Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records

Introduction to NY Birth, Marriage, and Death Records

Official birth, marriage, and death records - also called "vital records" - are crucial genealogical resources that every researcher should seek.  

Vital records can provide addresses, dates, relationships, and other essential details about your ancestors - these are deep and rich sources. Many states in the U.S. have well-organized and complete collections of vital records - but not New York! 

For many reasons, finding vital records in New York State can be confusing and challenging. The purpose of this guide is to help clarify:

  • Where to look for vital records, depending on time and place of the event
  • How to find the vital record certificate number 
  • How to locate or request a copy of the vital record

 

What all researchers need to know about New York birth, marriage, and death records

There are a couple of crucial facts all researchers should know about locating vital records in New York State.

New York State did not require local governments to report births, marriages, and deaths until 1880. The history of New York State record keeping is complex and convoluted, but for the most part, New York State did not force local governments to track birth, marriage, and death events until the 1880s - even after, many smaller municipalities were not stellar in their compliance. Therefore, if you're looking for a birth, marriage, or death record prior to 1880, you should check with local records offices first, but you may need to ultimately seek a vital record substitute

Where you look for a vital record will change depending on the year and location of the event you're investigating. New York vital records are not all stored in the same location or by the same authority. Researchers will need to investigate sets of vital records in state capitol Albany, New York City, or other local municipalities depending on the time period. There are separate also indexes to many of these different collections. 

This guide includes the following sections:

For an even more comprehensive overview of New York State vital records, see the NYG&B Guide to Birth, Marriage & Death Records available in print in our online store.


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New York City Vital Records

Finding a New York City birth, marriage, or death record can be complicated due to the different territorial and record keeping histories of each of the 5 boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn (often referred to as Kings County), Manhattan (often referred to as New York County), Queens, and Staten Island (often referred to as Richmond County).

The New York City Municipal Archives (operated by the Department of Records and Information Services, or DORIS) houses the largest collection of birth, marriage, and death records for New York City, but other collections do exist elsewhere. 

 

Early New York City vital records

Where to look and what methods to use can vary depending on the county or borough you're looking in, as well as the exact year.   

If you're looking for a birth, marriage, or death certificate from the early 1800s or before, a good place to start is Harry Macy's detailed New York Knowledge Base guide to New York City vital records.

This guide provides comprehensive information on locating vital records in New Netherland, Colonial New York, and in the five boroughs of New York City before and even since unification. His suggested repositories and record sets also include many vital record substitutes for periods and locations when official city copies are unavailable. 

The following resources also contain detailed information on vital records in each of the boroughs of New York City, particularly when looking for records in the early 1800s and before: 

 

New York City Municipal Archives: The largest collection of NYC vital records

In general, researchers can find vital records from the following time periods at the Municipal Archives:

  • Birth certificates: 1847 - 1909 (all boroughs)
  • Marriage records: 1847 - 1949 (all boroughs, but beginning earlier for Manhattan)
  • Death certificates: 1847 -  1948 (all boroughs, but beginning earlier for Manhattan)

A more detailed listing of availability can be found in the Municipal Archives List of Holdings on the DORIS website.

Note that coverage dates don't necessarily apply to all pre-consolidation municipalities (towns or cities located in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens & Staten Island that weren't part of New York City until 1898). For significantly greater detail by town and village pre-consolidation, see the New York City Municipal Archives: An Authorized Guide for Family Historians

To retrieve a copy of a certificate, the most important piece of information a researcher should have is the certificate number. Certificate numbers can be found by locating the name of the individual in a vital records index. 

A number of indexes to New York City's birth, marriage, and death records are available online including:

NYG&B members may wish to watch the recorded webinar NYC MUNI Vital Indexes from August 2016.

Once the certificate number has been found, there are a number of ways to obtain a birth, marriage, or death certificate. It is easy to order a New York City birth, marriage, or death certificate online - Staff at the Municipal Archives will search through their holdings based on the information supplied (certificate numbers are not officially required, but we recommend providing one to ensure the right record is retrieved), and send what they're able to locate. 

Of course, researchers can head down to the Municipal Archives in person to locate the vital certificate themselves. NYG&B members can also use our records retrieval service, and for a small fee, we will send someone down to the Archives to obtain the certificate for you. 

 

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: More Recent Birth and Death Certificates

More recent collections of birth and death certificates in New York City are maintained by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). 

After a certain period of time, these records are transferred from DOHMH to the DORIS and stored at the Municipal Archives, where they can be accessed by any member of the public.

Currently, records are transferred to DORIS and made fully public on the following schedule:

  • Birth Certificates: 125 years after the event
  • Death Certificates: 75 years after the event

Researchers should note that this is a new rule that passed relatively recently, and is set to take effect in 2019 - if you’re interested, read more about our efforts to fight against it, and how we were able to secure an amendment to the rule.

Vital certificates that are still at the Department of Health can be accessed, but not by everyone.

