Can you check death records online?
Yes, you can. It is generally an easy process, but if you don’t have details about the deceased person, such as their name and date of death (estimate should be okay), it will be more difficult to find out more information such as the cause of death and burial place.
Death records in the UK are public and you can generally find out the details of a deceased person’s death and burial online, such as with GOV.UK, publicrecordsearch.co.uk or deceasedonline.com. Here at Wills.Services, we are also in the process of developing our own free death record search tool, so be sure to visit again soon and try it out for yourself.
Some websites will let you do a basic search for free, but if more information is required, you may need to register and pay a fee to find out more, such as details regarding the cremation or cemetery, etc.
General Register Office (GRO) for England and Wales
The GRO will allow you to access millions of death records that date between 1837 to 1957 and 1984 to 2019 for free. To get information on a deceased person, you will need to email or call them, and you can find their contact details on their website.
This service will tell you the name of the registered deceased person, the year their death was registered and how old they were when they passed away, but information regarding their parent or spouse is not disclosed. Each death record is given an Index Reference Number (also known as an IRN) so if you have this to hand it can make your search much quicker.
If you are trying to locate a death record of someone that passed away in England or Wales before July 1837, it may be more difficult to find as there were no central records kept. In this case, you will need to ask the local parish of where the person was buried if they have any records.
Alternatively, you might want to contact your local Register Office (or the RO nearest to the deceased’s place of death) to find out about a deceased person.
How to find out if a person has passed away in Scotland
If you have a family member or a friend that you think has died in Scotland, you will need to search Scotland’s death records by visiting publicrecordsearch.co.uk/scotland. These have been kept and made mandatory in Scotland since the enforcement of civil registration in 1855 and include key information about the deceased person such as their full name, sex, age at the time of death, cause of death and marital status.
Another useful online death register tool you can use is on the National Records of Scotland website under the ‘Statutory Register of Deaths’ section. Death records on the NRS website date between 1855 and 2016 which include information such as:
- First name
- Marital status
- Name of the spouse (if married)
- Location and date of death
- Age at time of death
- Name, surname and occupation of father
- Name and maiden surname of mother
- If parents are deceased
- Cause of death
- Signature, address (if not where death occurred) and relation of informant
- Where and when the death was registered and the signature of the registrar
If you are looking to obtain a death certificate quickly you can do so by visiting the below address in person:
New Register House, 3 West Register Street, Edinburgh.
Northern Ireland Death Records
Should you need to find out if a person living in Northern Ireland has passed away online, you will need to use The General Register Office in Northern Ireland (GRONI) services. GRONI provides an online directory of death records (including World War 2 death records) which you can search using a host of information you might have to hand about the deceased person. However, it is worth knowing that they only hold records for deaths that occurred more than 50 years ago.
If you are looking to find out information about someone that has passed away recently, you will need to make an appointment at GRONI’s publicly available search room which is located within the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency at Colby House, Stranmillis Court, Belfast, BT9 5RR. You can purchase copies of certificates for records that you trace for only £8 each or you can pay an additional £5 fee if you apply before 2.30pm to get the certificate within an hour of your application.
Online obituaries and death notices
Usually, you will be able to find out if a person has passed away by reading through obituaries that have been posted online. Posting obituaries and death notices online has become more common in the past few years as it’s easier for the family to share this information with relatives and friends without having to make phone calls or be limited to local newspapers.
Websites such as Telegraph Death Notices, funeral-notices.co.uk or obituariesonline.co.uk provide online services that allow funeral directors and family members to upload funeral obituaries and notices. You can search these sites for free using the information you have about the person to see if they are included in their latest and historical notices that are updated daily.
If you have access to social media such as Facebook, you could search for the social media account of the deceased person using their full name. If you can find their account, you’ll most likely find that their friends and family members will be posting sentiments about the passing of their loved one, sharing obituaries or funeral notices posted by funeral directors and memories they made together.
By visiting www.deceasedonline.com, you can carry out a standard search online for a deceased person, provided you have their first and last name, as well as their birth date and death date. This basic search is free of charge and you can search by country, region in the UK, county, burial authority or crematorium register, but you have to register with them to do an advanced search.
