The Midwest may have a slight reputation for lagging behind the rest of the country as technology advances, but they're actually pretty darn technologically adept when it comes to the specific case of the digitization of information in the public record.
Often, when trying to establish a genealogical history for a person or family, records from births and deaths are needed throughout different areas of the country. Unless the death took place in the last 15 to 20 years, it can become very difficult to find published information. Often, the data is not openly available on the Internet, and it is, in fact, contained within an actual newspaper or microfilm that would require a person to see in order to verify its existence or get any information from it.
Resources within the state of Ohio have devoted substantial effort into entering death and obituary records into a system that is searchable from the Internet through the official government website, Ohio.gov. While it is not a perfect or complete index, there are more than 3 million records that have been indexed from just one of many locations working on the project. There is a good chance that someone who is searching for information in Ohio could skip past all of the trips to different county libraries and complete a search through one of the websites that offers indexes or full-text copies.
The Ohio Obituary Index began as a project for areas close to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library. Eventually, libraries from throughout the state began contributing material to the project and created a massive index of more than 3,000,000 different announcements that consist mainly of obituaries.
While you cannot look up the text of the entire document through the index, the information is searchable from the Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Library website. It only requires one set of information to be plugged in to get to the results, and it will point you in the immediate direction of not only the publication but the date that it was published and the page that it is housed on. More than 60 libraries participate in the project, and they span areas throughout the entire state.
What's more interesting about the Ohio Obituary Index is that it actually cross references different sources and allows one obituary listing to pull information from different locations if the information exists. It also encompasses country death records and certificates that are available. It could be possible to find out about a previously unmentioned child who died at birth nearly 100 years ago because the information provided in the database implements criterion from many different sources.
The Dayton Metro Library has a similar index that is housed just within its own system and only includes papers that have been been published in and around the area. Though not yet complete, the database is searchable and includes thousands of different records on obituaries and death records.
If you know that the person passed away in this area, but you are unable to uncover the obituary, it may not have been indexed yet. It's best, at that time, to either call the library or head over with the information that you have in order to determine if your record can be found.
Cleveland, on the other hand, is one of the few places in Ohio to offer not only an index of obituaries, but also the text of the obituary through a localized search engine. By searching the name of the deceased, all records that match that name will populate into the search window. The record can then be saved for your purposes or ordered in hard copy.
The records in the Cleveland Public Library Necrology file cover three major area papers from the later 1800s to 1975. For records from several newspapers and magazines that begin after 1975, an index is available, but not the whole text of the newspapers. The Cleveland News Index will tell you where the information was published so that it can be tracked down. Though it's not as convenient as the methods for finding the previous century's worth of Cleveland-related data, the newer the obituary, the more likely it is to have a copy posted elsewhere on the Internet without needing to hunt it down in person.
If you have gone through every channel that you can think of including local newspapers as well as the library and still not had any luck, you may not have the correct information. Overtime, families forget and details get changed by accident, and that makes it harder to find accurate records. The next alternative would be to start from the beginning with the death certificate of the person in question.
Ohio has a searchable database for death records. The information only spans the beginning of the 20th century until the mid-1940s, but it does cover thousands of records of deaths in the state.
Finally, if you really want to see what the original paper looked like, but you don't have the time to hunt down a photocopy from the library that is holding it, you may be in luck. If it's a record from the late 19th or early 20th century, there is a good chance that it can be found through the Ohio Memory Project.
Organizers have digitized newspapers from across the state in conjunction with a project from the Library of Congress. If you know the paper and the publication date of the obituary you are looking for, you might just find a searchable document contained in these easily accessible archives that lets you check the information right on the Internet and verify immediately. All of the newspapers are uploaded as tagged image files that allow zooming, scrolling and printing in some cases.
Ohio makes records from throughout the state accessible in ways that many other states are decades way from. If you think your family member died in Ohio, there are many different ways to find the information without even leaving your desk chair. If those don't yield results, head to the local library and see what you can find.