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Vital Registration


Statewide vital registration in New York began in 1880. However, full compliance was not reached until 1890 for deaths and 1915 for births. The Municipal Archives estimates that as many as 25% of births prior to 1910 went unregistered.

Birth Records

Restrictions on Birth Records: 75 years

Exceptions: person named on certificate, next of kin, legal representative

New York City began registering births in 1847 and Brooklyn began in 1866. New York City births prior to 1866 were recorded in ledger format. Information contained in these ledger entries includes date of birth, parents' names (mother's maiden name not given), place of birth, gender, color and name of medical attendant.

Where to Order Birth Records
The Municipal Archives has birth certificates for:
New York City July 1847-1848; July 1853-1909
Brooklyn 1866-1909
Bronx 1898-1909
Queens 1898-1909
NOTE: Pre-consolidation vital records for Queens exist for 1847-1849 and 1881-1897. Vitals for Long Island City exist for 1871-1897. All pre-consolidation birth records for Queens are in ledger format.

The Municipal Archives also holds the pre-1866 New York City birth ledgers.

For births after 1909, you will need to contact the New York City Department of Health. Remember, if you are searching for a birth certificate in the Bronx prior to 1898, it will be filed under the borough of Manhattan.

Birth Records at the LDS
The LDS has a nice selection of both birth indexes and photocopies of certificates.

All-Borough:
Births Reported in the City of New York 1881-1965; All Borough Birth Index
starting microfilm # 1322457 Bronx:
Bronx Certificates & Records of Birth 1898-1909
starting microfilm certificate #1-2550, Jan. 3, 1898-Sept. 26, 1898 # 2022836

Brooklyn:
Index to Brooklyn Birth Certificates 1866-1897
starting microfilm # 1324701 A 1866-K 1868

Brooklyn Birth Certificates 1866-1909
starting microfilm # 1380499 cert # 1-3166 for 1866
NOTE: Certificates for 1869 are missing from this film. The certificates are arranged chronologically by number and date. This series consists of 153 rolls of film.

New York City (Bronx included):
Manhattan Birth Index Cards 1866-1897 starting microfilm # 1323501
NOTE: This index is used in conjunction with Manhattan Birth Certificates 1866-1897.

Manhattan Birth Certificates 1866-1897
starting microfilm # 1322001

Manhattan Register of Births 1847-1873; Index 1830-1865
starting index microfilm # 1378956 Mary A REES 1830-Hugh McCARH 1857
NOTE: The following years are missing from the index: 1831, 1833, 1836 and 1840.

State of New York Certificates and Records of Birth, Borough of Manhattan 1898-1909
starting microfilm # 1953076 Vol. 1-3, certificate # 1-1500 for 1898
NOTE: The films are arranged chronologically by date and birth certificate number. This series consists of 233 rolls of microfilm.

Vital Records of New York City 1686-1706; 1807
microfilm # 1405496 item 16

Queens:
Queens County Index to Births 1848-1897
starting microfilm #1378884 item 1
NOTE: Covers the towns of Jamaica, Flushing, Whitestone, Rockaway, Far Rockaway, College Point & Long Island City.

Index to Births, Newtown, Queens County
Ledger 1847-1849, 1881-1897 Abeling, Johanna-Majer, Emil #1378867 item 2
Ledger 1847-1849, 1881-1897 Major, Horace-Zweig, Francis #1378868 item 1

Birth Records at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&BS)
All-Borough:
1898-1915 birth indexes
1898-1909 printed soundex index
1910-1965 printed index

Bronx County:
These records are for former Westchester County towns.
1880-1895 villages of South Mount Vernon and Wakefield
1881-1895 town of Westchester

Kings County:
1869 register of births - town of Brooklyn
1866-1880 Brooklyn birth certificate index
1881-1897 birth index soundex
1847-1851, 1880-1894 town of Flatbush
1880-1895 town of Flatlands
1880-1894 town of Gravesend
1881-1886 town of New Lots

