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The announcement we never saw coming…

It’s not for nothing that New York in general — and New York City in particular — is called the black hole of northern genealogy.

From records loss on one side — can we say “New York Capitol Fire,” boys and girls? — to records access limits on the other (“sure we have it but you can’t see it at all or maybe if you pay a big fee…”), well… let’s just say that research in the Empire State and the Big Apple isn’t the easiest thing to do.

And it’s particularly the records access issue that’s been a huge issue in New York City.

That’s where, you may recall, a rule was put into effect in 2017 despite the overwhelming opposition of the public, closing the city’s birth and death records away from public access for decades — 125 years for births and 75 years for deaths.1

And it’s where there’s been a running battle, for years, being fought by Reclaim the Records for access, using the freedom of information laws as bludgeons when the city hasn’t budged.2

So it’s literally a jaw-dropper for The Legal Genealogist and much of the rest of the genealogical community to see the Twitter hint yesterday and the official announcement this morning by the New York City Municipal Archives that it has launched free online access to millions of historical vital records.

screenshot of new NYC records site

Officially launched this morning, The NYC Historical Vital Records Project is, the page says, the result of he New York City Municipal Archives “undertaking a mass digitization project to provide online access to 13.3 million historical birth, death, and marriage records.”3 Some 9.3 million records are available in this initial launch, with another four million yet to come. (The site reports digitization at 70% (9,318,625 of 13.3 million records).4

So… what’s included? Lots of goodies:

The Bronx

• Births: 1872 to 1873, 1876, 1888 to 1891, 1895 to 1909
• Deaths: 1898 to 1948
• Marriages: 1898 to 1937

Kings (Brooklyn)

• Births: 1866 to 1909
• Deaths: 1862 to 1948
• Marriages: 1866 to 1937

Manhattan

• Births: 1855, 1857 to 1861, 1863 to 1865, 1866 to 1909
• Deaths: 1866 to 1867, 1871 to 1875, 1920 to 1930
• Marriages: 1866 to 1937

Queens

• Births: 1866, 1876, 1883, 1886, 1888 to 1909
• Deaths: 1898 to 1948
• Marriages: 1898 to 1937

Richmond (Staten Island)

• Births: 1898 to 1909
• Deaths: 1898 to 1948
• Marriages: 1898 to 19375

Note that the gaps don’t mean the records aren’t available; in many cases it’s just that they’re not yet digitized (four million to come, remember). Charts on the the Digital Vital Records indicate whether records exist and may yet to be digitized.

The search system — in beta, so be a bit forgiving of glitches, okay? — allows searching by certificate number or last name. Users can also browser through the records by certificate type, borough and year range. Special kudos here to the Genealogy Federation of Long Island, which “generously provided volunteers to transcribe original hard-copy indexes to a database format”6 — a critical step in making the records searchable online.

Definitely an announcement we never saw coming…

And one we’re all so very glad to see.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “NYC historical vital records go online!,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 16 Mar 2022).

SOURCES

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Fighting for NYC records,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 9 Oct 2017 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 16 Mar 2022).
  2. See generally Reclaim the Records, and particularly its New York City Records Requests page (https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/ : accessed 16 Mar 2022).
  3. New York City Municipal Archives, Historical Vital Records (https://a860-historicalvitalrecords.nyc.gov/ : accessed 16 Mar 2022).
  4. Ibid., “About.”
  5. Ibid., “Digital Vital Records.”
  6. Ibid., “About.”
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