Can I be notified when someone dies?
October 25, 2014 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Is there some service where I can set up an alert that will tell me if a death notice is posted for a certain name? Assume I know the cities/newspapers in which such a notice would likely be posted.

I've never had any relationship with my father, although I know who he is. I occasionally think that since I have no contact with him or anyone who knows him, he may well be dead and I wouldn't even know. I'm not sure why exactly, but this thought bothers me.

Is there a way I can put his name and maybe a birth date range and be notified if anyone matching that info has a death notice posted in either the city he currently lives or his hometown? If you cannot choose cities/newspapers, that's fine, too. The name is not common enough that this would be an issue and I am confident that I could correctly determine if the John Doe in question is my father.

I do not wish to have any contact with him or his family. And in case it's unclear, I wouldn't attend a funeral, make myself known to his family or otherwise do anything with this information or create problems for him, his legacy, or his family. I would just like to know.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think a Google Alert could cover this, maybe name + birth year (presuming he has not already died).
posted by jessicapierce at 8:40 AM on October 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'd go jessica's route, but you could also subscribe to a clipping service. Not sure of the costs and this seems a limited use, but is what you are describing.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:44 AM on October 25, 2014

I think waiting for an alert that could come at any time would be very stressful. Why not search for the information once a year at a time you control?
posted by saucysault at 10:21 AM on October 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you think he might be already dead, and he's in the US, you can check the Social Security death index. Just put in as much info as you know. (Although, just because he doesn't come up in the index doesn't mean he's not dead - I searched for someone that I know for sure died in 2007 and his info is not listed.)
posted by desjardins at 10:22 AM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

One problem with a notification/clipping service is, there is no requirement that an obituary be published. People die all the time without that sort of public announcement; long-form obituaries or the smaller death notices you see in newspapers are printed solely at the discretion of survivors. Funeral homes often include sending in a death notice to the local paper as part of their services, but obituaries are usually something the family/friends of the deceased sit down to write then pay to have printed, same as with a classified advertisement. (The exception to this is, of course, for prominent or famous people.)

The only way to be sure to catch the information is to find a service that will keep an eye on the official, legal death certificates issued in his county and/or state (which are not normally required to be publicly published, but which are on file with the government), plus check the SSN Death Index desjardins' linked to.
posted by easily confused at 11:02 AM on October 25, 2014

I have signed up for the RSS/email alerts for the funeral homes in one city so I could keep up with the announcements that way. It's more reliable than waiting for an obituary, because most people have a funeral of some kind eve.n if they don't put anything in the paper

If you would like a MeFite to search for you intermittently so you don't have to get stressed thinking about it, I'd be happy to volunteer and I'm sure others would too.
posted by vickyverky at 1:35 PM on October 25, 2014

You can also search Find a Grave -- cemetery historians will often list all the departed residents of a cemetery or columbarium without many identifying details.
posted by vickyverky at 1:38 PM on October 25, 2014

I set up a Google Alert some years ago for someone and did indeed receive notice when they passed. This is a person who had a common name (first and last) but who had had some (not necessarily positive) prominence in their community, so I knew that there might well be an obituary, as opposed to a paid death notice.
posted by Morrigan at 2:56 PM on October 25, 2014

ObitMessenger™ [at] is a free e-mail notification service that uses keywords provided by you to locate new obituaries. If an obituary matching any of your keywords is found, a portion of the obituary with a link to access the full notice will be sent to you

I had one set for my uncle's name, although in the end my estranged cousins did notify us well in advance of the obituary being published. This will not, of course, turn up deaths which do not have published obits.
posted by dhartung at 11:36 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older How to remove the cartridge from a Glacier Bay...   |   Dog health issues Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.