New York County:
1830-1865 Manhattan Birth Index card index on 18 reels
NOTE: There are few from 1830-1852, but most in that time period are delayed registrations. There are yearly indexes from 1852 on.
1866-1881 Manhattan Birth Index card index on 50 reels
1881-1897 NYC Birth Index printed soundex index
1888-1897 Birth Records Indexes NYC Dept of Health

Queens County:
1847-1849, 1881-1897 town of Newtown
1847-1849, 1881-1897 town of Flushing
1847-1848, 1881-1897 town of Jamaica
1871-1897 town of Long Island City
NOTE: For births prior to 1871, see Newtown.
1889-1897 village of College Point
NOTE: For births prior to 1889, see town of Flushing.
1889-1897 village of Flushing
NOTE: For births prior to 1889, see town of Flushing.
1889-1897 village of Whitestone
NOTE: For birhts prior to 1889, see town of Flushing.
1889-1897 village of Jamaica
NOTE: For births prior to 1889, see town of Jamaica.
1889-1897 village of Far Rockaway
1895-1897 village of Richmond Hill
NOTE: For births prior to 1895, see town of Jamaica.
1897 village of Rockaway Beach

Marriage Records

Terms
Banns: Posting of an announcement of a coming marriage to allow advance notice to those who may have reason to protest the marriage.

Common Law Marriage (sponsalia per verba de paesenti): Agreement made by parties competent to marry, to take one another as husband and wife.

License: Special permission to do something, whereas without the license, could be legally prevented from doing this.

Marriage: Voluntary and exclusive contract, recognized by the state, for the lifelong union of two people.

Restrictions on Marriage Records: 50 years
Exceptions: person named on certificate, next of kin, legal representative

Marriage records in New York State break down into 3 different types: colonial, county and town.

Colonial
When marrying in colonial times, people would either publish banns in their church for 3 consecutive Sundays or obtain a civil marriage license from the Prerogative Court from 1753-1783. Since obtaining the license was so expensive, (it could cost a month's wages), many chose to simply publish banns.

Many marriage bonds were destroyed in the 1911 fire. Surviving records can be found at the State Archives. Marriage bonds from 1753-1783 can be found in the following book available from the LDS:
New York Marriages Previous to 1784.
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984. FHL book #: 974.7 V28n 1968.

County
New York does not have marriage records dating back to when each county was formed. From 1908-1935, county clerks kept marriage records, but would forward a copy to Albany. The LDS has these on microfilm.

Town
When vital registration started in 1881, copies of all certificates were sent to Albany, while the originals remained with the county. From 1847-1850, some marriages were simply recorded by justices of the peace, while others were recorded by school districts.

New York City began registering marriages prior to 1881. The Municipal Archives has some marriage records from as early as 1830. However, all pre-1866 marriage records are in ledger format.

Clerk's Office License & Dept of Health Certificate
From 1908-1937, marriage records involved both the city clerk's office and the New York City Department of Health (DOH). The license was issued by the clerk's office and the actual certificate by the DOH. It is important to remember that when searching for marriage records to obtain both the license and certificate. Both can be obtained at the Municipal Archives for the following dates:
Manhattan & Brooklyn 1908-1929
Bronx 1914-1929

Information on DOH Marriage Certificate issued: 1908-1937
Names, addresses, age, color, marital status, birthplace (usually just country or state) of both bride and groom
Groom's occupation
Father's name & mother's maiden name of both bride and groom
Number of times married
Place & date of marriage
Signatures of bride and groom
Names and signatures of witnesses
Name, address and signature of person officiating at wedding

Information on City Clerk's Marriage License issued: 1908-1937
In addition to above information, also contains-
Specific birthplace (usually including town)
Father and mother's country of birth
Bride's occupation
Former spouses, living and dead
If divorced, when and where granted

An official marriage record consisted of three parts:
1. Affadavit for License to Marry: includes all the above information. On the reverse side was the Certificate of Consent, to be signed by parents or guardians of minors wishing to marry.
2. Marriage License: similar to affadavit, but was signed by the city clerk. This document (with clerk's signature) gives permission for the couple to marry.
3. Marriage Certificate: the person officiating at the wedding was to sign and return this document to the city clerk's office for filing.