Individuals with one of the following relationships to the subject of the certificate can obtain copies of birth records from DOHMH (with proof of death):

  • Spouse/domestic partner
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Sibling
  • Niece/nephew
  • Aunt/uncle
  • Grandchild/great-grandchild
  • Grandniece/grandnephew

Individuals with one of the following relationships to the subject of the certificate can obtain copies of death records from DOHMH:

  • Spouse/domestic partner
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Sibling
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild, great-grandchild, or great-great-grandchild
  • Nephew/niece
  • Aunt/uncle
  • Grandnephew/grandniece

While you may be able to order a certificate online with DOHMH, researchers may want to make the request in person to avoid any complications due to the rollout of these new rules.

We recommend visiting the following pages, which contain FAQs and useful links related to vital certificates from DOHMH:

 

 


 

New York State Vital Records

New York State has created indexes to births, marriages, and deaths occurring after 1880 for locations outside of New York City.

State coverage for Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers does not begin until 1914. If you're seeking a birth, marriage, or death record for an ancestor in one of those locations before 1914, click the name of each municipality for tips on finding records before 1914. 

Researchers with ancestors anywhere else in New York State can get their ancestor's vital record in two steps: 

  • Locate the certificate number in a New York State vital records index
  • Use the certificate number found in the index to request the record

These records are only available to the public after a certain period of time, which varies depending on the record and the researcher's relation to the person of interest. Read on for a general overview of each type of record and where to find the indexes you need to get started. 

For an even more in-depth and comprehensive guide to vital records, see our print Guide to NY Birth, Marriage, and Death Records.

 

New York State Birth Certificates

Those seeking New York birth certificates should begin with State's index to all birth certificates from 1881. Birth indexes are made available after 75 years, but not all indexes are entirely up to date, and may only go up to the mid-1930s. Another limitation to keep in mind is that not all births were reported in the earlier years of the index - compliance grew over time, and before 1913 was often incomplete in many areas.

The vital records chapter of our New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer goes into detail on when compliance started in every area of New York State, and how researchers should handle research in all areas and time periods. 

Fortunately, the New York State Birth Index from 1880 - 1942 was recently added as a searchable database on Ancestry.com. Prior to August 2018, New York researchers had to access the index to New York State births on microfiche at one of the following eleven repositories in New York:

  1. New York State Archives, Albany, Albany County
  2. Broome County Public Library, Binghamton, Broome County
  3. Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, Erie County
  4. Steele Memorial Library, Elmira, Chemung County
  5. Crandall Public Library, Glens Falls, Warren County
  6. National Archives—Northeast Region, New York, New York County (Manhattan)
  7. Patchogue-Medford Library, Patchogue, Suffolk County
  8. Rochester Public Library, Rochester, Monroe County
  9. Onondaga County Public Library, Syracuse, Onondaga County
  10. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown, Jefferson County
  11. Utica Public Library, Utica, Oneida County

These repositories still have this index, but for most it will be far easier to access online. Click here to search the index on Ancestry.com

Again, these indexes do not cover several notable locations. New York City birth certificates have always been kept completely separate from vital records of other locations in New York State. See the New York City section of this guide for more information.

Additionally, New York State does not have birth records for Albany, Buffalo, or Yonkers before 1914. Click the name of each municipality to find out about obtaining vital records for your ancestors in these cities. 

Once you have found the birth certificate number, you're ready to request a copy.

 

New York State Marriage Records

Researchers should begin by locating a copy of New York State's index to all marriage records from 1881. Marriage indexes are made available after 50 years, but keep in mind that an index in a given repository might not be fully up to date - many go only as late as the early 1960s. As with other vital records, compliance increased as time went on, and records between 1881 and 1913 may be incomplete. 

Unfortunately, there is no online version of the New York State marriage index - researchers will need to access it on microfiche at the eleven repositories listed above

In some cases, marriage records can be located at the county level. For detailed information on marriage and other records available in each county, see our New York State County Guides for Genealogists for your county of interest. 

Findmypast also has a growing collection of county marriage records for New York State - this includes a searchable index of brides and grooms, along with images of marriage records in many cases. NYG&B members can access these records for free as a benefit of membership. See the New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer for a list of the exact years and counties covered in this collection, as well as other online marriage collections. 

Again, these indexes do not cover several notable locations. New York City marriage records have always been kept completely separate from vital records of other locations in New York State. See the New York City section of this guide for more information.

Additionally, New York State does not have marriage records for Albany, Buffalo, or Yonkers before 1914. Click the name of each municipality to find out about obtaining vital records for your ancestors in these cities. 

Once you have found the marriage certificate number, you're ready to request a copy.

 

New York State Death Certificates

To find a death certificate, researchers should begin by searching New York State's index to all deaths beginning in 1880. Death indexes are made available after 50 years. 

Fortunately, one can access the New York State Death Index for years between 1880 - 1956 online. The NYG&B eLibrary contains images of the New York State Death Index, and images can also be found at Internet Archive.

The images in these collections are not searchable, but they are easy to browse by year, though the image quality of some years makes it difficult to read certain images. 

Ancestry.com has a searchable database that also contains the same images as the collections above. 

