The best sources of information can be overlooked when you're attempted to compile genealogical resources. Many people assume that birth records are more important than most other documents when trying to build a family tree because birth certificates confirm the life of a child. Despite the joyousness of this occasion, birth certificates are not always the most useful documents. In fact, obituaries can often be much more useful.
The customary documentation encourages the family of the recently deceased to place a notice in the local paper that alerts the community to the death. Over the history of the practice, the announcements have grown from a one-line, short blurb to sometimes more than one paragraph that serves as a memorial biography. The notice states the names of family members, often the names of those who the now deceased survived in life as well as interesting details about the person. By reading an obituary, you may find out what the deceased did for a living and enjoyed doing in his or her free time.
Finding obituaries is, unfortunately, not as easy as most of the information that we have access to each day. In fact, obituaries that date back more than 15 years may require the researcher to find the actual newspaper that it was printed in. In order to begin the process of finding the documentation, you must examine what information you have to make sure that it is sufficient enough to find the details that you need. In New Mexico, the options of tracking down obituaries are pretty substantial, but they require more legwork than just a simple Internet search.
In order to find an obituary in New Mexico, you need the name, date of death and location of death at very least. If you are missing any of these pieces of information, there are a few databases that may help you to discover what you're looking for, but they are not complete for the whole state. The area of the states where the person in question died is important because it can help you narrow down your search to just a few newspapers instead of hundreds to sort through.
One of the many New Mexico libraries, the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library hosts an online database includes that actual text from thousands of obituaries. The entries begin in the late 19th century and span through to 2005. They are not yet complete, and only half of the 20th century listings apply to the whole state. Beyond that, the second half of the 20th century is reserved for Santa Fe only entries. Though it may not have the obituary that you need due to lack of resources, it is a free and quick stop the may yield the results that you were looking for.
Major universities also often have a hand in the creation of databases as well as archives. In many cases, their libraries devote extensive resources to digitizing records from either paper or microfilm to Internet accessible image files. By uploading this information to servers, indexes can be made that tag the files and make the sometimes hundred-year-old pages searchable.
The University of New Mexico offers one of these programs that includes searchable offerings of papers from throughout New Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of archive pages have been added that span the 20th century and can be viewed from anywhere with an Internet connection.
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library has an index of obituaries that have run in the Albuquerque Journal. The index must be viewed in person only, and it cannot be accessed from outside the library. Obituaries published after 1998 can be assessed form the website.
The State Library of New Mexico keeps a fairly detailed listing of what is available through their facility on their website. They are the official record keepers of many of the important documents that have been established throughout New Mexico. Newspapers are included in this list, and the major papers from the area as well as smaller and no-longer-published papers are also represented. Their archive covers more then 50 newspapers and represents thousands upon thousands of issues that are available a number of ways. Current subscriptions are available, but the archive copies run of papers that have been published in the area and date back all the way to 1847.
If an obituary was published in New Mexico during the last century and a half, it will be available at the New Mexico State Library. Better yet, for those who are limited in their ability to get to that specific property, interlibrary loans allow the branch closest to you to request the information to be transferred to their location. Whether they are hard copies or microfilms, the information can be made available to any New Mexico Library as long as it is available at New Mexico State Library.
When you know what paper you are looking for, you can use the library search function on the library website to find where it is located throughout the collections. A quick search of The Santa Fe New Mexican yields the dates of publication, the location of the information and the way that it is stored. From this, you know that it's kept as a microfilm and available at the state library or to loan to another location.
Beyond that, members of the New Mexico library system can use additional resources for online access to newspapers. Sites like Newsbank offer online and uploaded archives that require a library card to log in and view. Additionally, InfoTrac Newsstand gives citizens the ability to search through archives of thousands of newspapers to recover obituary resources.
With all of these different tools at your disposal, tracking down the obituary should be manageable. It may require an inter-library loan and some time to wait while the films move from one library to another, but that is entirely manageable. If you know that you are prepared to devote the time to it as well as verify the information that you have, you should be able to get what you need and move on to the next parts of your tree.