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Death Records

What Are Death Records in New York?

A New York death record refers to permanent official documentation revealing factual details of a New York resident’s death. When a death occurs in New York, the circumstances pertaining to the death, such as the date, location, and cause of the death, are recorded within the time specified by state law. Like other New York Vital Records, death records are maintained by the state vital statistics office. Some other information included in a New York death record are:

  • Name of the deceased
  • City, county, and state of death
  • Date of birth and death, including age
  • Decedent's social security number
  • Deceased’s biodata, including their color or race, sex, etc.
  • Usual occupation and industry
  • File number
  • The local registrar
  • Parental and marital information

New York considers death records as vital records. Generally, United States death records help the government to prioritize medical and health-related research efforts, health-related funding, and public health interventions for genealogical research. Hence, vital statistics information are also collated and published by the National Center for Vital Statistics. These records also play a significant role in closing bank accounts, transferring real and personal property titles, resolving pension claims and life insurance benefits, monitoring death trends, and presenting conclusive data for research studies. Government agencies use death records to update electoral registers, passport records, government benefits paid, etc.

How are Death Records Created in New York?

According to Public Health Law, Article 41, Title 4, Section 414, a death registration must occur within 72 hours after a death occurs or a dead human body is found. The registration may begin by officially completing the information required on a death certificate with a form obtained from the district’s registrar where the death occurred or through electronic means. Electronic means refer to the New York State’s Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS). It is a secure, web-based system for funeral directors, health care providers and medical certifiers, medical examiners/coroners, and local registrars. The EDRS makes death registration easier and more organized. The EDRS is accessed through the New York State Health Commerce System (HCS) website portal.

A New York death record is created in three steps:

  1. Completing the Certificate of Death with Necessary Information
    A funeral director coordinates this process and ensures that all necessary information pertaining to the death is recorded on the EDRS or offline. The decedent’s personal and statistical particulars to be recorded in the death certificate shall be provided by a competent person familiar with the facts of the death.

  2. Medical Certification of Cause of Death
    Here, the funeral director promptly sends the certificate to the attending physician or nurse practitioner, who then certifies the facts of death, provides the required medical information by the certificate, and signs the medical certificate of death. The medical certification may also be completed by the coroner or medical examiner if death occurs in a hospital.
    Suppose a death occurs with no medical attendance. In that case, the funeral director, undertaker, or any other person may take up the responsibility of giving notice of the death to the county's coroner or the medical examiner. The coroner or medical examiner must immediately investigate as provided by law and certify the death accordingly, stating in the certificate the disease that caused the death or any other cause of death as may be required by the commissioner to classify the death.

  3. Filing with the Local Registrar
    After the funeral director, undertaker, or any other person taking up this responsibility has completed all the necessary information pertaining to the death, it must be recorded within the 72-hour registration time limit and filed electronically using the EDRS or with the local registrar. The funeral director or undertaker in charge of the corpse shall sign the statement of facts pertaining to the body's disposition.

Are Death Certificates Public in New York?

No, death certificates are not public death records in New York. New York death certificates are not subject to the state's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), which authorizes the public dissemination of multiple government records. Instead, access is governed by Section 4174 of the New York State Public Health Law. The law limits who can perform a death record search in New York to the following people:

  • The decedent's spouse, children, birth parents, or siblings
  • Someone with a New York State court order, documented legal right or claim, or documented medical claim
  • The administrator or executor of a deceased's estate

How to Find Death Records Online in New York?

The Vital Records Section of the New York State Department of Health and Vital Records Office of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are the government agencies responsible for registering every New York birth, death, marriage, and divorce. However, they not have a central online database where individuals can access death records or order online for them. Instead, New York death records are only accessible via in-person or walk-in services.

Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to public vital record information, interested parties must typically provide the following information to the online vendor:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
  • The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.

While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.

Death Record Search By Name in New York

New York death records are available from the registrars of public health statistics (the government offices that preserve and disseminate death, marriage, divorce, and death records, as mentioned earlier). However, because death records have confidential access, local and state vital records offices do not typically offer internet sites where the public can perform a New York death record search by name. Nevertheless, earlier New York death records may be searchable by name via official death record indexes.

