Now, we can get the same information in traceable and re-traceable steps often from devices that sit in our pockets. At very least, a ton of information is always at the end of our fingerprints.
The technological advances in our society have been so substantial that they have happened much quicker than our archives could keep up with. For that reason, there are many, many records from state archives as well as private publications that are still waiting to be digitized and made easily accessible to the public. Our local communities are doing their best, but the undertaking is huge and the expense of manpower alone is considerable.
As a result, if you need data to help figure out your family history, it may not be available with the type of urgency that we have become used to. Often, obituaries, which contain a fair amount of historical data, can be difficult to find if they date back more than 20 years. There is rarely a cut and dry answer to how best to track down the information that you need. However, the constant among most states is that libraries often work as the archives for local information as well as local publications.
If the publications are still in print and you can pinpoint the one that published the obituary, then you are in luck. Often, you can call the paper and find out what their process for acquiring archive copies of information consists of. If the paper is now closed, then you will have to find the place in the county that stores the majority of the local archives and see if the paper has been kept there.
If you don't know what paper it was published in, you will at least need a rough estimate of the date that the information would have been published. Often this is just a few days after the death, and should align pretty closely with the death records. By the way, you can try the government website, RI.gov, for official records.
If none of this information is available to you, then you may have to hire someone who can fill in the blanks professionally. Our libraries and newspapers are, unfortunately, not often equipped with enough staff to complete extensive research on behalf of a guest or requestor.
If you have basic information, however, like the location or general area that the obituary was published and the year that the person in question died, you should be able to get a fair amount of information through local and likely free resources.
Libraries throughout Rhode Island keep a thorough record of past newspapers that were published throughout the region. Each could have a fair amount of genealogical information including obituary records for your perusal.
For instance, The Rhode Island Collection is housed at the Providence Public Library, and it includes archive copies of the Providence Journal. If you know when the article that you're looking for was published, and you are confident that it made its appearance in the Providence Journal, then you can get information by visiting the Providence Journal Rhode Island room. Additionally, staff will help to address basic questions and find specific obituaries. They are unfortunately unable to complete more than basic research and will refer you to a genealogist for additional help beyond that they can provide.
Those with a Rhode Island LIbrary Card can also gain access to major sites like HeritageQuest and NewsBank, and these can most often be accessed remotely. The perks of having a library card extend well beyond the walls of the building and may be accessed from your home computer. Genealogy sites like these offer many archive copies of obituaries and death records that can provide necessary information for your purposes. ProQuest also has access to all of the archives for the Providence Journal Archives.
If you're not entirely sure what you need in order to be able to hunt down the obituary records that you're looking for, there are plenty of paid options that can provide assistance. Some come from websites that, for a small fee, will help you locate the data that you're looking for while more extensive searches may require the assistance of a local genealogist who specializes in this kind of work.
The Rhode Island Historical Society houses thousands upon thousands of documents important to Rhode Island history, and they keep copies of many different newspapers that span more than 150 years. In fact, the archives hold copies of every Rhode Island newspaper ever published in either hard copy or microfilm.
If there is a document that you need, it's probably within their stacks. Just because they have it, however, doesn't meant that you won't have to do some research first to determine where and when it was printed, but you also won't have to run all over the state to find the library that keeps each different publication. They can almost all be found within the walls, and some have been indexed to make the search even easier.
Though not yet digitized and accessible from anywhere, Rhode Island gives the public the ability to search records from mostly centralized locations without traveling all over the state. The obituary record that you are searching for is likely housed in one of these locations, and if you gather as many details as you can, you should be able to track it down.