It is uncommon to find a marriage certificate but not a license. If this is the case, it is probable the license was filed in a separate county or applied for at an earlier date than expected. It is a good idea to continue searching the license indexes, backwards. It is far more common to find a license and no certificate.

Informal or Common Law Marriage
During the colonial period, marriages were regulated by the civil authorities. An informal marriage (or common law) was recognized as valid. Informal marriages enabled parties to marry when there was no clergy or civil official available to officiate, ie: pioneers.

For most of New York State's history, informal marriages were a legal agreement. Cohabitation was not equivalent to an actual informal marriage agreement. However, the New York State legislature started to chip away at the legality of these contracts as early as 1902.

Prior to 1933, New York State would recognize a common law marriage if the agreement was entered into within the borders of the state, with the exception of those contracted during the January 1, 1902 to January 1, 1908 time period. During that period, current statutes rendered them invalid.

On April 29, 1933, New York State completely abolished the informal or common law marriage under Section 11 of the Domestic Relations Law. Under this law, any common law marriages in existence on that date remained as valid and legal as a ceremonial marriage. New York State will not recognize a common law or informal marriage regardless of how long the couple has been together or even if they refer to each other as husband and wife.
NOTE: New York State will recognize a common law marriage if the agreement was entered into in a jurisdiction that permits them. New York State residents may temporarily reside in or travel to a state that permits them, the common law marriage may be contracted in that state.

Where to Order Marriage Records
The Municipal Archives has marriage records for:
New York City June 1847-1848; July 1853-1929
Brooklyn 1866-1929*
Bronx 1898-1929
Queens 1898-1937
NOTE: Pre-consolidation vital records for Queens exist for 1847-1849 and 1881-1897. Vitals for Long Island City exist for 1871-1897.

* NOTE: Separate records are kept for marriages in the following areas of Brooklyn:
Flatbush 1847-1851; 1880-1894
Flatlands 1880-1895
Gravesend 1880-1894
New Lots 1881-1886
New Utrecht 1880-1894

Remember, any marriage that took place in the Bronx prior to 1898 will be filed under the borough of Manhattan.

For marriage records after 1930, you will need to contact the city clerk's office where the marriage took place.

Marriage Records at the LDS
The LDS has an impressive collection of microfilmed marriage indexes and certificates.

All-Borough:
Marriages 1830-1854
microfilm # 1324912 item 1
NOTE: This film contains marriages performed in New York City and surrounding areas by mayors, aldermen and justices of the peace.

New York City Index to Marriages, All Boroughs 1888-1937
microfilm #:
Bklyn 1894-1897; NYC August 1888-Nov 1893 (A-K) # 1653852
NYC Nov 1893 (J-Z) - 1897 # 1653853 item 1
All Boroughs 1898-1899 # 1653853 item 2
NYC 1900 # 1653853 item 3
Queens, Staten Island & Bklyn 1900; All Boroughs 1901-1905 # 1653854
All Boroughs 1906-1909 # 1653855
All Boroughs 1910-1913 # 1543903
All Boroughs 1914-1917; All Boroughs & NYC (A-HIPPLER, Arthur C) 1918 # 1543904
All Boroughs & NYC (HIPPLER, Arthur C-Z)1918; All Boroughs 1919-1921 # 1543905
All Boroughs 1922-1924; All Boroughs (A-JABELON, Samuel) NYC 1925 # 1543942
All Boroughs (JABELON, Samuel-Z) NYC 1925; All Boroughs (A-RANDOZZO, Granzano) Bklyn 1928 # 1543943
All Boroughs (RANDOZZO, Granzano-Z) Bklyn 1928; All Boroughs 1929-1931; All Boroughs (A-CIRINCIONE, John) Bklyn 1932 # 1543944
All Boroughs (CIRINCIONE, John-Z) Bklyn 1932; All Boroughs 1933-1935; All Boroughs (A-TATE, Alvin L) NYC 1936 # 1543945
All Boroughs (TATE, Alvin L-Z) NYC 1936; All Boroughs 1937 # 1543946
NOTE: This index is alphabetized by surname of groom.

