Recent obituaries published in the last few weeks are typically available on the website for the local newspaper in which they were published. Older, archived obituaries may be available on websites, such as Legacy.com and ObitsArchive.com, that work with select newspapers to preserve obituaries online.
In order to find a specific obituary online, it helps to have the full name of the decedent, the date of the death, last location of residence and the names of any next of kin. Obituaries are usually published a day or two after the death. Some small towns typically only have one paper. For larger towns and cities, multiple newspapers may need to be researched.
Because archives effectively cost the newspaper money to maintain, they are not always available on the publisher's website for very long. Some smaller newspapers may not publish them online at all.
For older, archived obituaries, ObitsArchive.com and Legacy.com are two excellent sources. Legacy.com provides a search engine for recent as well as archived obituaries. Legacy.com's offerings are limited, but they do not charge for archived obituaries; rather, they charge customers to maintain an online guest book. ObitsArchive.com has a much larger selection, and obituaries are available for a small fee for individual articles.