New York City Birth, Marriage and Death Records
by Warren Blatt
This InfoFile discusses birth, marriage and death records for New York City, and how they can be accessed on microfilm. The LDS Family History Library has microfilmed approximately 6,000 microfilm reels of New York City birth, marriage and death certificates and indexes. These microfilms may be borrowed through any LDS Family History Center.
The indexes are organized in various types of arrangements over the years.
For 1881-1909, the indexes are arranged by soundex code, using the soundex system similar to that used by the U.S. National Archives for census records -- with the exception that names beginning with the letter "I" are listed with "E", "K" with "C", "V" with "W", "Y" with "J", and "Z" with "S". Within each soundex code, the births are listed chronologically. The birth indexes for this period contain the soundex code, name, date of birth, borough code and certificate number. Two or three years are indexed together, e.g. 1898-1900, 1901-03, 1904-05, etc.
From 1910 forward, the birth indexes are arranged alphabetically by name. Each borough is indexed separately, one volume per year. These indexes contain the child's name, date of birth, and certificate number.
The marriages are indexed by the grooms' name. There is also a separate series of "Bride's Index Cards" for each borough. The marriage indexes for Manhattan and Brooklyn prior to 1910 can be difficult to use, because each month and borough is indexed separately. If you know only the year of a marriage, you might have to search 24 indexes (2 boroughs x 12 months)! The indexes list the groom's name, date of marriage, and certificate number.
Beginning in 1910, Manhattan and Brooklyn marriage indexes are arranged in a strict alphabetical sequence, one index per borough per year. The other 3 boroughs are also arranged this way, beginning in 1898.
For each borough, there is also a set of "Bride's Index Cards". These handwritten 3x5 cards are arranged alphabetically by the bride's name, one sequence for each year. Each card contains ten entries, one per line. Each entry contains the bride's name, the date of marriage and certificate number.
See more notes on marriage records below.
Only Manhattan is covered for 1888 to 1894, with a separate index for each month. For 1895-1897, there are alphabetical annual indexes for Brooklyn. After 1898, all five boroughs are included. Each borough is indexed in a separate annual volume. For 1898 to 1909, Manhattan and Brooklyn have an index for each month, and the other three boroughs each have one sequence for the entire year. After 1910, there is one annual index for each borough.
NOTE: All of the indexes are for events reported in the given year. Some events which happened at the end of a year were written up in the registers for the following year. Therefore, when looking for an event, be sure to check the following year also.
Once you've found an index entry for an event of interest, write down the date, borough and certificate number. Many of the certificates are available on microfilm through the LDS Family History Library:
To find the correct ordering number of the microfilm which contains the actual certificate, look in the LDS Family History Library Catalog (FHLC), in the Locality section under the heading "NEW YORK, [County] - VITAL RECORDS". The county names for the five boroughs of New York City are:
Once you locate the FHLC entry for the correct borough and event type (birth, marriage or death), you will see many microfilms listed for each year. Within each year the certificates are arranged numerically by certificate number. Determine which microfilm contains the certificate number you are interested in, and order that microfilm to view the actual document.
The Family History Library has the vital records certificates only up until the above dates (births until 1909, and deaths until 1948). Certificates for later years must be ordered from the New York City Municipal Archives:
New York City Municipal Archives
The Municipal Archives has birth records for 1857-1909, Marriage records for 1866-1937, and death records thru 1948. Certificates are $5.00 each, if the exact year is known, or $10 each, if a search must be done.
Later Birth and Death records (Births since 1910, Deaths since 1949) can be obtained from:
Division of Vital Records
Current prices are $15.00 per birth or death certificate from the Division of Vital Records.
New York City marriage records are quite complicated. From 1866 until 1937, the Department of Health kept marriage records. Beginning in 1908 until the present, the City Clerk's Office kept marriage license records. So there are two sets of marriage records in NYC for the period 1908-1937. The data in each record are similar but not always the same.
Health Department records: all of the Health Department's marriage records (up to 1937) are at the NYC Municipal Archives (see address above), and are available on microfilm via the LDS.
City Clerk's records: The City Clerk's marriage license records, 1908-1929, have only recently been microfilmed. They are available only at the NYC Municipal Archives (see address above). Records for 1930 to the present must be obtained from the City Clerk (see below). Note that the City Clerk's records often have better information than the Health Department's records, especially for second marriages.
Later marriage records (since 1930) can be obtained from:
City Clerk's Office
The fee is $15.00 per marriage record from the City Clerk's Office.
Here is the current list of LDS Family History Library microfilms of New York City vital records and indexes:
For more information about the above records, including a reel-by-reel breakdown of film contents, click on the individual links above, or consult the FHLC Locality catalog under the heading:
NEW YORK, [County] - VITAL RECORDS
For the city-wide indexes, see under
NEW YORK, NEW YORK (CITY) - VITAL RECORDS - INDEXES
Brooklyn was an independent city before the five boroughs of New York City were incorporated in 1898; for Brooklyn records before 1898, see under:
NEW YORK, KINGS, BROOKLYN - VITAL RECORDS
See the "Vital Records" section of the FHL's "New York Research Outline" at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/rg/guide/New_York18.asp for more information and links to FHL microfilm numbers.
New York State
Note that vital records for New York State (outside of New York City) are kept separately. The New York State Department of Health in Albany has records since 1880. The fee is $11.00 for an uncertified "genealogy copy". Write to:
Vital Records Section
There is a 50-year restriction on marriage and death records, and a 75-year restriction on birth records. For more information, see http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/vr/forms/genealogy.htm.
Some marriage records for New York State (outside New York City) are available through individual County Clerk’s offices, but the holdings vary by county. If the county has the record, it is likely to be much quicker to request it from the county than from the State.
An index to births 1881-1927, marriages 1881-1952, and deaths 1881-1952 in New York State (excluding New York City) is available on microfiche for public use at the New York State Archives in Albany, and also at the U.S. National Archives Northeast Region facility in Manhattan. These indexes do not cover New York City.
This InfoFile is an expanded version of an article in Mass-Pocha, Newsletter of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston, Volume II, Number 3 (Summer 1993); also from Resources for Jewish Genealogy in the Boston Area (Boston: JGSGB, 1996); and DOROT, JGS(NY), Volume XVIII, Number 1 (Fall 1995), page 6. See also Ancestry, Vol. XVI, No. 5 (Sept/Oct 1998), pages 32-33.
Copyright ©1993, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2012 by Warren Blatt. All Rights Reserved.