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Introduction to Vital Records
Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. In New York, New York City keeps vital records separately from New York State. Learn more about New York City Vital Records and how to order them here. Records from New York State can be obtained from the New York State Department of Health.
Vital Records Reference Dates
Vital Records for New York State (other than New York City) start the following years:
New York Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online
The following is a list of online resources useful for locating New York Vital Records. Most online resources for New York Vital Records are indexes. The official New York state vital records index is held on microfiche at select libraries in New York. According to state law this index cannot be copied. Therefore it cannot be put online and cannot be viewed out of state. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.
- New York Databases listed on Rootsweb.com - Free
- USGenWeb.org New York Site - Free
- Search for New York Collections on FamilySearch.org under United States - Free
- Linkpendium Links for New York Genealogy and History, including individual Counties - Free/$
- Search the New York Birth, Marriage & Death Records at Ancestry.com - $
- The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society's eLibrary on New York Family History - $
- Order New York(not city) Certificates New York City Certificates online - $
- New York State Library Information on obtaining vital records in New York state
- Suffolk County GenWeb Information on ordering vital records in New York state
- Italian Genealogical Group Index of many of the vital records of New York City and Long Island (Click on Database Searches on left side of page.)
- New York Genealogy--Vital Records Organizes vital record sources by locality in New York
If you are aware of other online databases, please feel free to add them.
Among the laws of the Colony of New York set down in 1664 (following the capture of New York from the Dutch) was the requirement that "The Minister or Town Clark of every parrish shall well and truly and plainly Record all Births Marriages and Burials that shall happen within his Respective parrish, in a Book to be provided by the Churchwardener for that purpose."  Though most communities in New York interpreted this law to mean that the churches were responsible for keeping vital records, there were some marriages licenses recorded by civil authorities. (See Records of Marriages below.)
After the American Revolution, any attempt by civil authorities to record vital events in the State of New York stopped. A meeting of the National Medical Convention in Philadelphia held in 1847 changed all that when a resolution was passed to encourage statewide registration of births, marriages, and deaths via legislation from the individual states. New York jumped on board with the resolution and passed a law requiring the registration of vital events. Unfortunately, the resulting law was convoluted. The trustees of each school district (there were over 10,000 school districts in New York at the time) were required to review the records of the local midwives and doctors and compile births, marriages and deaths and report them to the local town or city clerk. The town and city clerks were compile and submit a report to the county clerk who then reported to the Secretary State. The Secretary of State was then required to submit a report to the State Legislature. Though most communities registered vital events for 1847, the practice quickly fell into disfavor and few towns and cities compiled vital records after 1850.
In the years following the failed 1847 law, some of the cities in New York did start keeping their own vital records. The vital records for this time period are held by the cities that created them and copies are not on file with the state. The cities that kept early vital records included:
| New York
||(1847 for births, and 1801 for deaths)|
|Brooklyn||(1866 for births and 1847 for deaths)|
In 1880, New York created a State Board of Health which was given the responsibility of overseeing the registration of vital statistics. The State Board of Health established a Vital Records division. New York then passed a law that required births, marriages, and deaths be reported to the town, village, or city clerk within three days of their occurrence. The local clerks were then to create a copy of each vital record and forward the originals to the State Board of Health. An 1888 addendum established penalties for those who failed to report vital events. Because Albany, Buffalo, Yonkers, New York, and Brooklyn were already keeping their own vital records when the 1880 Law was passed, they were considered exempt. Guide to Public Vital Records in New York State (Including New York City), (Albany, NY: Works Projects Administration, 1942), v. 1, pp. xi.</ref>
Records of Births and Deaths
Statewide registration of vital statistics began in 1880 and was usually complied with by 1890 for deaths and by 1915 for births. In some areas of Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley, some births, marriages, and deaths were recorded in town records as early as about 1665. For example, Amenia, Dutchess County, has vital records beginning in 1749. Few towns complied with this early law, however. "Governor Andros, when asked by London in 1677 to report the number of births, marriages, and deaths in the colony for the past seven years, replied 'noe account can bee given' of any of these events, because 'Ministers have been soe scarse, and Religions many.'" Lack of an established church explains why New York's vital records are inferior to those of neighboring New England.
