If you're trying to connect the branches of your family tree, it isn't always as easy as hopping on the Internet and finding information that way that we have become used to over the last couple of decades. Often, even if the information exists somewhere on the web, it is locked by the demands of a subscription or can't be found in it's entirety. As communities throughout America try to rectify this, there are things that everyone can do to manage to get a hold of documents that may not be available easily. Every state handles the information differently, but Oklahoma actually offers quite a few different locations that open up options for finding this information.
Obituaries can be incredibly valuable for connecting the dots between family members. They often list pertinent information like next of kin and surviving family members. In many cases, you may also be able to come up with information about parents or other family members who may have passed prior to the death discussed in the obituary. One small article can offer a lot of information depending on how it was written.
In general, obituaries are most often published in newspapers. This custom has changed some since its inception, and in the Internet age, the obituary may not be published in a newspaper but rather on an obituary website that aggregates information from other sources. They offer guest books to visitors to leave notes for the families.
If the death was not recent or the obituary was published before the Internet age, a newspaper would be the most common home for these announcements. They are often published in the largest or closest newspaper to where the person lived, and they were designed to reach the community to alert them to the passing of a townsperson.
Your search begins by determining what information you have. The easiest search for an obituary happens when the person who is looking has a few simple pieces of information. First, you should know the first and last name of the deceased. Middle names are also important if it is a common name. Next, information on where the person died is also very important. Additionally, if you know the newspaper that the obituary was published in, you should be able to get a quick answer to where the obituary is currently and how you get ahold of it.
If the newspaper is still being published, the publisher probably has a procedure for requesting archives that will make the whole search easy. There may be a fee, but you should be able to get right to the details that you need. If the paper is no longer published now that the Internet age has nearly overtaken print media, you will have to go outside of the print publication to hunt down the information.
In most states, the next place to check for obituary records if the newspaper does not have them is the library. Head to the branch that is closest to the place where the person died or where the obituary would have been published.
Oklahoma, however, has a website to use before doing all that legwork. The Oklahoma Historical Society has done a heroic job of indexing newspapers from throughout the state and making an index of the articles available to people through a search engine on their website. While you cannot get the full text of the articles this way, it will direct you right to the issue where the notification was published as well as the paper that ran it. Once you have the name of the newspaper as well as the issue and page that it was published on, you can follow up with the publication or the library that holds the archives to view the actual pages or the microfilm, if it is available.
Not all articles that are listed in the database tell you exactly where the find them, but having the name of the paper and the publication date should be enough to get you to the place that keeps the archives for the paper. Next, all you have to do is give a call to the location that houses them and find out what their procedure is for getting ahold of the documentation.
This procedure helps researchers out substantially because libraries often lack the resources to be able to help in obituary hunts. Newspapers have thousands off issues over a few years, and an imprecise assessment of when the obituary was published can mean that they will be unable to help you.
The full text as well and images of newspapers published in Oklahoma from 1840s to the 1920s can be found through the The Gateway to Oklahoma History. Often, websites like this run into copyright issues if they publish the text or images of a paper from a certain point in the 1920s and on, so they limit their digitization and tagging to much older documents. Depending on where you are in your records search, however, you may be able to get more than enough information from websites like The Gateway to Oklahoma History.
In the case of smaller Oklahoma newspapers, there are several publications that have been published on the Google Newspaper Archive. Fifteen titles are currently available that range from the early 20th century to almost current.
The state of Oklahoma does citizens the favor of centralizing the beginning of their search so they have less to track down in the long run. If you're looking for obituary records and they aren't available through these simple tools, there's a possibility that an obituary was never completed. This could have happened for several reasons. Just keep in mind that obituary records are not mandatory, and there is a chance the the notice was not published.