with only a first and last name, inputting a middle initial, the state in which they died, their maiden name or an approximate date of birth can help narrow down the results.
Look through the results to see whether you see a record for the individual you seek. If you find her, the record should include her full name, birth date, death date and her last known residence.
- If you fail to locate the individual you seek in the SSDI, try searching in different ways—such as last name and birth date or even first name and birth date. These tricks can help you locate women who have remarried or individuals whose names are recorded incorrectly.
- Since the SSA computerized their records in 1962, very little data on individuals who died prior to that point exists in the SSDI. You might need to look at the death index of the state where you suspect they died. See Resources for a link to these indexes.
- If you know the city where the individual died, you can also try searching obituaries from the local newspaper. Obituaries often contain a wealth of information, including birth and death dates and information on surviving family members.
- Numerous sites provide free access to the SSDI, state death indexes and even obituaries from numerous newspapers. Make sure you exhaust your free options before paying for access to this type of information.
A former children's librarian and teacher living in Dallas, Erin Carson loves to share her knowledge of both literature and parenting through her writing. Carson has a master's degree in library science and a bachelor's degree in English literature. As a freelance writer, Carson has published numerous articles on various websites.