Births, marriages, and deaths were also recorded for a short time in most counties from 1847 to about 1850. The state legislature passed a law in 1847 requiring school district clerks to send information to the Secretary of State. The law was difficult to enforce, and most school districts stopped doing this by 1852. Historical societies have some of these records, but most are still in the possession of town and county clerks. The very few 1847–1850 vital records that were once on deposit in the New York State Archives have been returned to the towns that deposited them at the archives.
You can learn more about the history and availability of vital records in Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in New York State (Including New York City).  The Family History Library has vital records for a few counties, mostly from 1847–1850 and marriages from 1908 to the 1930s.
Births and deaths are recorded in the town, village, or city where the event took place. A copy is sent to the New York Bureau of Vital Statistics. If you know the birth or death place, write to the town, village, or city clerk to obtain a copy of the certificate or record.
Where can I find the New York Vital Records Index?
Ten copies of the official New York state microfiche index are available to be searched in New York. This index does not cover New York City, Yonkers, Albany or Buffalo. Without this list, these copies can be difficult to locate because of misinformation and a limited web presence. The New York State Library website itself is misleading: "The Indexes are currently available upstate only at the New York State Archives, and Rochester Public Library... The National Archives and Records Administration's Northeast Region office in New York City also has the Indexes." Again, these are not the only 3 locations. The New York State Archives website lists the following information:
Copies of the microfiche index to vital records certificates held by the NYS Department of Health are located at the following locations:
1. New York State Archives, Cultural Education Center, Empire State Plaza, Albany 12230. Available Monday through Friday, 9:00-4:30, and Saturday, 9:30-4:30 except State holidays. No appointment is needed to use the indexes. Researchers must produce identification, sign a registration form, and comply with the rules of the research room. Several microfiche readers are available for use, however, researchers will be limited to one hour's use of a microfiche reader, if other persons are waiting to use the readers. Note: Staff will search index for a fee.
2. National Archives--Northeast Region, 201 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014; telephone (212) 401-1620, email firstname.lastname@example.org; website www.archives.gov/nyc/
3. Rochester Public Library--115 South Avenue, Rochester, NY 14604; telephone (585) 428-8440, website www3.libraryweb.org
4. Onondaga County Public Library, 447 South Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202; telephone (315) 435-1900; website www.onlib.org. Note: Staff will conduct a basic look-up at no charge.
5. Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Grosvenor Room, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY 14203; telephone (716) 858-8900; website www.buffalolib.org/
6. Steele Memorial Library—101 East Church Street, Elmira, NY 14901; telephone (607) 733-8603; website www.steele.lib.ny.us
7. Crandall Public Library, Center for Folklife, History & Cultural Programs—251 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY 12801; telephone (518) 792-6508; website www.crandalllibrary.org
8. Patchogue-Medford Library—54 E. Main Street, Patchogue, NY 11772; telephone (631) 654-4700; website www.pmlib.org
9. Flower Memorial Library—229 Washington Street, Watertown, NY 13601; telephone (315) 785-7705; website www.flowerlibrary.org
10. Broome County Public Library—185 Court Street, Binghamton, NY 13901; telephone (607) 778-6400; website www.bclibrary.info/index.html
Finding your ancestor on the index is only the first step. You can obtain births and deaths since 1880 (except New York City) for a fee by writing to:
New York State Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Records
Empire State Plaza, Tower Building
Albany, New York 12237-0023
Telephone: 518-474-3077 or 518-474-3030
There is a 50-year restriction on death records and a 75-year restriction on birth records. The state fees and restrictions apply also to records held by the local clerks.
Birth and death records for Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers to 1914 are filed with local registrars, and the state restrictions apply.
