If you need to know when someone passed on, there's an easy way to find a date of death without having to pay a commercial 'people find' service, purchase a death certificate, or subscribe to an obituary database. Here's how to do it.
Things You'll Need
- The more information about the person, the better
Search for SSDI
Do a Google search for SSDI. These are the initials for the Social Security Death Index, a system that records the details of just about every death that has occurred in the US in the past few decades. At last count, there were more than 80 million records in the system.
Fill in the SSDI Search Form
Your search in Step #1 will take you to a page hosted by Ancestry.com called the "Social Security Death Index Interactive Search". You'll want to use this form to search SSDI, but BE CAREFUL. The actual SSDI search form is usually in the middle of the page, while the "First Name" and "Last Name" search fields at the top of the page are actually ads leading to a commercial search service. Make sure to fill out the SSDI fields.
For an unusual name, you can search SSDI on just the person's name (sometimes, even just the last name works), and quickly find the details of their death. For a more common name, you're likely to produce many results. In this case, it helps to have some idea of when they died, or where they lived, so you can narrow things down when you search.
Remember that some people -- even those you've known all your life -- have different first or last birth names than you may be familiar with. This is especially the case with women who may change their last names several times as they marry, divorce, or are widowed. Both men and women often use a middle name, or nickname as their first name, so your search has to take this into account.
Consider 'Sounds-Like' Searching
Always begin your search with exact names. But if you don't find what you're looking for, try repeating your search with one of the "sounds like" options provided. These will pull up records that are phonetically similar to the name you are looking for, and will sometimes give you a direct hit, but with a spelling you may not have been familiar with. For instance, a Metaphone search on my last name, Sarokin, turns up listings for Soroken, Soraghan, Serkin, Sargon, and so on.
SSDI offers Soundex and Metaphone sounds-like search options. Try them both, if an exact search doesn't do the trick.
Use the Results Carefully
The SSDI shows the state where the Social Security Administration sent the initial social security card, and the last state on file for, eg, Social Security payments. These are often -- but not always -- the same as the place of birth and death for the person in question.
Need more information than SSDI provides? The Resources section has links to other sites where you can often uncover even more detail on a person, their family, and their background in life.
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