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How to find death information for deceased family members?
May 6, 2014 7:14 PM   Subscribe

I have deceased family members who came to America a few decades ago and died, but would not have been on Social Security rolls. A living family member wants me to find out where they are buried. How to do this?

Pretty much what it shows on the box. My tools are: an passport, evidence of existence on some censuses, and a selective service registration card. What can I do with this? Where should I be looking? I have tried the googles and also searching the records on ancestry.com already.
posted by corb to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If they served in the US military, they might be buried in a national cemetery.
If you see them on census records, they were alive in 1940 or earlier, right? There are lots of family cemeteries, so you might have to start there with whatever state they lived in during the census. They had no children/direct descendants at all?
posted by Houstonian at 7:20 PM on May 6


You can try Find-A-Grave.

It may still take some digging. If you can narrow it down to the town or state from census info, or have a unique name, that can help.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:26 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


Have you checked these references?
posted by thomas j wise at 7:28 PM on May 6


If they lived in a rural county, you might try a google books search for the family name + the county and state. There are a lot of county history books that were written in the late 1800s/early 1900s that talk about prominent citizens.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:29 PM on May 6


And if they lived in NY State, there's an amazing guy who's been scanning small town newspapers on microfilm from the late 1800s on and making them searchable .pdfs. I usually search the name and town info and start sifting.

It's called Fultonhistory.com. That link requires flash, but here is a good explanation page.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:37 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]


Would they have been mentioned in local newspapers -- weddings, funerals, etc.? A lot of these are available online, viewable for free with a library card. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle can be seen 1985-now and 1865-1922 here, although there are more being added online all the time.

And here's the California Digitized Newspaper Collection, which covers 1846 to now.
posted by vickyverky at 7:40 PM on May 6


Ok, so I have a couple of questions.

1. I'm not clear on the time-frame. The latest census that has been released to the public is 1940, but you say your relative came to the US a few decades ago. Are you talking about censuses that are still sealed, or did your relative come here before 1940? If you're talking about censuses after 1940, those aren't going to help you, because US censuses aren't available to the public until after 70 years.

2. Do you have an approximate date or place of death?

3. Any idea about your relative's religious affiliation, if any? If he was Catholic and you know where he died, the Diocese might be able to help.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:07 PM on May 6


Death certificates often show the name of the cemetery where the person was to be buried, sometimes even the name of the funeral home. If you know where they lived when they died, it might be worth it to see if you can track down their death certificates.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 8:10 PM on May 6


If you looked on Ancestry, did you look on public member trees? That is easier to start a search with than searching documents.

Have you tried Familysearch.org?

Do you live someplace where you can go to a Family History Center? They're run by the Mormon Church. Family history centers are staffed with volunteers who are good with genealogy research. They can look at what you have and make suggestions.

You usually start with what you do know - names, last known address. Do you know the state where this person died? The county? The city? Have you looked for local historical societies.

The more we know about what you know, the more helpful we can be.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:10 PM on May 6


Sorry. I have censuses of people that I know that they came to stay with, but those people are dead now. I looked on member trees, no dice. I will try to check with the Archdiocese maybe, that's a good angle that I did not think of.

Approximate place of death: NYC. Approximate year of death - sometime in the sixties or seventies. I haven't tried Family History Centers - do they work for non Mormons? It looks like there is one close (linking for reference for others).
posted by corb at 12:49 AM on May 7


Have you actually tried the Social Security Death Index? It's not just for people who worked; anyone who *received* SS or Medicaid benefits those decades should also be on there.

And besides the diocese, if you know it try the records at the actual church they attended.

And yes, the Family History centers will cover non-Mormons; the LDS has the most genealogical records anywhere in the world.
posted by easily confused at 2:03 AM on May 7


The Family History Centers have all sorts of amazing resources--my mother uses them frequently for research, and we're Jewish.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:05 AM on May 7


The later deaths (after 1948) aren't computerized for easy searching, but the NYC Public Library has books of deaths in the city going up to 1982-- if I remember correctly it's one alphabetized book per year: http://web.nypl.org/node/107590 (see Index to NYC Deaths, 1888-1982)

If you find them in the books you can then order their death certificates which will have place of burial.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:28 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


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