Everything is bigger in Texas, right? So it's no wonder that there are a bountiful number of local publications and other resources for information that now find themselves duplicated on the Internet. Before the world's information was at our fingertips, huge states like Texas had plenty of newspapers geared to both large metropolises as well as small, rural areas. The state is so large and can be incredibly spread out, and thus, the only way to get news was to have it delivered to your doorstep.
Obviously, our world has changed substantially since then, but our mentality for breaking news has only heightened. When someone passes away now, we often know almost immediately. There is a good chance that a loved one will let you know by sending a message or calling directly to your pocket to give you the unfortunate news. Many years ago, however, people didn't have that kind of access, and the only way to get the information was from the local newspaper obituaries.
The newspaper was delivered to the house once or sometimes twice a day, and news would be "broken" to residents in the form of big headlines and detailed articles. When a loved one passed away, it was customary to post a notice in the newspaper of record for the area to alert friends and community members of the passing. While this custom is still observed, there are many places to post what would be considered an obituary without running it in the local paper. Just 20 years ago, that wasn't the case.
If you need to find an obituary record for a loved one or family member, start with a simple Internet search to see if you can find it through a simple means like a free website. Some local and rural papers and well as many large metro papers have digitized a lot of their archives and made them searchable. If the obituary was published within the last 15-20 years, there is a good chance that you will be able to find it without leaving your desk chair.
If it doesn't pop up from your search, however, it means that you're going to have to get out of the chair and get to work. Sometimes that search can be arduous, but if an obituary was printed, it is stored somewhere near the location where it was published.
A good place to look is the official government website for the State of Texas. Texas.gov provides access to official vital records for the entire state and for many local municipalities as well.
Before you start digging around outside of a web search, make sure you have a few pieces of important information that will greatly help your search. At a minimum, you should know the first and last name of the deceased. Middle names are important and often very helpful if the person has a common name.
Also, you need to have an idea of when the person died. It doesn't necessarily have to be the exact date, but it is helpful. At very least, try to get within a few years of the passing and give yourself a range to work through. If your range is more than a few years, you will likely have a whole lot of extra hassle in hunting down the document.
Finally, see if you can find out where the deceased was living at the time of his or her passing, and if that was the place where the obituary was published. In a state like Texas, knowing at least the county of where someone died is vital to tracking down records. Texas is a huge place with more cities than can be easily named. Going through each of those cities looking for the record would be a huge and unreasonable undertaking.
If you know which newspaper the obituary was printed in, you're in excellent shape to get the information that you're looking for. You can contact the newspaper and find out about their archives policy and who they allow to request copies of different pages. They may do the homework for you and ask you to pay for it or allow you to search through some of the records yourself. Otherwise, they may refer you over to a public library who the paper has deferred to for record keeping.
Public libraries have much more than dusty books that get much less love today than they did 20 years ago. In fact, they are the home for many state-related and non-state-related records to be held and indexed. Town and county libraries often keep microfilms of local newspapers that date back to the earliest publication date. If you know the date of the death or the date that the obituary was published, you'll be likely to find it stored somewhere in those films.
There are other options for finding this information, however. For instance, the Fort Worth Library offers members access to America's Genealogy Bank. The website offers countless sources of information that are digitized and searchable for the better part of 300 years. The membership is maintained by the library, so there is no subscription fee to users, but it can be accessed remotely so that a trip to the library isn't even necessary.
The Fort Worth LIbrary also offers access to an obituary index for the area that dates back to 1966. The site can be accessed from a home computer, and it just requires the user to enter in the name of the person they're looking for. It will then yield results like date of publication and where the issues is located for perusal in either hard copy of microfilm. Once the record is found, it can be ordered from the library for a small fee.
The Fort Bend County Library System offers a similar program, except their database offers a direct link to the digitized version of the document. There is nothing to pay for and no need to head to a library unless the information you're looking for doesn't pop up where it should.
For the most part, areas throughout Texas have a fairly advanced way of handling vital records and obituary records. Most libraries have some sort of digitized option for their obituary records from indexes that tell you where to find them to actual access to the information. If you can't find any indication about the information that you're looking for, then it's time to physically head down to the library that archives the issues and find out what you need to know to track down the obituary. You have to keep in mind, however, that obituaries have never been required, so there is a chance that it is not showing up in some of the larger databases because it was never written.