Bronx:
Bronx Marriage Index to Brides 1898-1937; Index to Delayed Marriages 1902-1907
ADAMS, Marie B 1898-LALLY, Rose 1920 # 1983782
KABACK, Anna 1920-SEMMIEL, Julia 1928 # 1983783
SELDIN, Jeannette 1928-KOPELOV, Ida 1935 # 1983927
KOOK, Ruth 1935-ZYSK, Sophie F 1937 # 1983928 item 1
Groom Index, Delayed Marriages:
ANDERSSON, John E 1902-WOLF, Henry 1906 #1983928 item 2
Bride Index, Delayed Marriages:
ALF, Theresa 1902-ZUBRADT, Theresa A 1907 # 1983928 item 3

Brooklyn:
Simon, Joel R. Brooklyn Marriage Index 1866.
Oceanside, NY: J. R. Simon, 1993. FHL book # 974.723/B1 V22s. ISBN 0963836803.

New York City:
Maher, James P. Index to Marriages and Deaths in the New York Herald 1835-1865
2 volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1987. FHL book # 974.71 V22m for Volume 1 and 974.71 V22m v.2 for Volume 2. ISBN 0806300843.

Scott, Kenneth. Marriages and Deaths from the New Yorker 1836-1841
Washington DC: National Geographic Society, 1980. FHL book # 974.7V29sc. ISBN 0915156466.

New York City Groom Card Index
1866-68 A-Z; 1869-71 A-Q; 1869-70 R starting microfilm # 1522995
NOTE: This index is used in conjunction with the film New York City Marriage Records 1866-1937. The marriage records comprise 1458 microfilm rolls.

New York Marriages 1810-1814, As Reported in the Commercial Advertiser
microfilm # 17785 item 4

New York County Marriage Records 1830-1850
microfilm # 1023301

New York City Register of Marriages 1829-1887
microfilm #:
Index 1873-1883; A-M 1884 # 1671674
Index M-Z 1884; 1885-1886 # 1671685
Reg. Vol. 1-3 1829-1860; Reg. Vol. 4 (A-G) 1861 # 1671673
Vol. 4 (G-Z) 1861; Vol. 5-7 1862-1865 # 1671674
Vol. 8-10 1866-1867; Vol. 11 (A-L) 1868 # 1671675
Vol. 11 (M-Z) 1868; Vol. 12-13 (A-V) 1867-1870 # 1671676
Vol. 13 (V-Z) 1870; Vol. 14-16 (A-P) 1871-1872 # 1671677
Vol. 17 (P-Z) 1872; Vol. 18-19 1873-1874; Vol. 20 1876-August 1877 # 1671678
Vol. 20 (Aug 1877)- Vol. 22 (Sept 1879) # 1671679
Vol. 22 (Sept 1879) - Vol. 25 (July 1882) # 1671680
Vol. 25 (July 1882) - Vol. 27 (Nov 1884) # 1671681
Vol. 27 (Nov 1884) - Vol. 29 (July 1886) # 1671682
Vol. 29 (June 1886) - Vol. 30 1887 # 1671683

Marriage Records at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&BS)
All-Borough:
Department of Health records only
1898-1937 groom index
1898-1937 bride index

Bronx County:
These records are for former Westchester County towns.
1880-1895 villages of South Mount Vernon and Wakefield
1882-1895 town of Westchester

Kings County:
1894-1897 groom index - town of Brooklyn
1847-1851 town of Flatbush

New York County:
1830-1854 marriage registers
NOTE: These are mostly civil marriages from the NY county clerk's office.
1829-1865 marriage registers
1866-1887 groom card index
1888-1897 groom card index
1866-1897 bride index

