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Many have felt the tug of curiosity of what happened to an acquaintance or friend from the past. Whether that wonderment comes from genuine concern or just morbid interest, it can be difficult to know where to go to find out if someone is dead. Not blind to this fact, this article will catalog the best three ways to figure out if someone you once knew has passed away.

Find a People Search Website
First and foremost, there are an abundance of free online person directories. Websites like, census data websites, white pages, or general person search websites are all a great place to start. These websites can be a hub for information, however, because they are generally driven by visitor posts/updates and/or independent data collection, they can sometimes be inaccurate or outdated. If you aren’t able to locate the person you are looking for, then it may be time to move onto the next method or pay a few dollars and get more information.

Obituary Searches
Obituaries are a reliable source of death reporting. To try and track down death records of a former friend, visit the obituaries of their last known town of residence. The tricky thing about this plan of attack is that often times, online obituaries will only go back a few years. If this is the case, you may have to reach out to the town’s archival department to do further investigation. If you aren’t able to locate them in the last town you knew them to live in, look through their birth town’s obituary section. Often time if their immediate family is still located in said town, they will list the obituary as opposed to being printed in the city where the deceased person lived. This, again, can be an unsuccessful method to finding a former acquaintance as it is all based on you being able to figure out where their obituary would have been posted.

Social Security Death Index
Perhaps the most reliable way to figure out if someone has died is to search the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). It is a program run by the Social Security Administration and impacts anyone administered a social security card after 1962. The convenient thing about the SSDI is that it is not mandatory to have their social security number (although that does make it easier). As long as you have their name, you are able to search the index. You may be asked to provide other indicators like state of residence at time of death. Another benefit is that if you are having difficulty with an online search, you can reach out to your local social security office for help.

The nagging or wonder can be hard to ignore. What happened to a friend, estranged family member, or even a former acquaintance can be an inquiry to yourself that you can’t let rest. Luckily, there are several options out there to help you satisfy that curiosity.