Bring The Dead Back To Life With Google Search History

Feb 8, 2011 • 8:28 am | comments (10) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Grave of Margaret ParrmanAs you know, I cover threads on search topics that I find either interesting, unique and/or useful for SEOs, SEMs and searchers.

I spotted a thread on a fairly morbid topic - death of a loved one. The thread is at Google Web Search Help where a brother said her sister recently died and they want to find some of her search history via Google. I am not exactly sure if this is to look for clues into her death or just for the family to remember her for anything they might find, including her search history.

The brother said:

My sister has just died and this is her pc. We want to look at all the last things she searched on google. She did not seem to have the history option set and her history is not set to store long-term. is there a way we can find out all the things she last searched on google. This is really important to us her family and we woudl appreciate if you could give us any assistance on how we may (if possible) do this.

To you and me, it may be weird to want to dig up a lost family members search history. For one reason, if the sister went out of her way to make sure no history was stored, why would you want to dig it up? But on the other hand, we are thankfully not in the position of this family and I am sure they have really valid reasons for this.

This is a really sad story but one that I've never seen before.

Kelly F. from Google replied to the brother, she said:

I'm very sorry for your loss. The only way to recover your sister's search history is to sign in to her account and hope that she was recording her search history. If not, then her past searches cannot be accessed.

I am also very sorry for the family's loss. I do hope they can get any closure via Google or the computer's history.

We do live in a new world.

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help.

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02/08/2011 02:46 pm

"is to sign in to her account " I`m a little bit shocked that a Google employee gave that advice. Her privacy should be honored even if she is dead unless access is granted by legal means.

Barry Schwartz

02/08/2011 02:48 pm

She didn't give up the sister's password.


02/08/2011 06:40 pm

Sounds strange but hey that might be a new market to tap into. The police seize computers for examination all the time, perhaps private individuals need help too. It's not for me, but think of all the information people could obtain from your computer. Not to mention how people will handle your online accounts and passwords once you are gone, if you haven't passed on all the urls, logins, passwords, etc. Something to think about.


02/08/2011 11:09 pm

The dead have no privacy... I'm pretty sure they don't care if their history is sought after. Maybe she committed suicide and the family wants to know if she was seeking help or not. They may simply need closure on some outstanding issue so they can get along with their lives. It's not really that strange or weird if you think about it.

Robert Coats

02/09/2011 12:00 am

Interestingly enough, there are a couple of businesses that have started up just to pass along social media and search profile logins in the event of ones passing. and a few others. Facebook also has a way to request that a persons page be memorialized when they pass. All part of living and dying in the digital age.


02/09/2011 11:31 am

I don't really have an opinion on the story but I think it the headlines of "Bring back to life" and Dig Up ..." is pretty disrespectful to be honest. No need for it

Barry Schwartz

02/09/2011 11:42 am


Kelly Fee

02/09/2011 05:15 pm

I agree that this was an interesting post. My feelings were a mixture of empathy, confusion, and curiosity. Perhaps something on the sister's machine can lead them to the info they want.


02/26/2011 09:52 pm

I was the person that posted the as you put it fairly morbid search request and as one comment suggests I do think your headline "distasteful". I have a hunch that some of the commentors have experienced death of a close loved one and therefore understand grief and the rest thankfully have yet that experience to come. to satisfy the curiosity and the guesses at my reasons are this. When someone dies whom you have shared your whole life with and you love them deeply you try to access everything that was recent as follows: You check your mobile - what was the last text sent/received You check your emails - again for sent and received You check your house telephone and answering machin and hope their voice is there. You check your diary to see dates you had in the past for coffees, teas and future planned ones You check everything to keep the person fully alive in all that they did and where. I already know my sister's passwords - cos that's how close we were. I wanted to look at her search engine to look at the last things she looked at, to imagine what she might have been thinking about as she looked at them. This is no different than the fact that i kept the last newspape she read - this is the last peice of earthyly stuff that she took in. If you are grieving you will understand this and you will not find it strnage, morbid, disrespectful. To the person that said the dead's privacy shoudl be respected - I agree with that to a degree. Its not like I'm going to tell the world what my said search or didn't search - its for me to help the with grief and pain of losing someone who I spent much of my days with. In the same way when my father died I went to hte library, a place he frequented several times a week and i asked them for a list of all the books he had checked out in the past weeks - again, what was he reading, what may he have been thinking and then I wanted to read some of htem too. I don't know if that makes any sense to all you people, but when you're in grief (for me anyway) my memory of recent weeks has been lost by the shock of the loss of my sister and I will use anything to help me rekindle all the good memories of our past.


02/26/2011 10:11 pm

I already have my sister' passwords. She didn't have it set up to to record. She was not very PC savvy - nothing sinister as some of the comments would suggest.

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