Eligible individuals interested in a death record search by name in New York can also check the United States death registry provided by the National Center for Health Statistics or the public Death Master File (also called Limited Access DMF or, more commonly, the Social Security Death Index) offered by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). These registries contain millions of United States death records, including records of deceased New York residents.

Death Record Search by Address

In New York, qualified applicants can perform death record searches by submitting certain information to a local or state vital records office. This information includes the decedent's social security number, name, place of death, date of death, age at death, birth parents' names, relationship to the decedent, the reason for requesting the record, and so on.

Not all registrars require a full address to conduct a death record search in New York. Many offices need only the city or county of a decedent's death. However, a requester may have the option of including the name of the hospital or street address where a person died.

How to Find Death Records for Free in New York?

The Vital Records Section of the New York Department of Health does not provide death records for free in the state. Persons interested in obtaining these records must pay the required fees as specified by the department.

Where Can I Get Death Records in New York?

In New York, a requester can obtain a copy of a death record at the Vital Records Section of the New York Department of Health or the local Registrar of Vital Statistics where the event occurred. The department is responsible for maintaining death records that occurred since 1881 for all parts of New York State, excluding New York City. It does not have death records for New York City, including the boroughs of Manhattan, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Bronx, and Richmond (Staten Island).

Only eligible applicants like a decedent's spouse or birth parents can access New York death records. A requester must present any of the following forms of valid photo ID:

  • Driver's license
  • State-issued, non-driver photo-ID card
  • Passport
  • U.S. Military-issued photo ID

In a case where none of the above photo IDs is available, the requester may provide two of the following showing their name and address:

  • Letter from a government agency dated within the last six months
  • Utility or telephone bill

A person applying from a foreign country that requires a passport for travel must submit a copy of their US passport together with any of the above-mentioned approved photo identification. Individuals need not provide their birth records to obtain New York death certificates unless they are required to provide proof of their relationship to the deceased.

A requester can obtain a New York death record via any of these ways:

  • Mail-in Request
  • Walk-in Request

Mail-in Request

Complete the Application Form with appropriate information while following all the instructions listed on the form. Payment for a mail-in request may be made with a postal money order, personal check, or certified check made payable to the New York State Department of Health. Payment for foreign countries' requests must be made by check drawn on a United States bank or international money order. Cash payment is not acceptable.

A completed mail-in application should be sent by first-class mail, registered mail, certified mail, or US Priority Mail together with the necessary documents and fee to:

New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Certification Unit
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602

Walk-in Request

Submit a completed Application Form together with the necessary documents and fee to:

Office of Vital Records
Bureau of Vital Statistics
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
125 Worth Street
Room 125
New York, NY 10013

The acceptable means of payment include cash, check, or money order. Credit or debit card payments are not allowed. Note that walk-in services are temporarily on hold.

Although third-party pick-up is not encouraged, the department mandates that an eligible applicant furnishes the third party that will be picking up the record with the following:

  • A signed, dated, and a notarized letter granting the third-party permission to pick up the record. The letter must also specify who will be picking up the record and which record they will be picking up.
  • Include copies of your identification
  • The third party will be required to provide proof of their identity with a valid photo ID as recommended by the department and will need to co-sign the application form.
  • Send a filled-out and signed application form with the third party but do not mail it.
  • If the letter is notarized before an official outside New York, it must be accompanied by an authentication certificate.

If all the above requirements are not appropriately fulfilled, the Vital Records Office may not issue the requested record,

How to Get Death Records in New York City

The Vital Records Section of the New York City Health Department maintains death certificates for persons who die in one of New York City's five boroughs. There are two types of death certificates:

  • The part including a confidential medical report of the cause of death
  • The standard certificate of death

While anyone can order the standard certificate of death, the part including a confidential medical report of the cause of death can only be ordered by an eligible person. However, both certificates have the same cost.

