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- RootsTech 2018 Access and Preservation Day
- New Records on FamilySearch: Week of April 9, 2018
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- RootsTech 2018 FamilySearch Classes
- New Records on FamilySearch: March 2018
Back in June, I posted that FamilySearch.org was discontinuing its microfilm distribution services. Because significant progress was made in their digitization work, FamilySearch.org decided it was unnecessary to continue the microfilm program. There was some concern by researchers that this decision might eliminate access to the New York City vital records which had been available on microfilm. About a month ago, I was told by a few genealogists that the New York City vital records were accessible online at family history centers. Although I was eager to announce this exciting news, I waited until I could try it out for myself. Last week I visited the Family History Center in Plainview, New York. I brought my laptop computer and logged into the center’s internet using the password the volunteer gave me. I was successful in both viewing and downloading two New York City death certificates. Before making a trip to a family history center, I would recommend you call ahead to find out the center’s hours and if their internet access is working. You will find a listing of the New York family history centers at https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Category:New_York_Family_History_Centers
At our last genealogy program, Rick Fogarty showed us the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki comparison charts, which can be very helpful in selecting DNA tests. If you did not take notes or were unable to attend, here are the links:
Autosomal DNA testing comparison chart
Y-DNA STR testing comparison chart
MtDNA testing comparison chart
Attending the lecture were some members of the recently established DNA Genealogy Group of Long Island. They informed me that they are have been having monthly meetings on the topic of using DNA for genealogical research. They alternate the venue of their programs between Suffolk County and Nassau County locations. You can find out more about the organization and their links to recommended websites through the following page:
Because a number of people have expressed confusion over search results for New York City marriages in the Ancestry.com database, “Birth, Marriage & Death,” I thought that topic would be worthy of an article. The confusion occurs when, depending on the year of the marriage, researchers might receive two results for the same couple, but with different certificate numbers and slightly different dates. The main questions I’ve been asked are the following: why is this happening, and which of the two records should I order a copy of? To answer the first question, I will delve into some of the historical background of New York City marriage records.
Figure 1: Example of a search using Birth, Marriage & Death Database in Ancestry.com for a 1925 New York City Marriage. For privacy reasons, I have blacked out the bride and groom’s names on all searches and certificates shown.
In 1853 New York City began recording marriages (as well as births) in register form, but in 1866, the Health Department of New York City began requiring a certificate for each marriage. The City of Brooklyn also began creating certificates in the same year of 1866. After the unification of the cities of New York and Brooklyn in 1898, and the simultaneous expansion of the city into the five boroughs of New York as we know them today, the city’s Health Department created and held on file marriage certificates for all the boroughs.
In 1908 New York State enacted a law that required brides and grooms to fill out an “Affidavit for License to Marry.” Produced along with that affidavit was an actual license, upon the back of which was a marriage certificate, to be filled out and returned by the person performing the marriage. In the borough of Manhattan, the New York City Clerk was responsible for these records. However, up until 1937 the New York City Department of Health continued requiring the creation of their own marriage certificates. Because of that situation, couples who were married in New York City between 1908 and 1937 should normally have two separate marriage certificates held by the city: one filed with the City Clerk and associated with the affidavit and license, the other filed with the New York City Health Department. This duplication can be helpful to genealogists, because there were two separate entities producing records, so there is a greater chance of finding a marriage record. Another helpful result of the 1908 law was that it required the couple to submit information in the affidavit and license to the city clerk before their marriage, while previously it was the responsibility of the person officiating at the wedding to collect and submit the information after the wedding. Unfortunately, too often this did not happen, so that frequently there may not be a civil marriage record for a pre-1908 New York City marriage. Years ago, the Italian Genealogy Group (http://italiangen.org/records-search) and the German Genealogy Group (http://germangenealogygroup.com) created an online index to the New York City Health Department marriage records. It is accessible on their websites, and on Ancestry.com (Index to New York City Marriages, 1866-1937) and Familysearch.org (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2143225).
