New York Vital Records

New York Vital Records

The Office of Vital Records is responsible for maintaining all state-level vital records created, administered and maintained by the state of New York regarding a person’s most important life events. These records include such documents as birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates and are compiled and stored in a permanent central registry that state entities use to develop statistical analysis of its population.

Birth Records

A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the birth or to a certified copy or representation of the original document. The state of New York enacted a statewide registration of birth statistics in 1915. In some areas of Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley, some birth records were recorded in town records as early as about 1665; however, most of the records collected and gathered before the statewide registration law were collected from historical societies. Most of them are still in possession of town and county clerks. Birth records were also recorded for a short time in most counties from 1847 to about 1850 because the state legislature passed a law in 1847 requiring school district clerks to send information to the Secretary of State. The law was difficult to enforce, and most school districts stopped doing this by 1852. With the enabling of the registration law in 1915, birth records are now recorded in the town, village or city where the event took place. A copy is sent to the New York Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Death Records

A death record is most likely a copy of the information contained in a person’s death certificate. The state of New York enabled a statewide registration of death records in the late 1890s. In some areas, some death records were recorded in town records as early as about 1665. By the time the registration law was enacted, death records were registered by county clerks and kept in historical societies. Most of those records are still in their possession. The Family History Library has vital records for a few counties, mostly from 1847–1850. Death records are recorded in the town, village or city where the event took place since the registration law was enabled. A copy is sent to the New York Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Marriage/Divorce Records

A marriage/divorce record is issued by a government official only after civil registration of the marriage/divorce occurs. The state of New York distinguishes three types of marriage records: provincial, county, and town and state marriage records. The provincial marriage records are those records that have been collected and gathered during 1753 and 1783 and are kept in the state archives. Marriages in colonial times were initiated either by publishing the bans in church on three successive Sundays or by obtaining a civil marriage bond and license. The Prerogative Court granted marriage licenses between 1753 and 1783. New York is one of the few states that does not have county marriage records dating back to the time when each county was formed. From 1908–1935, county clerks kept copies of marriages filed with the town clerks and also sent copies to Albany. Some counties, though, recorded marriages only from 1916 or 1926. These records are located online at Family Search. Town and city clerks generally began registering marriages in 1881. Copies are sent to the state capital in Albany. Between 1847 and about 1850, before the state began registering marriage statistics, some marriages were recorded by justices of the peace, and some were recorded by school districts. Some justice of the peace registers has been published in the periodicals Tree Talks and The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. All marriage records are kept and collected by the New York State Archives.

Why Vital Records are Available to the Public?

The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) is a series of laws designed to guarantee the public is provided access to public records in New York. New York's first such law was passed in 1974. That law was repealed and replaced in 1977 with a significantly changed law. Important amendments to the law were made in 1982, 2005 and 2008: Freedom of Information Law. The law aims to ensure disclosure of court records and other records to the public.

What Does Vital Records Access mean to You?

The FOIL is similar to The New York Open Meeting Law (OML), which was enacted in 1976, except for the fact it establishes open access to any public records and not only the conduct of people and businesses. The FOIL creates a presumption of openness, rather than listing records the agencies must disclose and declares all records open unless specifically exempt by statute.

New York State Archives

State Archives

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New York County Courthouse 1927

New York County Courthouse 1927