Vital records are those relating to the major life events birth, marriage, and death. Official vital records are regulated at the state level, and availability for genealogical research varies tremendously from state to state. Vital record substitutes are those records which may give us similar information about birth, marriage, and death, but which are not official state records. These records not only give us information about the event itself, but often may provide information about other family members, particularly parents, children, and spouses.
New York State did not start maintaining vital records for birth, marriage, and death until 1880. Even then, compliance was slow until as late as 1913, and early records may be incomplete.
New York State Vital Records.
New York State does not make its vital records available online. Indexes to these records are on microfiche at select area public libraries and must be consulted in person. The Rochester Public Library and Onondaga County Public Library (Central Library) are the nearest locations.
Recently, the New York State Death Index (1980-1955) was made available due to action by the Reclaim the Records project. Access to this online resource is selectively available through paywall sites such as Ancestry.com. Images of the index are freely available at the Internet Archive.
Vital records might also be available from city, town, or county clerks in New York State for a fee. Consult web sites for the city, town, and/or county of interest for additional details on holdings for genealogical research.
Vital records for New York City are held by the New York City Municipal Archives; copies may be ordered for a fee.
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