Queens County:
1847, 1881-1897 town of Newtown
1847-1849, 1881-1897 town of Flushing
1847-1848, 1881-1897 town of Jamaica
1881-1897 town of Long Island City
NOTE: For marriages prior to 1871, see Newtown.
1881-1897 marriage register
NOTE: The towns of Long Island City, Flushing, Jamaica and Newtown on separate reels in chronoglogical order.
1881-1897 groom index
NOTE: There are separate indexes for each city, town and village.
1889-1897 village of College Point
NOTE: For marriages prior to 1889, see town of Flushing.
1889-1897 village of Jamaica
NOTE: For marriages prior to 1889, see town of Jamaica.
1890-1897 village of Far Rockaway
1895-1897 village of Richmond Hill
NOTE: For marriages prior to 1895, see town of Jamaica.
1897 village of Rockaway Beach

Divorce Records
Throughout most of New York State's history, a divorce was almost impossible to obtain. During the Dutch colonial period of New Netherland, non-judicial divorces were granted on occasion. In 1664 when the English conquered the colony, divorces were granted, but on a sporadic basis. It was during this time that the Duke's Laws came into effect. These laws stated that if a husband or wife travelled into any forraigne Parts, and wasn't heard from for 5 or 6 years, then he or she may be presumed dead and the remaining spouse was free to marry. When New York returned to American control, petitions of divorce were made to the governor or the state legislature. Very few of these divorces were granted.

The year 1787 saw some changes in regards to divorce. The power to grant divorces was moved from the state legislature to the Chancery Court. In the same year, New York's first divorce law was enacted. This law stated that it was not lawful for someone convicted of adultery to remarry another, but the other spouse was free to marry again as if the convicted spouse was dead. This law would not be amended to allow the guilty spouse to remarry until 1879.

Death Records

Restrictions on Death Certificates: 50 years

Exceptions: next of kin or legal representative

New York State began registering deaths in 1880, though some areas kept records much earlier. There are death records for New York City pre-1866, Brooklyn pre-1862 and Queens pre-1898. However, they are in ledger format. Information contained in these ledger entries includes date of death, name, age, residence, nativity, cause of death, burial place and name of medical attendant.

Where to Order Death Records
The Municipal Archives has death certificates for:
New York City 1795; 1802-1804; 1808; 1812-1948
Brooklyn 1847-1853; 1857-1948
Bronx 1898-1948
Queens 1898-1948
NOTE: Pre-consolidation vital records for Queens exist for 1847-1849 and 1881-1897. Vitals for Long Island City exist for 1871-1897.

If a death took place after 1948, you will need to contact the New York City Department of Health. NOTE: Death certificates for certain areas of Brooklyn are kept separate. Please see the list of areas mentioned under Marriage Certificates. Deaths in the Bronx prior to 1898 will be filed under the borough of Manhattan.

You can access old Bellevue Hospital Case Books at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University. This nine volume set covers 1866-1916. This information is not online; must be accessed on site. The library can be contacted at: 212-305-3605.

In 1798, a fever epidemic swept New York City. The Board of Health created the Committee on Health for the relief of the sick. The Minutes of the Committe on Health, starting September 10, 1798, contains names of the sick, the doctors and nurses attending to them, relatives and neighbors and all financial donors to the relief effort. At the end of the microfilm is an alphabetical listing of those who died from September-December 1798, including addresses, birthplace, age and occupation.
NOTE: The Minutes can be found at the Municipal Archives.

Death Records at the LDS
All Borough:
New York City Index to Deaths 1888-1965; All Borough Death Index microfilm:
NYC 1888-1894; Bklyn 1895; NYC 1895 # 1324912 item 1
Bklyn & NYC 1895 # 1324912 item 2
NYC & Bklyn 1896-1897; All Boroughs 1898 # 1324913 item 1
All Boroughs 1899 # 1324913 item 2
All Boroughs 1900-1904 # 1324914
All Boroughs 1905-1908 # 1324915
All Boroughs 1909-1913 #1324916
All Boroughs 1914-1917 # 1324917
All Boroughs 1918-1921 # 1324918
All Boroughs 1922-1926 # 1324919
All Boroughs 1927-1931 # 1324920
All Boroughs 1932-1934 # 1324921
All Boroughs 1935-1936 # 1324922
All Boroughs 1937-1941 # 1324923
All Boroughs 1942-1946 # 1324924
All Boroughs 1947-1951 # 1324925
All Boroughs 1952-1956 # 1324926
All Boroughs 1957-1960 # 1324927
All Boroughs 1961-1962 # 1324928
All Boroughs 1963 # 1324929
All Boroughs 1964 # 1324930
All Boroughs 1965 # 1324931

Bronx:
Bronx Death Certificates 1898-1948
starting microfilm: certificate #1-1700, 1898 # 1322701
NOTE: Use the New York City Index to Deaths 1888-1965 to index these death certificates.

