New York State Vital Records Information

Vital Records (birth, marriage, and death certificates) are held in local (town, city, county) offices and at the NY State Department of Health. NY State began maintaining vital records around 1880. Often, localities kept earlier records. Compliance with the request to send records to NY State was irregular in the early years, and a few locations, including the cities of Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers, did not send records to NY State until 1914.  New York City keeps vital records separately from NY State.

NY State maintains rules for access to vital records for genealogy purposes. Birth records after 1937 are not available. Death records are available 50 years after the year of death (currently death records are available through 1967). Marriage records are available if on file for at least 50 years and both parties are known to be deceased (currently marriage records are available through 1967).  For more information on how to obtain a copy of a certificate from the state, please visit the NY State Department of Health website.

The NY State Vital Records Indexes

Thanks to the non—profit group, Reclaim the Records, the vital records indexes are beginning to make their way to the internet for free use by all. As of April 2018, the death index is currently available for free under Reclaim the Records’ account at Internet Archive. There are plans to add the marriage and birth indexes within the current year. They also have the Buffalo death index, and plan to add Albany soon as well. With an Ancestry subscription, you can access the New York, Death Index, 1880—1956 and the New York State, Marriage Index, 1881—1967. Family Search has the free Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957—1963; they also have the free New York, County Marriages, 1847—1848; 1908—1936.  For more information regarding other miscellaneous online NY vital records databases, please see the NY Vital Records Wiki.

The indexes for the state's vital records are also on microfiche located at libraries in Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Glens Falls, Patchogue, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Watertown; they are also available at the New York State Archives at Albany and the National Archives at New York City.  These indexes will tell you the name, date, location and state file number for the event; they do not give you any other information contained on the certificate. You would need to purchase a copy of the certificate. Actual copies can be purchased for $22 from the state using the state file number contained in the index, or you can attempt to contact the municipality listed and see if they have a copy. Be aware that not all places kept records, not all places charge the same, and some places will send you only a transcript and not a copy of the original certificate like the state will. Additionally, some local towns and villages will have them, and in some places its the county that has them for all places located within it.  Also remember that some place names can be a town, city or county; ie:  The City of Fulton is located in Oswego County, the Town of Fulton is located in Schoharie County, and then there is a Fulton County too.

The state indexes cover the entire state except New York City’s five boroughs. They do, however, include vital records in the former towns of Kings County, prior to their annexation by the City of Brooklyn in the 1880's and 90's; portions of Westchester County prior to their annexation by New York City in 1895; and in Richmond County (Staten Island) and the western portion of Queens County prior to their incorporation into the City of New York on Jan. 1, 1898. They also do not include births and deaths in Albany, Buffalo and Yonkers prior to 1914, or marriages in those cities prior to 1908.

New York State Vital Records Milestones

1847—The New York State Legislature required school district clerks to report to the town clerk or city alderman the number of births, deaths and marriages in the district during the preceding year. Birth reports included the names of the parents, and the sex, race and name of each child born alive.  The town clerk or city alderman was required to send an abstract to the county clerk or health inspector. The county clerk or health inspector was required to send an abstract to the Secretary of State.

1853—New York City health inspector is required to submit monthly reports of births, deaths and marriages to the Secretary of State.

1866—The Metropolitan Board of Health is established by the Legislature and authorized to receive reports of births and deaths for New York City.

1870—The City of Albany Charter is revised to require the recording of births, deaths and marriages with the City Registry Bureau.

1875—The City of Yonkers sets up a local system of birth, death and marriage registration.

1878—The City of Buffalo sets up a local system of birth, death and marriage registration.

1880—The State Board of Health and Vital Statistics Bureau are established and given general supervision of vital statistics registration outside of Albany, Buffalo, New York City and Yonkers.  Births, deaths and marriages are required to be reported within 3 days of their occurrence with the city, town or village clerk.

1882—The State Board of Health is authorized to require local boards of health to supervise local vital statistics registration.

1885—Certified copies of vital records on file with the State Board of Health and local offices are valid as prima facie evidence in all New York State Courts.

1888—Penalties for violating the vital statistics law are established.