To request a copy of a death record in New York City, accurately complete a copy of the death certificate application, or call 311 or (212) 639-9675 (outside New York City) to request one if unable to download the application. Ensure to follow all the instructions on the form and calculate the required fee. Each certificate costs $15, although other charges may apply, depending on how the order is placed. The requester must make payment with a money order or personal check payable in US dollars to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Cash payment will not be accepted. Standard first-class US postal service mail is not tracked. A mail-in application should be sent in a self-addressed, stamped envelope together with the fee, necessary documents, and valid ID to:

Office of Vital Records
125 Worth Street, CN-4, Room 133
New York, NY 10013-4090

Individuals can also order New York City death certificates in person by scheduling an appointment with the city's health department. This is the most suitable option for getting a certified copy. Any requester who cannot schedule and has an emergency request involving health care coverage, military, government services, housing, or employment can email nycdohvr@health.nyc.gov or dial 311. Previously, the NYC health department offered walk-in services, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the mandatory restriction on public gatherings, the department has suspended such operations until further notice.

Note that the vital statistics offices in New York do not issue non-state death records. To acquire other United States death records, a person must contact the relevant state vital records office or search a United States death registry, such as the indexes offered by the CDC and NTIS. However, these United States death registries have restricted access. Persons given access to the CDC's National Death Index are researchers or investigators who can establish public health or medical study applications. Meanwhile, Section. 203 of the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act determines eligibility to access the NTIS death index.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in New York?

In New York, a decedent's spouse, parent, child, or sibling can obtain the deceased's death certificate, although it is also open to other people who have a:

  • Documented lawful right or claim
  • Documented medical need
  • New York State Court Order

Anyone that does not fall under any of the above categories must document a lawful right or claim. For example, if the requester needs the death certificate to claim a benefit, they would need an official letter from the agency stating that the death record is required to process the claim.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in New York?

The cost of a death certificate at the Vital Records Section of the New York Department of Health is $45 for walk-in orders and $30 for mail orders. However, this fee may vary when requesting from the local Registrar of Vital Statistics. A New York City death certificate costs $15 per copy, which includes a two-consecutive-year search. $3 will be charged for each extra year searched.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate in New York?

The processing time for obtaining a death certificate in New York State is not specified, but it may take between 5 and 12 working days, while it takes between 3 and 4 weeks to obtain a death certificate in New York City. Typically the processing time for records requested from county repositories vary.

How Long to Keep Records After Death

There are no state laws or regulations that define how long a death record should be kept after a deceased's death, but it is necessary to keep a death record permanently because it is regarded as official evidence of the death. In addition, the IRS statute of limitations for a tax return audit is generally within three years, implying that the IRS may randomly audit a deceased's tax returns for the following three years after death. The deceased's death record is required to facilitate the audit. Despite this, it is advisable to keep all financial records for at least seven years after the death before getting rid of them.

How to Expunge Your Death Records in New York?

Expungement refers to an official authorization to take out certain facts or records of a specific event. It ensures the complete deletion of any information on a record considered confidential or permitted to be removed after the record's subject has met some requirements. New York laws and statutes do not provide for the expungement of death records.

How to Seal Your Death Records in New York?

New York laws and statutes do not provide for the sealing of death records.

How to Unseal Your Death Records in New York?

New York laws and statutes do not provide for the unsealing of death records.

How to Use the New York Death Registry

The New York death index maintained by the state Department of Health is simply a list of deaths that occurred in the state, excluding New York City. Also referred to as the Genealogical Research Death Index, the index begins from 1957 to 50 years from the current date. Presently, the index ends in 1970.

Individuals can retrieve the following information from the New York State (NYS) death index:

  • A decedent's first, middle, and last name
  • Gender
  • Age at death
  • Residence code
  • Year of death
  • Date of death
  • State file number

New York death indexes or registries are also available from other government sources, particularly state/local agencies that preserve historical public health statistics or vital records. For example, individuals can access the Historical Vital Records Project site of the NYC Department of Records Municipal Archives to search the city's death certificate index, which contains deaths recorded from 1855 to 1949. Upon a search, a researcher can find a deceased's name, age, date of death, type of certificate available, and the certificate number. An individual can also order certified copies of a death certificate. In the same way, someone who wants to find Ulster County death records between 1847-1850 and 1873-1884 can search the town clerk's death index or a public library's death index, and so on. The New York Public Library (NYPL) also recommends an online resource for persons interested in finding death indexes in New York.