For more recent deaths, researchers should use New York State's Interactive Ancestry/Genealogical Research Death Index, which begins with 1957 and contains deaths up to the current legal limit (1968 as of 2018). 

Again, these indexes do not cover several notable locations. New York City death records have always been kept completely separate from vital records of other locations in New York State. See the New York City section of this guide for more information.

Additionally, New York State does not have death records for Albany, Buffalo, or Yonkers before 1914. Click the name of each municipality to find out about obtaining vital records for your ancestors in these cities. 

Once you have found the death certificate number, you're ready to request a copy.


 

How to Request New York State Vital Record Certificates

Once you have retrieved information about the record you are seeking, you can obtain a copy of the vital record certificate by contacting either:

  • The New York State Department of Health 
  • The local registrar or municipal clerk

What's the difference?

  • Requests to the New York State Department of Health can take at least eight months to process, but you will receive the official state record. 
  • Requests through a local registrar or municipal clerk are often answered sooner, but may not have all the information found on the state record.

 

Ordering a certificate from the New York State Department of Health

The New York State Department of Health will provide uncertified copies (for genealogical research) in the following instances:

  • Birth certificates can be requested after 75 years if the person whose name is on the birth certificate is known to be deceased.

  • Death certificates can be requested after 50 years.

  • Marriage certificates can be requested after 50 years if both spouses are known to be deceased.

If you are a direct-line descendent (child, grandchild, great-grandchild, etc), then these time periods are waived, but all researchers will need to provide:

  • Proof of their relationship to the person whose record they are requesting.

  • Proof of the death of the person whose birth certificate they are requesting.

  • Proof of the death of both spouses whose marriage certificate they are requesting.

Requests can take eight months or longer to complete. 

The fee for a genealogy copy is $22.00, which includes a copy of the certificate and a three-year search of the index. Additional fees apply to search more years of the index - see the Department of Health's website for the full list of prices. 

To submit your request, fill out the online form and send a completed copy by mail to: 

New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Section
Genealogy Unit
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602

 

Don't want to wait 8 months? Contact the Local Registrar or Municipal Clerk

If you don't want to wait over 8 months for your certificate, you should try requesting a copy from the local registrar or municipal clerk in the location the event occured. Exact instructions will vary, but getting in touch with the local office is the best first step. 

The NYG&B has an collection of online genealogy guides to New York State counties in our New York Knowledge Base - these guides contain contact information and web links to local registrars, clerks, historical societies and more.

We also have a series of printed county guides that go into even more detail than our online guides - these guides will tell you exactly what records are available in every single repository in the county, along with the years covered. Contact information is also included. 

 


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Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers Vital Records Before 1914

The New York State Department of Health, located in Albany, is the agency that maintains certificates for births, marriages, and deaths that occur outside of New York City. However, some of New York States most significant cities maintained their own collections of vital records before 1914.  

 

Albany Vital Records

The New York State Department of Health does not hold records for births, marriages, and deaths before January 1, 1914.

Birth and death records (before January 1, 1914) for Albany can be obtained by contacting the Local Registrar:

Local Registrar
City of Albany
Room 254M
City Hall
Albany, NY 12207

Marriage records (before January 1, 1914) for Albany can be obtained by contacting the City Clerk:

City Clerk
City of Albany
Room 202
City Hall
Albany, NY 12207

Our print Albany County Guide for Genealogists contains more detailed information on these records and all other records found at the local and count level for Albany. 

 

Buffalo Vital Records

The New York State Department of Health does not hold records for births, marriages, and deaths before January 1, 1914.

Birth and death records (before January 1, 1914) for Buffalo can be obtained by contacting the Local Registrar:

Local Registrar
City of Buffalo
Room 1308
65 Niagara Square
Buffalo, NY 14202

Marriage records (before January 1, 1914) for Buffalo can be obtained by contacting the City Clerk:

City Clerk
City of Buffalo
Room 1308
65 Niagara Square
Buffalo, NY 14202

Our print Erie County Guide for Genealogists contains additional information on these records and all other Buffalo records located in Erie county. 

 

Yonkers Vital Records

The New York State Department of Health does not hold records for births, marriages, and deaths before January 1, 1914.

Birth and death records (before January 1, 1914) for Yonkers can be obtained by contacting the Local Registrar:

City Clerk
City of Yonkers
Room 107
City Hall
Yonkers, NY 10701

Marriage records (before January 1, 1914) for Yonkers can be obtained by contacting the City Clerk:

City Clerk
City of Yonkers
Room 107
City Hall
Yonkers, NY 10701

Our print Westchester County Guide for Genealogists contains more detailed information on these records and all other Yonkers records located in Westchester. 


 

Recent Records

For Vital Records that were produced after the dates provided by the New York State Vital Records Index or the New York Municipal Archives, contact the Board of Health or the City Clerk’s (City Registrar’s) Office of the city in which the event took place.

Due to privacy restrictions, inquiries may need to be accompanied by identification and proof of relationship to the individual(s) in question.