Posts Tagged ‘vital records’

New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index Starting to Come Online

Early this morning I logged onto to look at something on the 1855 NYS Census, when I noticed that there were now 33 collections, instead of the normal 32, in the New York State collection of actual scans of microfilmed records and data bases.

Glancing down through the list I discovered the newest title, having just become available as of December 19th,
 ”New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957-1963″ -  Yippee!  It has started!

We have been hearing rumors that the NYS Health Department, Vital Records, Death Index was expected to be made available online in the future.  I have written about this in a previous blog post  and you will see three major articles that I have written about the NYS Vital Records at the top right hand side of my blog here at

1963 is the current 50 year limit that we must wait to look at the death record index.  So perhaps this is precursor to wonderful things to come.  Perhaps the 1957 to 1963 chunk is just a trial at LDS or just the first release of all of the remaining death record index listings back to about 1880.  Let’s hope so anyway.

After quickly looking for some immediate ancestors or family members that might have died during this short period of time, I could not find any, so I did a search on my surname HILLENBRAND and came up with one that I knew a little bit about. having worked on this line for some many years.  This is not my immediate family but is a second group that also lived in Syracuse and Onondaga County.

Here is a sample of what you can expect to find:

William L Hillenbrand, “New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957-1963″
Name:     William L Hillenbrand
Event Type:     Death
Event Date:     28 Oct 1962
Event Place:     Syracuse, Onondaga, New York
Gender:     Male
Age:     85
Birth Year (Estimated):     1877
Death Year:     1962
File Number:     75441


NYS Death Index Sample


Note that you will find a date and place of death, age and an estimated year of birth.  More importantly you will find the all important “File Number”.  This is what you will need when you apply for a copy of the actual death certificate from the Dept. of Health in Albany.  If you apply to a local jurisdiction, city or town clerk’s office, the File Number might not be of any help because I am told that it was assigned in Albany, but it will speed things up for you at state level.

As stated previously the NYS Vital Records Division of the NYS Health Department started a collection of official notifications of Births, Deaths and Marriages commencing in 1880.  As also reported, many of these are lacking in the early years for what ever reason, but generally speaking from about World War I onward there is a good chance that you will find a record on your Upstate New York Genealogy research in this huge microfiche collection.

You may look at the full collection on microfiche at several libraries and locations throughout the state.  See previous posts for a listing.  The above referenced digital collection is the very first time that I know of that any part of this massive VR Index has been put online and I give major kudos to all parties involved that made this happen.

Here is how you can search this online collection.
Go to click on: [Search].
Scroll down to the bottome of the screen and click on: [United States]
Scroll down on the left to: [New York].
Then scroll down to third up from the bottom,
New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957-1963

Note that this is a compiled data base taken from the microfiche and not copies of the actual fiche.

This fabulous news comes on the same day that sad news comes from my friend, F. Richard Barr who  just forwarded a blog post written by The Legal Genealogist, about the Closing of the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) until three years after the person’s demise.  This act was passed by Congress in the current Budget Bill and is expected to be signed into law by President O’Bama.  You can bet that there are people attempting to have this law extended to ALL of the SSDI at some time in the future.  Stay vigilant fellow genealogists.  We can not allow this to happen!

Enjoy the new online Vital Records Death Index.
Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy

Another Area in Upstate New York Now Has the NYS Vital Records Index

Binghamton in Broome County, NY now has the NYS Vital Records Microfiche Index. For those of you that reside in the Southern Tier of the state, you no longer have to drive to Albany, Syracuse, Rochester or New York City (the nearest locations that have the index), but just go to the Broome County Public Library in Binghamton to have access to the fiche set yourself.

There are some limitations on use of these index fiche as this department is staffed by volunteers and at this time, starting as of October 12th, they are only open on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 pm, and also on Tuesdays from 4 to 8pm. Each library in the state that has the index has their own rules as to how to use the fiche.

So for births, deaths and marriages that occurred in the Upstate New York regions commencing in 1880, you might find the name of the individual, the date of the event and the village, city or town that the event occurred in. Thanks to reader Esther Griffin for the heads up on this Broome County announcement.

Broome County Public Library
185 Court Street
Binghamton, NY 13901

Update: 10/14/10

This just in from:

Phyllis Ryan Rogan
Reference Librarian
Head, Genealogy Dept.
Steele Memorial Library

I would like your patrons to know that the Steele Memorial Library, [in Elmira,] Chemung County Library District also has the NYS Vital Records Index.

