Images of the New York State death index, 1880-1956, are now online

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 12:15pm

The genealogy community received great news from Reclaim the Records this morning – they have obtained images of the New York State death index from 1880–1956. This is a huge breakthrough for New York genealogy researchers because finding a death certificate is one of the first things you should do whether you're beginning research or trying to break through a brick wall. 

Images for this crucial index are now available in the NYG&B eLibrary. To learn more about finding New York death certificates, make sure to read our Guide to Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - you will be surprised that your ancestor's death certificate might not be where you think it is, but our guide will clarify everything, including how to use the indexes, and how to order certificates once you find your ancestor in the index.  

A sample image from the year 1891

What is the New York State Death Index and why is it important?

If your ancestor was born anywhere in New York State outside of New York City, their death certificate is most likely held by the New York State Department of Health. There are a few notable exceptions, which are outlined in our Guide to Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records.

If your ancestor's death certificate is on file with the State Department of Health, you'll need to contact them to order the complete certificate - images of the death certificates themselves are not available online, but fortunately, there is now a convenient index to all death certificates between 1881 and 1956.

Why is this a breakthrough? The best way to get the exact certificate you're looking for is to locate your ancestor in the index and write down the exact certificate number. That will make retrieving the correct copy much easier. 

For years, many of us researching New York ancestors have long struggled with access to the New York State Death Index, because it wasn't available online - only a handful of repositories in New York State hold microfiche copies, so the lack of online access was detrimental to the many researchers unable to access this material in person.

Before this news, the only years of the index that were online were 1957-1968.

These new, high-resolution greyscale images have been scanned from the original vault copies by the Department of Health and are available for NYG&B members to browse in our eLibrary.



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Tips for Browsing

Researchers should keep in mind a few facts about New York State vital records to fully understand what is and isn’t available in this index:

New York City deaths

This index does not primarily include New York City deaths. However, you will be able to find death records before 1898 for boroughs that weren’t part of New York City until that time. See our New York State Vital Records Guide for advice on obtaining death records for New York City.

Albany, Buffalo and, Yonkers deaths prior to 1914

Death records for Albany, Buffalo and Yonkers are not included for years before 1914. These records were stored locally from 1880 to 1914. See our New York State Vital Records Guide to see how to obtain records from those municipalities during this time period. 

Click here to view the records in our eLibrary. 


More about New York death certificates and vital records  

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Looking for native American family relatives who have passed.
"Death records for Albany, Buffalo and Yonkers are not included for years before 1914." Actually some Buffalo deaths ARE included in this collection, the location being abbreviated as Buf. I've also come across one death that took place in New Jersey and one in Canada. So far I've only looked at 1880, 1881, and part of 1882.
Great hopes but all the years I looked at, the imaging was so faded as to be unreadable.
And the New York City Marriage index images:
i have hit a brick wall with my 2g grandfather....john k dean...born in tompkins county in 3/1826 and died in bellona, yates county in 8/1907...i cant find any record that for certain identifies johns father......most common sources apparently dont death record, no birth record, obit lists his children but not his parents, no church records that i can find.....cemetery records dont mention parents etc. etc....any suggestions would be greatly appreciated...thanks
So far, many images are unreadable. Are these going to be fixed??
There is a mystery person in our family cemetery plot. Because I have her dates, I have been able to find her in the NY Death Records, but is there a way to link the people in the death records to other records (i.e. death cert, marriage records, census, etc.)? I already have her name and dates, but I am looking to find out more about who she was - husbands, parents, childrens names, or birth location, for example, Thanks for any tips you can share.
Dear Sir/Madame, I live in Wales in the UK my ancestor left the Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire England in 1848 I can not find his marriage his name was Benjamin Badham and married Mary Tomlins possibly in New York they had a son called Benson they went to live in Dutchess County then Rock Island Illinois, I would appreciate if you could help on this matter. Yours Sincerely Jonathan Badham
i am looking for an ancestor of mine by the name of Edna Ward Capps. Her dad was Washington Lee Capps and her mother was Edna Ward. Washington Lee Capps was a rear admiral in US Navy. I am looking for deeper answers about how both wife and daughter apparently died and and buried in New York in 1948. I am hoping death certificate will indicate the cause and their home state and who was the informat.
Would be nice to include a link to the cause of death codes and location codes.
I am looking for the death date of Philippina Rausch Hartman(n), wife of Louis Hartmann. She was my g grandmother and died in NYC during the early 1890s. He remarried shortly after her death. Any info would be appreciated.