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How Do I Find a Death Date or Location?

What You Need:
Related Resources
Cemetery Records
Census Records
Family Sources
Land Records
Military Records
Probate Records
Vital Records

Elsewhere on the Web
Real Clues in Death Events
International Genealogical Index (IGI)

Full Name
Before searching for an ancestor's death date or location you will need to know their full name (including married name for your female ancestors). Without this information you will find it very difficult to locate records and, even if you locate them, you will find it almost impossible to verify that it is indeed your ancestor.

Approximate Year of Death
If you do not already know, you will need to find the approximate year in which your ancestor died. You can often estimate a death date using records such as wills, deeds and estate settlements. A death date may also be narrowed down by the omission of the individual from census or tax records.

Approximate Place of Death
If you do not already know, you will need to find the approximate location in which your ancestor died. The best place to start is their last known location. If that is unsuccessful, then check localities where other family members were living at the time.

Where to Look:

Many of the same sources that help us with birth information can also give us death information. Please keep in mind that the availability of these records will vary by time period and country/region. They are listed in descending order of importance.

Death Records
Death certificates are the most obvious source of information for a death date, but can be hard to locate when the approximate time and location of the death are unknown.

Church Records
Church registers will usually contain death dates and are also possible sources of information on funeral records, burial location, etc. They can be hard to locate, however, if you do not know which church your ancestor attended.

Newspaper Notices
Obituaries are an obvious source for a death date and are usually fairly reliable since they are created so soon after the event.

Cemetery Records
Tombstones, funeral home records and/or sexton's records are also good sources for the date of death.

Family Sources
Bible records, interviews, letters, diaries, insurance papers, funeral cards...

Census Records
The omission of the individual from a census or tax record may indicate that he/she has died. Census records in a few locations and time periods may include mortality schedules which are excellent sources of death information.

Military Records
Service records, pension files, draft registrations, awards, discharge papers...

Probate Records
Wills and estate settlements can be a big help in helping to narrow down a date of death. Probate records will often indicate the date of death. Even when they do not, just the fact that the estate has gone into probate or settlement indicates that your ancestor died prior to that date. A will, on the other hand, can indicate that your ancestor was still alive on the date when it was written.

Land Records
The transfer of property which belonged to your ancestor may be an indication of date of death. They are not proof in themselves, but can help to support other records which also suggest a date of death.

International Genealogical Index
The International Genealogical Index is a partial index to vital records from around the world created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). While it is a good source for death information, it should always be verified by going back to the original record.

U.S. Social Security Death Index
For ancestors who died in the United States since 1937, the SSDI is a good place to search for a date and location of death.

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