This death index covers , which is seventy-seven years! Here are some things to keep in mind:. We uploaded all these files, year by year, to the Internet Archive archive.
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Other websites, as well as individual researchers, are welcome to use, download, and even host the files on their own websites, and create transcription projects if they wish. The files are entirely in the public domain, free to use without any restrictions. You get the idea, just change the year at the end of the URL to any year between and The full text of our request is available below, and also available to follow on the MuckRock website :.
Laws ch. I would like to receive a copy of the New York State death index, from June or as early as such records are available through December 31, , inclusive. Please note that this request is for the basic index only, and not the actual death certificates. However, that microfiche is only accessible to researchers who are physically onsite at one of those locations.
That data is available for searches online and for download to a personal computer. The data is updated quarterly for the more recent years with a fifty year lag; e. This request is not being made for commercial purposes.
The requested documents will be scanned and uploaded to the Internet, and will be made freely available to the general public. It is anticipated that some non-profit genealogical groups may choose to transcribe the information in the death index, to turn it into a new text-searchable database. We would be happy to share any such database with the Department of Health. If possible, I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or via other media.
Please be advised that if any microfiche or microfilm copies need to be made, these will also require shipping fees to California. Please inform me of any potential charges in advance of fulfilling my request. Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires. Finally, on March 29, , they gave us a response to our request. And what they had to say was shocking.
New York Public Records
Yes, the Department of Health conceded that we had the legal right to a copy of the statewide death index under the New York Freedom of Information Law. They could find no reason to legally deny our request. So instead, they tried another way to dissuade us, by refusing to take the subsequent step in the state law, which was for the agency to estimate the actual costs of making those copies.
Otherwise, they said that they would close and cancel this FOIL request entirely. You can probably imagine what went through our head when we read their letter with these demands. Here, New York was claiming that there was an unknown number of microfiche sheets per year but that the number was somehow exactly the same for each of the seventy-six years. This was absurd, as of course the number of deaths in the state varied from year to year, and grew over time as the population increased, and sometimes had unusual spikes in the death rate as happened in the influenza pandemic.
For the state to simply make a flat fee for each of the seventy-six years in question, even if that fee had been reasonable, was breaking the law all on its own. They did not provide any copies of estimates from vendors, nor the names of vendors, nor published price lists, nor did they ever provide some after we pressed them for details. Thanks to a genealogist friend who happened to be in Albany and who took it upon herself to count up all the microfiche sheets of the death index at the library, we knew there were 1, microfiche sheets in total in the state death index, give or take the few sheets that had gone astray over the years.
And they never apologized for it, even after they dropped that part of the demand when our attorney called them out on their behavior. For reasons that defy explanation, when we filed a formal appeal of this FOIL request with the Department of Health on June 3, , the person to whom we appealed, who also worked for the Department, proceeded to deny our appeal.
At that point, we had a choice to make. We could take the next step and take the case to trial, suing the state of New York. We would probably win, but it would be expensive, and there was no guarantee that we would win back attorneys fees even if we did win all the records. In New York, the awarding of attorneys fees is left up to the discretion of the judge, and is a separate question from whether the records were wrongly being withheld. But we had another option. In all the months of fighting with the DOH for these records, our point person on the case had been their Records Access Officer, a woman whose name we will omit here but which can be easily determined from reading through our legal paperwork, which are all a matter of public record and all online.
She had been the person behind the lack of transparency on pricing, the ten-day exploding offer, the months of delays, and all of that. And as we were approaching the legal deadline of whether or not to pursue legal action against the state, we heard through the grapevine that this woman was suddenly no longer the Records Access Officer. In any case, she was now gone. This meant that instead of suing the state, we could try a different tactic. Luckily, this new one was far more pleasant to deal with, and as far as we could see she did not do anything overtly illegal.
At this point, it was nearing the end of In an effort to move things along, we asked the new Records Access Officer if we could bring in our own digitization vendor to do the scanning of the microfiche sheets they held, just to make it easier on the state and get these records copied already. She replied that we could indeed hire our own vendor to do the scanning…with a few minor restrictions. And so on. Frustrated but persistent, we said yes to all these demands. But can we just have the death index already?
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- Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records | New York Genealogical & Biographical Society;
And that meant that we also had to wait while they discussed and approved the government funding to hire this archivist. So while we waited, we tried yet another tack to speed up this request, which was by now more than a year old. Many states in the U. For many reasons, finding vital records in New York State can be confusing and challenging. The purpose of this guide is to help clarify:.
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 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. The latest NY records news, expert genealogy tips, and fascinating stories, delivered twice a month to your inbox! 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.
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. 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 s and before:.
In general, researchers can find vital records from the following time periods at the Municipal Archives:. 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. Once the certificate number has been found, there are a number of ways to obtain a birth, marriage, or death certificate. Of course, researchers can head down to the Municipal Archives in person to locate the vital certificate themselves.
Vital certificates that are still at the Department of Health can be accessed, but not by everyone.
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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 :. Individuals with one of the following relationships to the subject of the certificate can obtain copies of death records from DOHMH:. 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.
If you're seeking a birth, marriage, or death record for an ancestor in one of those locations before , click the name of each municipality for tips on finding records before 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. Those seeking New York birth certificates should begin with State's index to all birth certificates from These repositories still have this index, but for most it will be far easier to access online.