Brooklyn:
Brooklyn Index to Deaths 1848-1898
starting microfilm # 1378813 Aab-Choclette 1848-1866

New York City:
Manhattan Death Index Card 1868-1890
starting microfilm # 1324808
NOTE: This index is used in conjunction with the film Manhattan Death Certificates 1866-1919. The index and certificates comprise 1142 microfilm rolls.

Scott, Kenneth. Marriages and Deaths from the New Yorker 1836-1841.
Washington DC: National Geographic Society, 1980. FHL book # 974.7V29sc. ISBN 0915156466.

Manhattan Register of Deaths 1795-1865
starting microfilm # 447544

Admissions, Discharges & Death Records of the NY Almshouse 1826-1861
starting microfilm # 1029820

Records of Death 1884-1912, New York Almshouse
microfilm # 1304643

NY Almshouse Death Certificates 1853-1873
starting microfilm # 1304644

Manhattan Bodies in Transit 1859-1894 microfilm:
Vol. 1-5 1859-1870 # 1671686
Vol. 5-10 1870-1886 # 1671687
Vol. 10 1886-1894 # 1671688
NOTE: This microfilm is for passage through New York.

Records of Death 1912-1916, New York City Home
microfilm # 1304683 item 2
NOTE: The New York City Home was a poorhouse.

Records of Admission, Discharge and Death 1759-1861, New York Almshouse microfilm:
1759-1837 # 1311487
1803-1843 # 1311488
1803-1842 # 1301984
1803-1845 # 1302631
1803-1847 # 1304642
1826-1861 # 1304652 item 1

Death Records at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&BS)
All-Borough:
1898-1899 printed index for NYC and Brooklyn
1900-1965 printed index - all boroughs
Bronx County:
These records are for former Westchester County towns.
1878-1881, 1890-1895 villages of South Mount Vernon and Wakefiled
1887-1895 town of Westchester

Kings County:
1848-1861 death registers - town of Brooklyn
NOTE: The years 1854-1856 are missing.
1848-1866 Brooklyn death index
1862-1895 Brooklyn death certificate index
NOTE: The years 1877-79 were filmed out of order.
1895-1897 death index
1847-1851, 1880-1894 town of Flatbush
1880-1895 town of Flatlands
1880-1894 town of Gravesend
1880-1894 town of New Utrecht
1881-1886 town of New Lots

New York County:
1795-1865 Manhattan death register
1866-1867 Manhattan death certificates
NOTE: There is no index.
1868-18887 Manhattan death index
1823-1898 Coroner's Inquisitions

Queens County:
1847-1849, 1881-1897 town of Flushing
1847-1848 (index only), 1881-1897 town of Jamaica
1871-1897 town of Long Island City
NOTE: For deaths prior to 1871, see Newtown.
1881-1897 town of Newtown
1889-1897 village of College Point
NOTE: For deaths prior to 1889, see town of Flushing.
1889-1897 village of Flushing
NOTE: For deaths prior to 1889, see town of Flushing.
1889-1897 village of Whitestone
NOTE: For deaths prior to 1889, see town of Flushing.
1889-1897 village of Jamaica - index only
NOTE: For deaths prior to 1889, see town of Jamaica.
1889-1897 village of Far Rockaway
1895-1897 village of Richmond Hill
NOTE: For deaths prior to 1895, see town of Jamaica.
1897 village of Rockaway Beach

Deaths of US Citizens Abroad
It is the duty of the US consular offices to provide the Department of State with documentation of the death of a US citizen in a foreign country. If the individual is a member of the US military, it is then reported to the Defense Department. Guidelines:

