How to Find Out How Someone Died: Our Full Guide

Cindy Ellis - November 23, 2022

woman sitting in a cemetery looking at a gravestone

Whether you are searching for information on a death that happened recently or in the distant past, finding out how someone died can be a confusing process that comes with a lot of emotion. However, sometimes this information is necessary to know for family research purposes or closure, which is where our article comes in.

Below, we give you information on some common reasons why individuals might be searching for the cause of death of someone in addition to some of the best search methods to narrow down this information. Read on for all you need to know about this search process.

Reasons to Figure Out How Someone Died

Figuring out how someone died is a highly personal process, and there are many different reasons why someone may be looking for this information. We list the most common reasons below why individuals choose to search for if and how someone died.

  • Losing touch with a distant relative, friend, or closer family member is fairly common, and the news that one of these individuals has died can be quite upsetting. Many people will search for how someone died so they can get a full picture and process the death properly.
  • If you are wondering whether or not someone you lost contact with passed on, and how they passed on, you might be looking for an obituary or other cause of death information.
  • You may be wondering how someone died as you look for their next of kin, children, or grandchildren to notify.
  • Family research and family tree building is a very popular way to keep track of your family’s unique history. Looking up the cause of death information is often an integral part of mapping out this history.

Searching for the cause of someone’s death can be troublesome and emotional, and you don’t need to match one of the reasons on this list to perform these searches. Whatever personal reason you have for wanting this information is good enough, as long as you are respectful in your search process.

Methods to Find Out How Someone Died

Figuring out if, and how, someone died can be a difficult and somber process. However, there are a few search methods that you can undertake that will point you in the right direction for getting the answers you need.

Search Online Sources

Online resources, such as internet browsers, online obituary searches, and gravesite records, are often a great place to start piecing together information on if someone has passed on and what their cause of death may be. To get started with these searches, input the name of the person you are searching for followed by key search terms such as ‘obituary,’ ‘death record,’ or ‘gravesite record.’

You can then browse the search results to see if any of them match the individual you are searching for. Keep in mind that when using internet browsers like Google, the first few search results are the most accurate, with search results becoming more irrelevant the further down you scroll.

Check Social Media

Many people post about their significant life events on social media websites, like Facebook and Instagram. Checking these websites if you suspect someone you know has passed on can help you gain information about their death and the circumstances surrounding the death.

However, because this is a sensitive subject, all of the details of a death might not be posted publicly. Always maintain respect when searching social media websites for information on an individual who has passed.

Speak to Mutual Friends and Family

If you were closer to the person who has died, it might be helpful to reach out to mutual family and friends who know something about the cause of death. Of course, this can be a touchy subject, and some individuals may not want to discuss the death of their loved one in detail, so be prepared to take no for an answer and have your request for information declined.

In these cases, you can turn to a different search method for answers.

Check Local News Articles

Local news articles are a helpful way to check on the information surrounding someone’s death. They may give a variety of information about the person, including birth and death dates, potential death causes, and information about the individual’s life.

You can also utilize the full name information often included in local news articles to further search obituaries and death records for more information about the cause of death.

Utilize a Genealogy Website

If you are looking for the history of family deaths or deaths that date back several years, a genealogy website is a great place to start. These websites are typically free and only require basic information like names, locations, and birth or death dates.

Once you have an account, you can access any public records that may be connected to the individual you are researching, including death certificates, if they are available.

Search Public Records

Most death certificates are public records, as is other information about individuals, such as property records and court documents. You can manually search through public records in the jurisdiction that the individual in question died in by visiting the city’s records hall, courthouse, or other public record holding facilities.

Some jurisdictions provide online searching tools so that you can find this information easily without having to visit in person, something that is especially convenient if you live in a different city from where the person you are researching passed on.

Keep in mind that courthouses or other public record keeping facilities may ask you to pay a fee to complete searches of the records and access death certificates.

Access a Local Library or Historical Society

Local libraries and historical societies often have a wealth of information on deaths that occurred in and around their communities. Visit a library or historical society online or in-person to access research materials that can help you figure out more information on the causes of death of an individual.

These resources are the best for researching deaths that have happened in the past and the circumstances surrounding them, rather than deaths that have occurred recently.

Utilize a People Search Tool

A people search tool like the one on is a simple way to figure out essential information on an individual, such as whether or not they are living and what their cause of death may have been.

Simply input the name and location of the person you are looking for into the search tool, run the search, and review the results. The report that you receive will be compiled from public records information, and may include vital data such as known friends and family, court records, death certificates, and obituary notices.

People search tools are a great way to start your research and find basic information that can point you in the right direction for more in-depth answers. It’s also a great tool for more recent deaths that may have public record information published somewhere online, but not in government records, libraries, or historical societies.

Considerations for Researching a Death

When you are researching a death, either recent or in the distant past, there can be a lot of different emotions involved. It’s important to be respectful as you progress through these search methods, and never push or become forceful if speaking to an individual in person doesn’t give you the answers you need.

While death certificates and obituaries are often public records and can give you the information you need, you should note that using the information you learn to harass individuals or create upsetting situations can be unpleasant, or even illegal, dependent on your actions.

As you conduct your research, be respectful, know when to stop pursuing other individuals in person for answers, and locate the information you need for your own research or closure as responsibly as possible. Do this, and you should get all of the information you need without extra stress or confusion.

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