The indexes to the New York City Clerk marriage records were only made available online fairly recently. Reclaim the Records, a non-profit organization, got the records released, and they made them available on https://archive.org/details/nycmarriageindex. Last May, Ancestry.com added them to their collection (New York City, Marriage Indexes, 1907-1995). Now indexes to both the New York City Health Department certificates (Index to New York City Marriages, 1866-1937) and the New York City Clerk marriage records (New York City, Marriage Indexes, 1907-1995) are contained and searchable in the Ancestry.com general “Birth, Marriage & Death” collection. The bottom line is that if you search for a marriage that occurred in Manhattan between 1908 and 1937 in it, you should get two results: one from the Department of Health records, and the other from the New York City Clerk. If you want to order one or both, be careful to include the correct information (certificate number and date) for each request. You will find order information and forms on the New York Municipal Archives website: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/records/historical-records/genealogy.page
There is also an index to New York City marriages that occurred between 1950 and 1995 at http://www.nycmarriageindex.com/. To order a marriage record for those years (there is a 50 year requirement), you need to contact the City Clerk.
The second question as to which record is better to order is a little more difficult to answer. It’s possible that the City Clerk Records could contain slightly more information or be slightly more accurate than the Health Department records, but not necessarily. If the cost doesn’t matter, you might want to consider getting both. Below is an example of Ancestry search results for one marriage and the documents themselves, obtained from the New York City Municipal Archives . The first record is the New York City Clerk record. It consists of three pages: affidavit, license, and certificate.
Figure 2: City Clerk’s record includes three pages: Affidavit for License to Marry, Marriage License, and Marriage Certificate.
Below is the New York City Health Department search result and certificate for the same marriage.
Figure 3New York City Department of Health Certificate and Record of Marriage consists of two pages
Hopefully this explanation gives you a better understanding of the complexities of New York City marriage records. Most importantly, if you are searching for a New York City marriage that occurred between 1908 and 1937, you should know that there are usually two records available, which will have different certificate numbers and possibly slightly different dates. If you have any genealogy questions, please feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ancestry.com has added to their collection a New York City death index covering the years 1949 – 1965. Unlike Ancestry’s New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948, this one also includes the NYC Health Department index images. If you do not have a subscription to Ancestry.com, keep in mind that you can access the database free of charge on any of our library’s computers.
On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services. The last day to order microfilms will be on August 31, 2017. The service is being discontinued because of the significant progress made in their microfilm digitization work and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. For more information go to https://www.lds.org/microfilm.
The German Genealogy Group is always busy creating new indexes and databases. Recently they added the Federal Criminal Record Index, which you can search for free on their website http://www.germangenealogygroup.com. Their new project involves photographing the church registers of four closed Brooklyn Catholic churches (St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Francis Field and St. Louis). After they are done photographing the books, volunteers will transcribe the information to create new databases. If you are looking to volunteer your services to a very worthwhile genealogical project, are undaunted by old handwritten records, and have an interest in Brooklyn genealogy, this could be the perfect project for you. If you would like to learn more, you can contact them through their website www.germangenealogygroup.com.
Here is some good news for New York researchers. Reclaim the Records, a nonprofit group, has succeeded in obtaining the New York State Death indexes from 1880 to 1956 and they have uploaded the indexes onto the website Internet Archive.
For many years, researchers could only view the microfiche indexes at a small number of select archives and libraries. The exception, oddly enough, were the years 1957-1963, which were made available by the Health Department on their own website and also on the FamilySearch.org website.
The death indexes now on Internet Archive are scanned images of the microfiches. If you have ever viewed the scratchy microfiches of old typewriter print indexes, you know not to expect good quality, but since researchers can now increase the image size and flip rather quickly through the indexes, you will appreciate that it is definitely an improvement over the old fiche readers.
If you would like to take a look at the indexes here are some links. If you want to see other years, you can change the year at the end of the link. However, not all the years may be posted quite yet.
To obtain a death certificate, you will still have to order it through the Department of Health or a town clerk. The actual certificates are not being released on line.