Deaths after 1974: For information concerning the death of an individual abroad after 1974, contact the State Department's Passport Services. Their address:
State Department-Passport Services
Correspondence Branch
1111 19th Street NW, Suite 510
Washington DC 20524-1705

Deaths prior to 1974: These records are held at the National Archives. There is a minimum mail order fee. Inquiries may be made by email or snail mail:
National Archives
Civilian Records, Room 2600
National Archives at College Park
Adelphi Road
College Park MD 20740-6001

The following is a list of microfilms NARA holds pertaining to deaths of US citizens abroad:
Death Reports 1963-1974
NOTES: The deaths are filed by year, then alphabetical by surname. You must know the year of death in addition to surname to request a search from this record group.

Death Reports 1910-1962
NOTES: Filed according to Decimal File: by year, then file number, then country code, etc. NARA does hold a card index to the Decimal Files.

Numerical & Minor Files of the Department of State, 1906-1910
Record Group: M862; comprises 1,241 microfilm rolls.
NOTES: NARA does hold a card index to the Numerical Files.

Death Reports prior to 1906
NOTES: The files are arranged by city of event, then choronologically.

Coroner

Terms
Autopsy: Post-mortem examination of the body. May be required by state law.

Coroner: Public official who looks into any death where the cause is not readily known.

Inquest: Legal inquiry into the cause of a sudden, violent or mysterious death.

Medical Examiner: Public official responsible for determining causes of death.

Coroner vs. Medical Examiner
Many people use the terms coroner and medical examiner interchangeably. The truth is that these terms may not always be synonymous. How do they differ?

The coroner's responsiblity is to investigate any death where the cause isn't immediately known, when it is suspected or known to be the result of unnatural causes or if the deceased was not attended by a physician during the final illness. A coroner may not always be a physician.

The medical examiner's responsiblity is to determine the cause(s) when the death is not obviously due to natural causes. A medical examiner is a physician and usually also a pathologist. In most areas of the country, the medical examiner's office has replaced the office of the coroner.

Since most genealogical records will involve the coroner's office, I will use the term coroner from this point on.

It is not uncommon to encounter a death certificate issued by either the coroner's office. This does not automatically mean foul play. If a person dies, at home or on the street, without having seen a doctor in 5-7 years, the coroner must be called before the body can be removed. In these instances, and in instances of suspected foul play, the coroner automatically performs an autopsy. Where the case progresses from this is dependent on the autopsy findings.

If the autopsy shows that the person's death is suspicious (re: not of natural causes), the coroner performs an inquest. During an inquest, the coroner brings his full records of the autopsy into court and presents it to a board of doctors for review. If the board agrees with the coroner's findings, the case is presented to the district attorney's office for further evaluation. The district attorney then reviews the medical findings and proceeds with collecting evidence, etc.

It should not be surprising to the researcher to discover that if the coroner was involved, the police probably were also. Again, this does not mean foul play. It is advisable to contact the police department in your ancestor's jurisdiction for any records pertaining to the case - if there was a case. Many police departments have old case records, though they will be housed separately from current case files. Whether the precinct has the time or manpower to fulfill your request is a different matter.

Coroner's Records at the LDS
Scott, Kenneth. Coroner's Reports, New York City 1823-1842.
New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1989. FHL book # 974.7B4ne v.12. ISBN # 187769200X.

Scott, Kenneth. Coroner's Reports, New York City1843-1849.
New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1991. FHL book # 974.7B4neV.14. ISBN # 7877692026.

Coroner's Report of Death 1839
microfilm # 1255743

Coroner's Inquisitions 1823-1898
starting microfilm # 1318155
NOTE: This collections consists of 101 microfilm rolls, arranged by date.

Record of Coroner's Office; Inquests on Deaths, New York City 1862-1864; 1868-1918 microfilm #:
1862-1864 # 514335
1868-1877 # 501149
1877-1883 # 501150
1883-1886 # 501151
1886-1889 # 501152
1889-1892 # 501153
1891-1903 # 501154
1903-1914 # 501155
1915-1918; 1797-1802 prisoner list # 501156

The Municipal Archives has Coroner's Inquests and Records of Death, New York City 1823-1918.