Individuals interested in examining other United States death indexes can query a relevant state vital records office. If eligible, a person may register to search the CDC's United States death registry or purchase the NTIS's public Death Master File (DMF).

Typically, the DMF is obtainable upon certification to financial, credit, and other relevant agencies who want to match records and impede identity fraud, as well as those with a legitimate business purpose as per a statute, rule, regulation, or fiduciary duty. The NTIS does not offer a means for the public to search the database otherwise.

Nevertheless, because the DMF is public under the Freedom of Information Act, third-party online sites may have a version of the index that may be free or require a subscription to access. After a successful search, an individual can find the following information:

  • A decedent's social security number (SSN)
  • A decedent's name
  • The SSN's issuing state
  • Birth and death dates

Note: New York death indexes are not the same as New York death notices. A death index is created from local or state vital records for public health statistics and research purposes. It lists basic death information, e.g., a deceased's full name, age, and date/place of death. Meanwhile, a death notice is a paid advertisement placed in a newspaper to notify the public of an individual's demise.

How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person in New York

Obituaries are public notices of deaths placed in newspapers and other publications. Therefore, when attempting to perform a New York obituary search to locate the obituary of a person who died in New York, the first place to look should be the newspapers—specifically, the local newspaper that published the article.

Many New York newspapers offer digitized catalogs of obituaries online. Thus, an interested person who knows an obituary's publisher can search the publisher's obituary database, often with a name or death year.

In addition, an individual can conduct New York obituary searches via newspaper collections or databases offered by public libraries, such as the New York Public Library.

How to Conduct a Free Obituary Search in New York

When conducting an obituary search (sometimes referred to as an obituary lookup) in New York, there are usually two places where someone can carry out a free New York obituary search: a public library or a local newspaper.

Before commencing a free obituary lookup or committing to a physical trip to a library or newspaper office, it is advisable to have some information about the deceased person. This typically includes the decedent's first and last name, residence, place of death, and date of death (or a year of death range). It is also useful to know the obituary's publisher (i.e., the paper that carried the piece) and the publishing date. With these, an interested person can determine the public library or newspaper publisher to contact.

One way to find the above information is to talk to a surviving family member or close friend. Individuals who know the publisher and decedent's names can search the newspaper's online obituary index if any exists. If a person knows at least the decedent's last name and county of residence/death, they can search a local library's newspaper collection online (if available) or in person.

For example, residents of Peekskill and Cortlandt, New York, and other interested persons can perform a free obituary search with the Field Library's Obituary Index. Search results include a publisher's name, the publication page number, and the publication date. Similarly, suppose someone resided or died in Chemung County. In that case, individuals can visit the Chemung County Library District to search newspaper microfilms for free, or they can search the online Chemung County Obituary Index to obtain a decedent's full name, death date, the obituary publisher, and obituary publication date. In particular, the New York Public Library has several newspaper databases that residents can access with a library card number to search for New York obituaries. The state library also provides helpful links for persons interested in conducting New York obituary searches.

Note: While individuals can often search obituaries for free in New York, newspapers and libraries may charge a fee to secure the scanned image or physical copy of an obituary.

What are New York Death Notices?

A New York death notice is a paid announcement that families write and submit to newspapers and other publications. It informs the community of a family member's demise and details of the funeral or memorial service. A death notice also carries little biographical information about the deceased and tells the public where to send donations.

What is the Difference Between Death Notices and Obituaries?

A death notice and obituary both announce the death of a person and appear in newspapers and publications, but the two have some distinctions. For one, as opposed to a death notice, an obituary is a more detailed account of a person's life and death. It can include details about the decedent's birth, early life, career, survivors, or those most impacted by the person's death and significant accomplishments.

Furthermore, journalists or news reporters write obituaries and publish them as editorial content. Families can ask a newspaper to write an obituary for their loved ones or even submit suggestions. However, the publication is not guaranteed, unlike paid death notices.

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