1893—The procedure for the filing of original certificates by local offices with the State Vital Statistics Bureau is standardized.  Birth certificates signed by the physician or midwife are required to be filed within 30 days of the birth.

1901—The State Department of Health is established.

1904—Name cards with the child's name were to be filed with the registrar, if the original birth certificate did not include it.

1908—The filing requirement is reduced to 10 days from the date of birth.

1909—The filing requirement is reduced to 36 hours.

1911—Transmittal of the original birth certificate to the State Bureau of Vital Records is required on or before the fifth day of the month after the birth certificate was filed.

1913—First reference to the office of local registrar.  Filing of the birth certificate is required within five days of the birth.  The State Health Commissioner is authorized to subdivide or combine two or more primary registration districts.  The State Health Commissioner is authorized to charge fees for certified copies of
birth and death records and for searches of files or records.  Stillbirth registration is required.  Birth certificates are made legal evidence for personal identification.

1914—The Cities of Albany, Buffalo and Yonkers are made part of the statewide vital statistics reporting system.

1917—State hospitals and prisons are made separate registration districts.

1919—The position of deputy registrar is established.

1924—Registrars are required to submit weekly vital statistics reports to the district health officer.

1932—Local registrars are required to transmit certificates to the County Health Commissioner. The County Health Commissioner is required to transmit monthly
the certificates to the Division of Vital Statistics.

1936—The birth certificate is prohibited from making a reference to the legitimacy of the child. The original birth certificate is sealed and replaced by an amended birth certificate whenever the parents of an illegitimate child subsequently marry; the child was adopted; or the child's parentage was determined by a court.  Amended birth certificates are available at the Department of Health only.  Sealed birth certificates are available by court order only.

1938—The birth certificate is required to contain a statement that the mother received a blood test for syphilis.

1954—Funeral directors, undertakers and embalmers are prohibited from holding the office of local registrar.

1955—Consolidation of primary registration districts into a whole—county or partcounty registration system supervised by the county health department was authorized by the county board of supervisors with the approval of the Health Commissioner.

1967—Consolidation of primary registration districts into a whole—county or partcounty registration system supervised by the county department of health was authorized with the approval of the legislative body of the county.  Certificates were required to be filed with the Department of Health at such times as the Commissioner directs.  Transmittal is required on the fifth of each month.

1968—The State Health Commissioner is authorized to charge a fee for uncertified copies or abstracts in addition to the search fee for authorized records purposes.

1971—The social security numbers of the mother and father are required on the birth certificate.

1972—A copy of an amended birth certificate is sent to the local registrar whenever the original birth certificate is amended. Prior to this only notice of the amendment and a directive to seal the original birth certificate was sent to the local registrar.

1973—Vital records storage by photographic or magnetic means is authorized.

1977—Vital Records Review, a quarterly newsletter featuring informative and instructional articles about registration procedures and current events, was first published.  The newsletter was discontinued in 1989.

1978—The Vital Records Registration Handbook, a handbook providing detailed instructions on how to complete birth, death and fetal death certificates, was published.  It was revised and republished in 1988.

1979—The Commissioner of Health issues rules for access to vital records for genealogy purposes.

1981—The law is clarified to specify that an uncertified copy or abstract is provided for authorized genealogical purposes.

1982—Consolidation of two or more primary registration districts into a combined district required the approval of the legislative body of the county.

1983—The Adoption Registry is established to provide non—identifying information to adult adoptees and to enable reunions for voluntarily registered adoptees and their corresponding birth parents.

1987—Fetal deaths are registered directly with the Department of Health.  The local registrars receive a Report of Fetal Death form that must be destroyed within 30 days.

1988—Registration of physicians, midwives and funeral directors is repealed.  Access to death certificate copies is clearly defined.

1991—Local registrars are no longer required to provide Boards of Election with the names of voter age decedents. The task is transferred to the Department of Health.

1994—The Acknowledgment of Paternity form is established. The new form allows parents of a child born out—of—wedlock to legally acknowledge paternity administratively and to enter the putative father’s name on the birth certificate.

1997—The Acknowledgment of Paternity form is the only form that may be used to enter the putative father's name on the birth certificate.  Local registrars are authorized to include counties comprising New York City when giving verbal permission to remove the body of a deceased person to a non—adjacent county.



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