Albany births and deaths 1848, births 1866 to the present, and deaths 1870 to the present can be obtained for a fee from:
Registrar of Vital Statistics
City Hall, Room 107
24 Eagle Street
Albany, NY 12207
Buffalo births 1878–1914, and deaths 1852–1914, can be obtained for a fee from:
Bureau of Vital Statistics
City Hall, Room 613
Buffalo, NY 14202
Yonkers births and deaths 1875 to the present can be obtained for a fee from:
Registrar of Vital Statistics
Yonkers, NY 10701
New York City. The New York City counties of Kings, Queens, Richmond, and New York were established in 1683. The Bronx was made a separate borough when the five boroughs were created in 1898, and in 1914 it was made a separate county as well. Between 1898 and 1914 the Bronx was part of New York County but not part of the Borough of Manhattan. For more in-depth treatment of vital records in New York City and its bouroughs Click Here.
Provincial Marriage Licenses
Marriages in colonial times were initiated either by publishing the banns in church on three successive Sundays or by obtaining a civil marriage bond and license. The Prerogative Court granted marriage licenses between 1753 and 1783. Most people published the banns since buying a license could cost a month's wages.
Marriage bonds, 1753–1783, that were recorded at the Secretary of State's Office in Albany appear in New York Marriages Previous to 1784. The book lists names of brides and grooms, date of the bond (not the marriage), bond volume, and page numbers. Many marriage bonds were destroyed in a fire in 1911. Those that survived are at the state archives. The full data from these remaining bonds is transcribed in Kenneth Scott's New York Marriage Bonds, 1753–1783. 
About 152,000 individuals are indexed in Marriage Index: Selected Areas of New York, 1639–1916. These marriages were originally indexed by Knshp publishers. The index is especially good for the years prior to 1810 and in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys from 1810–1899.
14 licenses from the 1680s survive:
Later records have also been found in scattered sources:
- 1692-1706, 1756, 1758 - O'Callaghan, E.B. "New York Marriage Licenses," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 1702-1703: Vol. 1, No. 1 (Jan. 1870):3; 1703: Vol. 1, No. 2 (Apr. 1870):13; 1703-1706: Vol. 2, No. 1 (Jan. 1871):25-28; 1692-1701: Vol. 2, No. 3 (Jul. 1871):141-142; 1756, 1758: Vol. 2, No. 4 (Oct. 1871):194-200; 1693-1697: Vol. 3, No. 2 (Apr. 1872):91-94; 1697-1702: Vol. 3, No. 4 (Oct. 1872):192-195. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 1-3. Internet Archive has digitized Vols. 1-2 and Vol. 3 - free.
County Marriage Records
New York is one of the few states that does not have county marriage records dating back to the time when each county was formed. From 1908–1935, county clerks kept copies of marriages filed with the town clerks and also sent copies to Albany. Some counties, though, recorded marriages only to 1916 or 1926. The Family History Library has county marriage records on microfilm for all upstate counties except Albany, Dutchess, and Erie.
Town and State Marriage Records
Town and city clerks generally began registering marriages in 1881. Copies are sent to the state capital in Albany. Between 1847 and about 1850, before the state began registering vital statistics, some marriages were recorded by justices of the peace, and some were recorded by school districts. Some justice of the peace registers have been published in the periodicals Tree Talks and The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.
If you know where a marriage took place, you can write to the town, village, or city clerk to request a copy of the certificate or record. A microfiche index to marriages, 1881–1943, is available for public use at the New York State Archives. This index does not include New York City. The archives will search and abstract the index for a fee. If you do not know the exact place of marriage and are willing to wait six or seven months for a reply, you can get marriage records (including those from Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers, 1908 to the present) for a fee by writing to the State Department of Health.
