The wealth of genealogical and biographical information to be found in an informative obituary certainly makes the effort of searching for one worthwhile. For many of our ancestors (and relatives), the obituary is the only "biographical sketch" that was ever devoted to that individual. In addition to names, dates, and places of birth, marriage, and death, the obituary often identifies relationships of the deceased as child, sibling, parent, grandparent, etc., to numerous other individuals. Obituaries may even suggest other documentation of an individual's death - a death certificate in another county because the hospital was located there; church or cemetery records (by identifying the place of burial or the officiating minister); or records of a coroner's inquest because the death was sudden or unexpected. And, of course, the wealth of detail in an informative obituary may open up many research avenues.
In an obituary search, it is necessary to investigate the files of all likely newspapers. It is impossible to know beforehand which, if any, paper is going to have the best or fullest obituary. Many cities have more than one paper and an obituary for a specific individual could appear in more than one place. Also, when considering possible obituary sources don't just check in the community where the individual died - also check the community (or communities) where the individual lived. Many people in their later years go to live with children and often die far from where they spent most of their adult lives. But, if they still had connections with the home community, there is a good chance that an obituary will appear there, perhaps a more detailed one than will be found in the community of death, where that person was just a new or temporary resident. However, the opposite may also be true.
To search thoroughly for obituaries from past newspaper editions, the best approach is to use a variety of tools including Ancestry's Obituary Collection, Ancestry's Historical Newspapers collection, and offline research through local libraries and newspaper offices.
Taken from Chapter 12: Research in Newspapers, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by James L. Hansen; edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997).