10 Ways to Find Your Ancestor’s Death Information

Posted October 19, 2017 by Amanda | 3 Comments

One of the most basic pieces of information a genealogists may search for is an ancestor’s date of death. However, sometimes family history researchers are unable to locate a death certificate for an ancestor. Good thing there are many other options available to locate an ancestor’s death information!

If you’re searching for an ancestor’s death information, you may want to consider exploring these valuable resources:

1. Newspapers and obituaries

10 Ways to Find Your Ancestor's Death Information

The Harlowton News, October 27, 1911

Search through old newspapers for obituaries and death notices, which will include a date of death and even the place where your relative may have passed. The posting may even include a notice of burial, including the date and location. Pay attention to the names given for clues to other relatives both living and deceased.

2. Mortality schedules

Many people may not think to check special census records, which often hold a wealth of information. In the years 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1885 (in applicable states), the U.S. census included special mortality schedules which included the information for individuals who passed in the year immediately preceding the enumeration. Some valuable information you may find include, name, age at last birthday, marital status, occupation, place of birth, month the person died, and cause of death.

3. Probate records

Probate records are documents compiled by the court after an individual has died regarding the division of the person’s estate. You may end up finding a death certificate within this collection of records. Other possibilities you may find are land records, wills, list of heirs, list of creditors, estate inventories, appointment of executors and even guardianship petitions for minor children.

4. Social security death index

The social security death index is an excellent resource for finding information for individuals whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration. The SSDI will often give you the name of the individual, the social security number, their date of birth and date of death, their last place of residence, and the location of the last benefit payment.

5. Tombstones

10 Ways to Find Your Ancestor's Death Information

If you know where your ancestors are buried, take some time to pay a visit to the cemetery. You may find a a date of death engraved on the tombstone. While you are there, check neighboring graves for other family members who may have been buried nearby.

6. Family Bible

If your family has a family Bible that has been passed down through generations, you may find important  information about when your ancestors passed away. Many families kept a record of a relative’s birth and death in the family Bible.

7. Pension records

Pension records will often give you a date of death and a list of beneficiaries, widow or heirs. You may even find a death certificate included in the documents.

8. City directories

10 Ways to Find Your Ancestor's Death Information

Boston, Massachusetts, City Directory 1939 / MyHeritage SuperSearch

City directories hold a lot more information than many people realize. Not only are they great for locating relatives between censuses, but they may also include the death dates for residents who passed away in the previous year.

9. Military records

If your relative served in the armed forces, military records can hold important clues about your ancestor. You may find information regarding the person’s date of death and place of burial and also information about military pensions.

10. Alumni records

Alumni newsletters and directories may list when classmates have died. These can be quite insightful resources to check out. You may even find an obituary or photo in an old newsletter.

What other resources have you found an ancestor’s death information?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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  • Delores Rohlf

    trying to find johann kruse,buried in maysville,cem abou 1868. He lived at lowden,iowa about 1856.probably came with someone.I do not know. A big puzzle?

  • Linda Hansen

    Please advise on how to locate death information on someone when they lived in an area which did not have continual printed newspapers. My ggg grandmother passed away Aug 1874 in a small town. No newspaper at all. It was unheard of for women to have property (though women did own property, most of the time if she was married her husband administered it), so unlikely to locate information from probate court.

    • geniblog

      Hi Linda. do you know where she was buried or if there was a cemetery in that town? If possible, you can try to visit the local cemetery. Tombstones often hold lots of good info and clues. You may also want to check if there are any death records that may exist, perhaps in the local archives or even at the country or state level.