We are open M-T 9-9 F 9-5 Sat 9-5 and Sunday 1-5. [Phyllis Ryan Rogan]

To read a lot more about the NYS Vital Records Index please refer to our other previous posts on this subject:

1) – How to Obtain Copies of Vital Records for Genealogical Purposes in New York State
2) – New York State Vital Records Microfiche Indexes Update
3) – Vital Records Lookups, Update to the Update
[Please be sure to read all three articles]

If you hear any genealogy news in your neck of the woods, please let me know and I might be able to use it here on the UNYG Blog.

Dick Hillenbrand

Important Vital Records Bill in Assembly

This message was sent as a comment on the old version of the blogger blog that we no longer update.  It is important enough to genealogists that I thought we should make a blog post out of it here on the Upstae New York Genealogy Blog at

Thanks for letting us know Jim L.

If anyone has any more information on this subject we will publish it here on this blog.

There is a bill in the New York State Assembly,

BILL NO A02834
COSPNSR McKevitt, Bacalles

Amd S4174, Pub Health L

that relates to the cost of review and copying of vital records for genealogical purposes; reduces current cost by half; also provides that for applicants who show current membership in a genealogical society, such applicants may review vital records at no charge; also provides that all copies of files and records secured under this subdivision shall be stamped, “For Genealogical Purposes Only”

Use this link for more details and to follow the bills progress.

Jim L.

Vital Records Lookups, Update to the Update

This morning the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL) sent a request that I post some additional information regarding their offer to do Free Lookups.

“OCPL will do limited lookups – a 5-year span on births, deaths and marriages. Questions are answered in order and often may take several days. Please be aware that many fiche are difficult to read, and while staff tries to be as accurate as possible any information stated is as it appears.

The index begins in 1880 and while NY State passed a law that year requiring the filing of these records, they still weren’t uniformly or consistently filed until well into the 1900′s. For more information about the index and what it covers:

Read the first article in this series by going to this link:  How to obtain copies of Vital Records for Genealogical Purposes in Upstate New York.

Read the second article in this series by going to this link:  New York State Vital Records Microfiche Indexes Update

Visit our main website at

StumbleUpon My StumbleUpon Page

New York State Vital Records Microfiche Indexes Update

Update to New York State Vital Records Microfiche Indexes. — Free Look Ups!

The recent posting that we put up on this Blog, “How to Obtain Copies of Vital Records for Genealogical Purposes in New York State,” has created quite a buzz. Now we have some very good news for you distant researchers!

The Local History/Genealogy Department of the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL) in Syracuse has one of the eight sets of the microfiche indexes to Births, Deaths and Marriages, that cover the largest part of Upstate New York.

Librarian, Holly Sammons, at OCPL has made the offer to do the actual look-ups for distant patrons. This is just one of the marvelous services that this most excellent facility has to offer.

That is just about the best news ever for people that live in areas that do not have a set of these Vital Records microfiche available. My personal thoughts are that patrons should respect this extremely generous offer and to not inundate the staff all at once with requests.

Holly said that they will be happy to chat with patrons by telephone, through email or will even take requests by U.S. Mail. You should check out their excellent website also which gives additional information about their collections and services.

Holly Sammons, Librarian
Onondaga County Public Library
Local History/Genealogy
447 So Salina St.
Syracuse, NY 13202

OCPL website:

OCPL email address:

Holly just sent this additional information just before I posted this Blog, so please heed the following instructions: “Just one caveat, we can’t do open ended searches like – my great grandmother died sometime after 1900 can you find her death! Some parameters are good and necessary. We used to do a limit of a 5-year search, just to keep things from getting out of hand. There’s a fine line between a look up and doing in-depth research!”

Read our previous post about how to obtain vital records certificate copies for genealogy HERE:

Researchers might want to check with the other libraries and holders of this collection around the state to see if they offer the same service.

Thank you OCPL, from Upstate New York Genealogy Blog.

Visit our main website at

Read the original message on this subject here: “How to Obtain Copies of Vital Records.”

Read the third message on this subject here: “Update to the Update to How to Obtain Copies of Vital Records.”

StumbleUpon My StumbleUpon Page

More Assumption Church Marriage Records – Germans – Irish – French of Upstate New York

Dick Barr has done it again. He extracted about 800 marriages from the Catholic Assumption Church Records in Syracuse, and they have been published by CNYGS in their Journal “Tree Talks.”

The following is an announcement from CNYGS.

Church of the Assumption marriages celebrated between 1844 and 1864 are also now fully indexed in the December, 2007 issue of the Central New York Genealogical Society’s journal, “Tree Talks” (72 pages, nearly 800 marriages, primarily of Germans, but including some Irish and French marriages from Syracuse and the surrounding area as well).

