When you are trying to find the whereabouts of a family member or a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, a good way to start is by conducting a death records search.
It may sound morbid, but that way, you can be sure the person is still alive and that further searching won’t be fruitless. Death records are also useful tools if you’re hunting for information about a particular ancestor, as these records tend to be easier to locate than birth certificates or records of marriage. The state in which your ancestor died probably has his or her death certificate on file.
There are two kinds of death records, which are also known as death certificates. The first is a medical death record, on which a doctor – or in some cases a paramedic – certifies that a person has died. The second kind is the government death record, on which a government official states the exact time, location, and cause of death. The reason the government issues death certificates is so that there will be legal proof of death. That way, the person’s last will and testament may be executed and life insurance payouts may be claimed. These records become evidence whenever investigators examine a death caused by foul play or accident. The government’s public health agencies also look at these records to determine what the leading causes of death are in the United States at any one time, and to compile life expectancy statistics.
The government takes death certificates very seriously. A physician must send a certificate to the authorities as soon after a person dies as possible, or else risk losing her license or being charged with a crime. That’s because the government wants to cut down on death-related fraud, such as relatives who continue to collect the Social Security benefits of a deceased individual. Once a coroner verifies a person’s death, the second certificate is issued right away.
What Information is Included in a Death Record?
It’s interesting to note that there are occasions in which it’s unclear exactly when a person has died. The time of death can be difficult to ascertain, for instance, for some comatose patients. In other cases, it’s not clear whether or not a person has even died at all. For example, if an airplane crashes, a person’s remains might never be recovered. In such a case, a court usually issues what’s called an in absentia death certificate. This status is popularly known as being “legally dead.” In addition, American courts often declare people who have vanished without a trace and who have been missing for seven years legally dead. Some people who have been declared legally dead are still among the living, however. In fact, tens of thousands of legally dead Americans might be alive at this moment.
In any event, if the person you’re looking for died after the year 1900, her death records should list her
- Date of birth
- Age at time of death
- Cause of death
- Funeral home
- Burial site
- Marital status and spouse’s name, if applicable
- Names of surviving relatives
If the person passed away after 1950, her Social Security number should also appear on the death certificate.
SearchBug.com provides an easy way of searching death records. All you have to do is go to http://www.searchbug.com/peoplefinder/death-records-free.aspx and type in the first and last name of the person you’re looking for. You can also search for someone by entering a social security number. The site will search available death records and provide you with the information that the person’s death certificate lists. You can try up to five different searches, free of cost, every day.