Alone in death and tucked away on dark shelves or cold gurneys in morgues across the country, thousands of deceased individuals whose names are known to coroners, medical examiners, and a handful of friends have no known family members to claim their remains. Homelessness, mental illness, long-term estrangement, deaths of all apparent next of kin, and other circumstances have severed familial connections. Ever-increasing caseloads and shrinking budgets make it nearly impossible for medical examiners, coroners, and investigators who cannot quickly identify family to find deceased individuals’ relatives without help.
Unclaimed Persons is an online group of volunteer researchers who assist these professionals in their quest to find next of kin. We use online resources and our genealogical sleuthing skills to help them locate families and fulfill their civic duty to notify relatives of the individual’s passing.
Unclaimed Persons began as a concept in 2007 when rootstelevision.com aired a show following genealogist Megan Smolenyak as she tackled two cases for two coroners. A number of volunteers stepped forward to help, leading Megan to establish a closed-group Unclaimed Persons Facebook page in June 2008.
As medical examiners, coroners, and the genealogical community learned about Unclaimed Persons’ work, requests for assistance and the number of volunteers continued to increase. Within three years, we had outgrown Facebook and moved to our current, more secure, user-friendly private forum. Today, Unclaimed Persons remains an all-volunteer online community of researchers dedicated to addressing the quiet unclaimed epidemic in morgues across our nation.
If you’d like to volunteer, learn more on our Volunteer Information Page.
If you’re a medical examiner, coroner or investigator—learn how our Unclaimed Persons Volunteers can help you.