There is a 75-year restriction on marriage information needed for genealogical purposes. The state fees and restrictions apply when obtaining records from the village, town, and city clerks. For more information, go to Genealogy Records & Research
The Family History Library has not filmed the city marriages of Albany, Buffalo, or Yonkers. Albany city marriages 1848 and 1870–1917 and county marriages 1908–1936 are available at:
Albany County Hall of Records
250 South Pearl Street
Albany, NY 12202
Albany city marriages, 1920 to the present, are also available at the Albany City Clerk's office (24 Eagle Street, Albany, NY 12207; Telephone: 518-434-5081). You can get Buffalo marriages 1837–1935 by writing to the Erie County Clerk's offices. Buffalo marriages 1935 to the present and Yonkers marriages 1900 to the present can be obtained from the respective city registrars of vital statistics.
Published Newspaper Notices of Marriages and Deaths
For New York City's five boroughs and some other counties, many newspaper notices of births, marriages, and deaths have been published. See New York Newspapers for a partial list. In the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog, these notices are listed under:
NEW YORK, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - NEWSPAPERS
NEW YORK, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - OBITUARIES
Check also under the state and county levels.
You will also find that many church marriage records have been published or have been microfilmed for the five boroughs. You can look for these in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under:
NEW YORK, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CHURCH RECORDS
- New York City Methodist Marriages, 1785–1893 contains a groom index and a bride index, each of which has about 41,000 names.
- 1801 - Stifel, Carolyn G. "Deaths from The Lady's Magazine and Musical Repository, New York, 1801," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 1801: Vol. 133, No. 4 (Oct. 2002):279-285; 1801: Vol. 139, No. 4 (Oct. 2008):275-280. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 133, 139.
- 1801-1803 - Stifel, Carolyn G. "Marriages from The Ladies' Monitor and The Weekly Visitor or Ladies' Miscellany, New York City, 1801-1803," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 140, No. 1 (Jan. 2009):55-62. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 140.
- 1802-1811 - Stifel, Carolyn G. "Deaths and Marriages from The Weekly Visitor Or, Ladies' Miscellany, New York," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 134, No. 2 (Apr. 2003):136-147; Vol. 134, No. 3 (Jul. 2003):198-206; Vol. 134, No. 4 (Oct. 2003):271-278; Vol. 135, No. 1 (Jan. 2004):56-67; Vol. 135, No. 2 (Apr. 2004):136-145; Vol. 135, No. 3 (Jul. 2004):212-219; Vol. 135, No. 4 (Oct. 2004):303-307; Vol. 136, No. 1 (Jan. 2005):30-32; Vol. 136, No. 2 (Apr. 2005):110-118; Vol. 136, No. 3 (Jul. 2005):215-221; Vol. 136, No. 4 (Oct. 2005):296-302; Vol. 140, No. 2 (Apr. 2009):127-130; Vol. 140, No. 3 (Jul. 2009):230-238; Vol. 140, No. 4 (Oct. 2009):295-307; Vol. 141, No. 1 (Jan. 2010):72-79. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 134-136, 140.
Before 1787, divorce was practically nonexistent in New York. Some petitions for divorce were made to the governor or legislature, but only a few were granted. Records of divorces granted by acts of the legislature consist both of the legislative act and petitions that were sent to the legislature. Acts of divorce are indexed in the index mentioned under the "Law and Legislation" page.
From 1787–1847, divorces were recorded in chancery court records. Chancery court divorces are at the state archives.
Since 1846, the supreme court has recorded divorce proceedings. Each county has a supreme court, roughly equivalent to a district court in other states. Some counties may share supreme court justices. Many people before 1966 found it easier to obtain a divorce out of state. Access to supreme court divorce records less than 100 years old is prohibited without judicial permission. You must obtain a court order to see a file. The actual trial records are sealed.
The Family History Library has microfilmed very few divorce judgments. For New York County, only the index to divorce records has been microfilmed in Index to Matrimonial Actions, 1784–1910 
The New York State Department of Health's Adoption Information Registry provides a method for adopted children and birth parents to share information and possibly have a reunion. The Web site provides links to the needed forms, explains how to register, and notes applicable restrictions. For instance, only an adoptee who was born and adopted in New York State can register.