The typical entry in this index contains the date of the marriage at Assumption Church, the names of the bride and groom, the parents, the witnesses and the officiating priest, but often also includes ages and residency or place of origin.

Original spellings and diacritical marks have been meticulously transcribed by Mr. F. Richard Barr.

Send a $15.00 check or money order payable to the Central New York Genealogical Society to: CNYGS – Publications, P.O. Box 104, Colvin Station, Syracuse, NY 13205.”

Remember that not all of these people were from Syracuse and Onondaga county. Assumption being one of the most prominent early Catholic churches attracted people from Oswego and other surrounding counties.

Visit our main website at

StumbleUpon My StumbleUpon Page

How to obtain copies of Vital Records for Genealogical Purposes in Upstate New York.

The New York State Department of Health, Office of Vital Records, at the state capital in the City of Albany, NY, is the official repository for the original certificates that were issued for Births, Deaths and Marriages for almost all of Upstate New York locations, (other than the cities of Albany, Yonkers and Buffalo prior to 1914.) The filing of certificates was required by law commencing in 1881.

Albany is one of those locations in the state that can mean a City, a Town or a County. For purposes here, when mentioned, it shall mean the City of Albany unless described differently.

The information written here does NOT cover the major metropolitan New York City areas, for obvious reasons.

There are a great many certificates lacking in the earlier years, as individuals and doctors, just did not comply with the law. It will be observed that a more complete listing starts about the time of World War I.

When a vital record certificate was issued it first was recorded at the local level in the appropriate Village Clerk, Town Clerk or City Clerk’s journal books, before the actual document was forwarded to the Department of Health in Albany.

You may purchase a transcription of the partial information that is in the local journals from that particular village, town or city clerk. As it apparently is now you will receive a pre-printed form of the basic facts that a clerk excerpts out of the record books. The clerks do not allow patrons to see the books directly or to handle them personally. There are some cases where the clerk transcribed the document for a waiting patron and the person could actually read the item in the journal though it was upside down on the counter.

This might be good enough for your purposes, and the transaction usually takes place rather quickly, sometimes immediately in person, and sometimes about two weeks through the mail. It varies from office to office and clerk to clerk. Keep in mind this method will give you a clerk’s transcript of information from the incomplete journal entry.

A more thorough method is to obtain a photocopy of the original actual vital records document itself. This you may do from the Department of Health in Albany. Now here is some advice that will smooth this procedure out for you and will certainly speed it up.

First you should locate the item of interest on the microfiche index. The indexes are made from typewritten sheets by category and year and alpha grouped by surnames. Use care when searching as the state clerk typist that created the index did not always spell properly, or the handwriting might have been unclear on the document, or for what ever reason, if you do not find what you want immediately in the index; try it again using variant spellings. There are many entries of births wherein the child had not yet been named when the certificate was filed. In that situation it is usually just “male or female,” date, location, and certificate number.

These typewritten sheets were then filmed and converted into a microfiche index set. Several years ago the vital records office made the decision to put a duplicate set of fiche indexes only, at the New York State Archives to be allowed to be accessed by the public with certain restrictions. You must provide a photo ID to use them, no copying of the fiche is allowed, no reproduction in any manner is allowed, and no computer databases are allowed to be made from the index.

What you are allowed to do, is to locate the name and item of interest, and write down the village, town or city the event occurred in, the date of the event, and a certificate number. That number only has relevance to the collection of records in Albany at the Dept. of Health. If you were going to apply locally to the village, town or city clerk then the number would not have any meaning to them, only the name and date would. The location of the event may at times appear rather cryptic, as the indexer used their own method of abbreviation for villages, towns and cities in some cases. There is no key to these abbreviations that I am aware of, but using some common gazetteers and maps you should be able to figure it out.

Well thanks to the lobbying of many friends to genealogists everywhere, a few years ago the state put a duplicate set of microfiche indexes at the Rundel Library in Rochester, NY. This was soon followed by putting another set in New York City, and for the sake of convenience and good control, the National Archives Branch in Manhattan agreed to house them. What has followed since is that the microfiche index set is now available throughout the state in several prime localities and the regions are quite well spread out.

Our friend, Cliff Lamere, has been working on compiling specific details as to the whereabouts of these indexes and has made many telephone calls directly to the NYS Archives, the NYS Health Department, and the actual Libraries and facilities that now house the index collections. Cliff reported on one of the newsgroup mail lists recently that the people in charge at the state offices were not able to tell him where more than five of the sets were. I had heard of a couple of locations and told him, and he followed through as Cliff always does, and confirmed the complete list, or as we now believe is the complete list of eight locations.

The rules for public access to the vital records indexes are as follows; you are only allowed to look at the indexes for births that occurred seventy five or more years ago. Marriages and deaths must have occurred fifty years or more ago.

