The Recently Deceased Handbook

Genealogy Room staff get questions like the following one on a regular basis:

Is So-and-so still alive?

We also hear it phrased in this manner:

Has So-and-so passed on?

Military funeral ( photo)
Military funeral ( photo)

It is not always easy to tell if the questioner is hoping to get back in touch with a cherished friend/relative, or hoping to dance on the grave of a long-time adversary. Either way, we attempt to answer the question to the best of our ability.

If the questioner appears to believe that the corpse-to-be is still alive, we can check a reference database called Reference USA. This database contains millions of listings for present-day businesses and individuals in the United States. You can search using:

First name/Last name

Phone appears to be publicly listed landlines only (not cell phones or unlisted landlines). Reference USA can be used at Central Library or our branch libraries, or from home if you have a valid SLPL library card and PIN.

If the questioner appears to believe that the corpse-to-be has shed his/her to-be status, we can check three other information sources. NewsBank is a collection of 3,360 international news sources (newspapers, newswires, transcripts, blogs, and web-only sources). These sources generally provide coverage from the mid-1980s to the present day. They can be checked for an obituary or funeral notice for a person of interest.

Ancestry Library Edition (Ancestry LE) includes a record collection known as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). This collection includes over 94 million listings for deaths reported to Social Security during the period 1935-2014. The SSDI is also available via Heritage Quest Online.

Ancestry LE can also be used to search U.S. Find a Grave, a collection of 150 million burial listings for cemeteries in every U.S. state and territory. Ancestry LE also allows searches of burial listings for Mexico, Canada, the UK and Ireland, Continental Europe, and even burials at sea. The various iterations of Find a Grave are also available via Heritage Quest Online.

You can use HeritageQuest Online at home (with a valid SLPL library card and PIN), or at Central Library or any of our branches.

You can use Ancestry LE at Central Library or any of our branches.

Here’s a list of SLPL reference databases.

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