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New York Genealogy

When researching New York genealogy, you'll find that the majority of records will date from around the late 1880s but there is some material that will go back farther than that. If you are lucky, you can find birth registrations from the 1600s for example.

New York Vital Records

Vital records are very important when looking up any New York genealogy. These would include birth, death and marriage records which are considered the foundation for most family tree research. You can get copies of vital records from the state Department of Health, and they will issue both certified and uncertified copies (depending on your request at the age of the record).

Birth records can be ordered by anyone when the record is over 75 years old and the person on the record is deceased. If you are the direct descendant of the person, then you can get more recent records in a non-certified form. The same rules apply when getting death records, but the time period is only 50 years instead of 75. Marriage records are also available to anyone after 50 years but both the bride and groom have to be deceased.

There are fees associated with getting copies of these records from the Department of Health. Currently, these fees are $30 for birth and death records, and $45 for marriage certificates.

State Archives

Vital records are only one way to research New York genealogy, and one that can be a little frustrating the costs, red tape and restrictions. The New York State Archives is filled with additional resources that will cost nothing and can be accessed by anyone.

Most vital records are held by the Department of Health, but older records and indexes can be found at the Archives (usually after that privacy time period is over). But also, they have collections of court and probate records, military records, naturalization records and a number of newspaper archives as well. Various census documents, property records, and corrections records are also part of their holdings. Some material is indexed for easy searching but in many cases you may have to scroll through a lot of microfilm to find what you want.

The State Archives are located in Albany but you can often have staff do a little research and photocopying for you if you are not in the area. Their website also has an online search engine service called the Excelsior Online Catalog where you can do further browsing from home.

Other Records Sources

New York genealogy isn't limited to these official sources. There are countless other ways you can find historical information on your ancestors and relatives.

Old newspaper archives are an excellent place to look. Public announcements of births, baptisms, deaths and marriages are all ideal for genealogical research and commonly found in most newspapers. Some archives are part of the State Archives but you can also contact the newspaper itself for access to old issues. You'll almost certainly have to read through each issue as the names used in public announcements are not going to be indexed.

Also, check with churches where you family was known to live and see if they have their own archived records for any events or services. Their cemetery records will be of particular interest as well.

When doing New York genealogy research, you should get in touch with one of the many genealogy societies across the state. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society is a large one but many smaller regions will have their own groups. These groups will be able to assist you locate records and may even have their own collections of historical documents for the region. If nothing else, you can possibly connect with other people interested in local genealogy and may even discover some others who already have the information you are seeking in their own family tree.

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