The Microfiche Indexes that are available now are as follows;
Births (1881-1933), Marriages (1881-1958), and Deaths (1880-1958).
In addition to the birth and marriage time restrictions, you must be able to show that all parties are known to be deceased in order to purchase a non-certified copy of the original document. In the case of marriages the bride and groom will both be indexed separately.

Complete sets of the vital records microfiche indexes that are available to the public are presently at the locations listed below. You will still need a photo ID and it would be prudent to listen carefully to the instructions.

1) The New York State Archives, Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY
12230. Location: 11th Floor, Madison Ave. at the Empire State Plaza.

2) The National Archives, Northeast Region Branch, 201 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014. (Note: Since September 11, 2001 there is now a very high level of security screening of all persons entering this facility. Be aware of this and do not take anything with you that might even slightly resemble a dangerous instrument.)

3) The Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. Located in the Rundel Memorial Library Building at 115 South Avenue, Rochester, NY 14604.

4) The Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL) at the Galleries of Syracuse, 447 S. Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202-2494. Located on the fifth floor, Local History/Genealogy Department.

5) The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square. Buffalo, NY 14203.

6) The Steele Memorial Library, 101 East Church Street, Elmira, NY 14901.

7) The Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, 229 Washington Street,
Watertown, NY 13601.

8) The Crandall Public Library, 251 Glen St, Glens Falls, NY 12801.
Important note: “Temporarily,” until about December 2008, (during renovations) these indexes are located at the Southern Adirondack Library System Headquarters, 22 Whitney Place, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Phone: (518-584-7300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              518-584-7300      end_of_the_skype_highlighting x 226 Erica Burke). Viewing at this location is by appointment.)

The price for an excerpt out of a journal entry at the local level, or a photocopy of the original document at the state level is the same either way, $22.00.

To order a copy by mail or to have the state do the searching for you the address is,
New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Section
Genealogy Unit
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602

Before mailing to the Department of Health for a copy of the certificate you should be aware that the state suggests that there is about a five months backlog. It is noted that on several rootsweb newsgroups that the waiting period is now quite a lot longer than that.

Here is the official state website concerning vital records for Genealogical purposes. It would be a good thing for you to read carefully all of the pricing structure and rules and regulations. A pdf file of the application form is available for download at this website

There is one way to improve the turnaround in being able to obtain a photocopy of an original certificate. For some unknown reason the state has a little known “fast-track” (my term) method. If you hand carry the application, with the payment, and insert it into the drop box at the NYS Archives reference desk, then those applications take precedence and the wait is normally only from two to four weeks. Don’t ask why.

You are not allowed to mail your application to the Archives to have a staff person enter it into the drop box. They are not allowed to handle the money and do not want to be responsible “for security reasons,” as was reported directly to a recent inquirer.

There are professional genealogists and researchers that work in Albany every day and if you are not able to do any of this searching yourself, tell us about it, and we will try to find someone that would be willing to do the searches and expedite the process for you by entering the application and payment in the drop box..

Cliff Lamere’s website for Albany and Eastern New York Genealogy is very helpful. Thanks to Cliff for his thoughts and corrections also, regarding this Blog.

OK, for those of you that will ask about the New York City metro area anyway, please consider these suggestions. Read the detailed description by Roger D. Joslyn, FASG, in “Ancestry’s Red Book,” 3d ed. Read Estelle Guzik’s “Genealogical Research in New York,” and visit the website of the New York City Municipal Archives. To locate a researcher for NYC areas, go to the website of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) New York Metro Chapter .

One question that seems to always come up when discussing this matter is “Have the Mormons filmed these Indexes?” The answer is “NO”. They are not available anywhere other than as described above.

We really need your input on this subject. All questions and comments will be answered. Use the “comments” tab below.

If any locations have been missed where the fiche indexes are located, then we REALLY need your input. Errors, corrections or omissions, gratefully appreciated. Please do not send emails about this, only post them on the comments tab. We do want to hear your tales of woe, but more importantly, we surely want to hear about your successes!

There is no budget for marketing of this Blog. If you find the information helpful, please bookmark it, tell others, talk it up on mail lists, and visit our “UNYG Affiliates” tab on our main website at Upstate New York Genealogy .
Thank you so much.


Read the Update on this story here: “Update to How to Obtain Copies of Vital Records.”

Read the third message on this subject here:
“Update to the Update to How to Obtain Copies of Vital Records.”


Subscribe via RSS
Follow Me On Twitter
Donations Greatly Appreciated:
Pay on WePay
MyHeritage Top 100 Websites
Top genealogy site awards