Friday, June 27, 2014

How do I find out if they're dead or alive?

A relative my mother has been in contact with for a few years hasn't responded to emails recently. When she tried the phone number she had, it was disconnected.

A year ago, I would have simply gone to one of the several websites that provided access to the Social Security Death Index, and checked if the relative was there. However, Congress closed that method at the end of last year, creating a waiting period of three years before someone's information is accessible on private websites. Their rationale was that the SSDI permitted people to steal the Social Security numbers of dead people for fraudulent purposes. Of course, the SSDI was created to prevent such fraud. If anyone was getting away with using the SS#s of the recently deceased, it was not the fault of the SSDI being easily accessible, it was the fault of those who were supposed to be checking the numbers against the database not doing so.

Now if you have a "legitimate fraud prevention interest, or have a legitimate business purpose pursuant to a law, governmental rule, regulation, or fiduciary duty", while you are entitled to access the database, you have to pay for a certification program, which I am sure will encourage everyone who should be using it to do so, right? Sigh. That battle was lost last year, but it is still upsetting, because there was no good reason for Congress to do what it did.

So, without the SSDI, I checked Legacy. No obituary published within the last year for the relative, and Legacy does include the primary newspapers for the city and county of residence. However, the relative's spouse is deceased, and there are no children. Someone has to write the obituary.

I checked the online news archives at the local newspapers on both the city and county level without finding any information one way or another.

The relative was an amateur radio operator. I was able to find out that their license was renewed in February of last year, and it's a ten year license. QRZ provides online logging. The last time somebody logged that they had spoken with our relative via amateur radio was in December of last year. But that's meaningless since there are logs from the 1990s on the list of 'most recent' logs. Our relative didn't log their calls on this website, so it would be pretty random who logged on their end.

1) Can anybody think of any other resource I can check. (The state of last known residence is California.)

2) Is there anybody reading this who has paid for the certification program, has access to recent deaths in the SSDI, and would be willing, and legally allowed, to check the database for me? I don't know what the restrictions are for those who do go through the certification program, and I don't want anyone entering any gray areas for me. (If the relative is deceased, I wouldn't be interested in any information from the database beyond their date of death.)

Websites/Search Engines I've checked
California Digital Newspaper Collection


Nancy said...

This may not help but I'll offer it as an experience and a suggestion. I've needed to search for individuals who have disappeared and sometimes it's been helpful to type the name into the google search box and see what turns up. There are many, many people search engines (pipl, whitepages, etc.) that find people. After going to one of the sites you can usually narrow it down to the state and sometimes the city. I've found several obituaries for people this way.

Also, Ancestry and FamilySearch both have what I think are called public record databases which could be helpful.

If you know the city where the individual lived, you could call the library and ask if they have a recent city directory (though that may not be helpful if it's a large city in California).

I don't have any other ideas at the moment. And I'm sorry I can't get to the SSDI.

John said...

Good ideas.

I've searched Google. That's how I discovered they were amateur radio users.

Ancestry's public record databases, at least according to their description, don't contain information more recent than 2002. FamilySearch goes up to 2009.

I've used I don't know how often they update their records, but they don't provide a newer address or phone number.