- Children's Aid Society
- New York Foundling Hospital
- National Orphan Train Complex
- United States Adoption Research
These links will take you to wiki pages describing alternate sources for birth, marriage and death records.
Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information. These records may also reveal family relationships.
Census: Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine approximate time of death when the individual disappear from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices. Also check newspaper social columns for additional information.
Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
Military Records: Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information, In addition, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Some early Probate Indexes include death date of individual. (See Rockland County Surrogate Image on the right. The Death date of the individual is found in the column next to the Surname listed.) Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date.
History: Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the Family History Library catalog.
- Information listed on vital records is given by an informant. Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record. The closer the realtionship of the informant to the subject(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time to the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
- If you are unabale to locate vital records recorded by governments, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial. A family Bible may have been used to record birth, marriages and deaths.
- Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records. Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except a direct relative.
- Search for Vital Records in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for New York to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by that county.
Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:
- ↑ Fred Q. Bowman and Thomas J. Lynch, "1,100 Vital Records of Northeastern New York 1835-1850," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Surnames A-C: Vol. 118, No. 3 (Jul. 1987):135-142; Surnames C-H: Vol. 118, No. 4 (Oct. 1987):203-209; Surnames H-P: Vol. 119, No. 1 (Jan. 1988):35-43; Surnames P-T: Vol. 119, No. 2 (Apr. 1988):91-98; Surnames V-Z: Vol. 119, No. 3 (Jul. 1988):166-170. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 118-119. Indexes vital records published in Essex and Washington county newspapers.
- ↑ The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution, (Albany, NY: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1894), p. 19. Digital version at Google Books.
- ↑ The Historical Records Survey, Guide to Public Vital Records in New York State (Including New York City), (Albany, NY: Works Projects Administration, 1942), v. 1, pp. vii-viii.
- ↑ "New York's Vital Records Law of 1665," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 132, No. 3 (Jul. 2001):170. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 132.
- ↑ Roger D. Joslyn, "Town of Ramapo Births in 1847," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 132, No. 3 (Jul. 2001):168-170. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 132.
- ↑ Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in New York State (Including New York City), three Volumes. (Albany, New York: Historical Records Survey, 1942; (FHL Collection 974.7 V23h; film 928101]; fiche 6046676).
- ↑ New York State Library, URL: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/genealogy/vitrec.htm, Page location: NYSED / OCE / NYSL / Research Library / Collections / Genealogy / Vital Records. Last Updated: June 21, 2011.
- ↑ New York State Archives website, page location = Research: Topics: Genealogy: Vital Records, http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/research/res_topics_gen_vitalstats.shtml. Updated March 2011.
- ↑ New York Marriages Previous to 1784 (1860; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1984; (FHL Collection book 974.7 V28n 1968; film 514675 item 1 has the 1860 edition).
- ↑ Kenneth Scott's New York Marriage Bonds, 1753–1783 (New York, New York: St. Nicholas Society of the City of New York, 1972; not at Family History Library).
- ↑ Marriage Index: Selected Areas of New York, 1639–1916 ([Novato, California]: Brøderbund Software, 1996; Family History Library compact disc number 9 part 401 [does not circulate to Family History Centers]).
- ↑ WeRelate contributors, "Source:New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (New York Genealogical and Biographical Society)," in WeRelate, http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Source:New_York_Genealogical_and_Biographical_Record_%28New_York_Genealogical_and_Biographical_Society%29, accessed 17 February 2012.
- ↑ Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at http://www.arleneeakle.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/have-you-searched-and-searched-for-the-marriage-without-finding-it/ (accessed 8 January 2011).
- ↑ Fisher, William Scott, compiler. New York City Methodist Marriages, 1785–1893. Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1994. (FHL Collection book 974.71 K2fn vols. 1–2.)
- ↑ New York County (New York). County Clerk. Index to Matrimonial Actions, 1784–1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1977. (FHL Collection film 1017465–67).