Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records

Birth, marriage, and death records offer important clues to anyone researching their family history. These vital records can provide dates, relationships, and other essential details to your research.

 

What you need to know about NYS vital records

There are several important facts all researchers should know about locating vital records in New York State.

The State of New York did not require local governments to report births, marriages, and deaths until 1880 legislation. 

Therefore, while information relating to births, marriages, and deaths before 1880 might be found at the local level - these events were often not recorded.

Religious records and other private materials often provide evidence of a birth, marriage, or death and are thus key substitutes for tracing New York vital records.

The NYG&B's eLibrary contains religious records from across the state of New York, which document births, marriages, and deaths before 1881. Read our blog about using religious records as vital record substitutes for more information.

A few notable exceptions exist for accessing vital records in Albany, Buffalo, New York City (and its five boroughs), and Yonkers.

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.


 

Finding New York Vital Records After 1880

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 researchers should note that not all indexes will be entirely up to date, and may only go up to the mid-1930s. It is also important to note 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. 

Unfortunately, the birth index does not yet exist online but may be available digitally very soon.  For the moment, New York researchers will need to access the index to New York State births on microfiche at one of the following ten 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

If you are unable to visit one of the repositories above, the NYG&B's research services can conduct a search of the New York State Vital Records Index for you. 

Again, these indexes do not cover several notable locations. New York City birth certificated have always been kept completely separate from vital records of other locations in New York State. Jump to the New York City birth certificate 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 it's important to note 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 same 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. Jump to the New York City marriage certificate 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. Researchers should note that 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. Jump to the New York City death certificate 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. 

 


 

Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers Vital Records Before 1914

 

Albany Vital Records

Researchers should note that 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. 


 

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 houses the largest collection of birth, marriage, and death records for New York City, but researchers need to be aware of other collections elsewhere. 

A good place to start is noted expert 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 since unification. His suggested repositories and record sets includes many vital record substitutes for periods and locations when official city copies are unavailable. 

New York City was originally only Manhattan Island and certain areas of the Bronx - it wasn't until the City's consolidation in 1898 that all five boroughs officially became part of New York City. Harry Macy's New York Knowledge Base article Before the Five-borough City provides an excellent overview of the New York metro-area geographic landscape prior to 1898. Where to look and what methods to use can vary depending on the county or borough you're looking in. For instance, records for these Queens and Staten Island (but not Brooklyn) between 1881 and 1897 may be accessed through the New York State Department of Health

Researchers should refer to any of the following resources for essential details 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 the following vital records 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)

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

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

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


 

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.