You can register with Deceased Online in order to find out more, such as:
- Online burial and cremation records
- Digital copies of the burial and cremation registers
- Photos of graves, gravestones and memorials
- Cemetery and grave location maps
- Anyone else who may be buried in the same grave
To find out these details, you will need to register and purchase a pay-per-view voucher (this lasts for 6 months and you can search as many times as you like for free after you’ve purchased the voucher) or sign up for a subscription.
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Public Records Search (PRS)
You can also visit PRS and enter the first and last name of the deceased person, as well as the UK region. Once you enter this information, you will need to register with them online, but it is free to do this.
If you can, you should enter their approximate birth year and year of death in order to narrow down the results.
When you find the right person, you can click on the icons on the right to see transcripts or images, but you’ll need to pay a subscription to see these and learn more about your family history.
If you have no luck finding the deceased person online by using an official website or database such as those listed above, it is recommended that you try typing their full name into Google as something is likely to show up in the search results – perhaps on a social media site or online obituary as we have mentioned in the above sections.
How to find out how someone died for free
If you need to find out a deceased person’s cause of death, you will need a copy of the death certificate as this is an official public record and will state how the person passed away.
This is not free, however, and you’ll find that most other ways of finding out this information will come with a fee, such as publicsearchrecord.co.uk which asks you to pay for a membership if you want to know more details regarding the cause of death, etc.
Find out more below about death certificates and how to obtain one.
As per UK law, a death certificate is known as a public record, meaning that anyone is able to apply online to receive a copy, as long as they know the details of the deceased person.
In general, people require a copy of a death certificate to manage probate and distribute a deceased person’s estate, or it may be needed for pension/insurance claims or when doing research into their family’s history.
How to get a death certificate if you need a copy
If you need to get hold of a copy of a deceased person’s death certificate online, you can do so by visiting the GOV.UK website.
The application process takes about 10 minutes and the death certificate costs £11. It is sent 4 days after applying, but if you need it urgently, you can pay £35 for it to be sent the next working day (provided you apply before 4pm).
How to find out where someone is buried
If you’re not sure where someone’s burial place is or where a deceased person was cremated, you can find out online, but whatever UK online service you come across, it’s unlikely to be free. Generally, the more details you want to know, you will usually have to pay a fee.
For example, you can visit Deceased Online to get information from burial, cremation registers and grave maps regarding where the person you are looking for was buried or cremated, but you will need to be registered or have a purchase voucher/subscription to be able to do this, which is not free.
Similarly, you can visit another website such as Findagrave UK, which offers a free service, but you need to know the cemetery location to be able to locate the deceased person. If the right person shows up on their search list, there should be a picture of the headstone to help you find it in the cemetery. This site is for graves only, however, and you won’t find information on cremations here.
How to find the will of a deceased person (if they had one)
If you want to find out if someone left inheritance after death, such as money, owned property, life insurance, shares, bank accounts, etc., you will need to locate their will, if they had written one.
Firstly, you will need to check the property in which they lived before they passed away as most people tend to keep it in a secure place in their home. The executor of the will is in charge of dealing with probate and distributing the estate, but they should discuss searching the home with the family and loved ones first, to avoid any upset and trespass allegations.
If the will cannot be found, you should find their solicitor if possible, or the company who they wrote their will with. Only the executor has the right to get the will from the person or company that is storing it.
If that fails, it is worth asking their bank as some banks store wills or keep copies of them. You will be asked to provide the death certificate and proof of your own ID before being handed the will.
As a last resort, you might want to contact a will-finding company that will search the National Wills Register, but bear in mind that this won’t be a free service. It is also important to know that people who write wills do not have to register their will, so even if the deceased person wrote one, it might not necessarily be on the register, so this option won’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll find it.
For anyone wanting to make a will, this is why it is important to discuss it with your loved ones, which, of course, is not an easy thing to do, but it will make things much easier when the time comes.
If the deceased person did not leave a will or it cannot be found after trying all possible options, their estate will have to be shared out as per the UK’s Intestacy Rules. In this case, the estate would be managed and distributed by the deceased’s next of kin.
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