New York City Birth and Death Indexes removed from the New York Public Library

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has required the New York Public Library to return the birth indices post 1909 and death indices post 1948 stating having them available to the public was a violation of the NYC Health Code.

The reason? According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, “The Department will no longer make such indexes available, since such access can be abused and result in identity theft and attendant security risks. In addition, genealogists and others interested in genealogical research can access appropriate information from the Municipal Archives.”

This is a major loss for genealogists.

35 Comments

The NJ State Legislature enacted somewhat similar law about 10 years ago regarding NJ State Archives in Trenton. Over time some accommodations have been made to allow for genealogical research. If interested I can find and provide the latest legal language currently in effect.

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    The administrative policy change was for the NJ Dept of Health, not the NJ State Archives. If you go in-person to the NJSA, you have access to Births 1848-1823, Marriages 1848-1944, and Deaths 1848-1955. NJSA mail reference is 1848-1915.
    The NJ Dept of Health has a genealogical access restriction of 80-years for births, 50-years for marriages, and 40-years for deaths.

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Define “appropriate information,” NYC Department of Health!

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    Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum May 6, 2016 at 9:54 am

    “Appropriate information” means the bare minimum of information that the bureaucrats THINK genealogists need. Genealogical Proof Standard? What’s that?

    Liked by 1 person

State of Maine did the same thing. My great grandmother died at age 43 in a mental asylum in 1872. Until I get a lawyer I can not view her hospital records. Only if I am the executor of her will. Why sure I think I was around in 1872!
So yes if the records are within the past 75-80 years but before that? Really? This is frankly stupid.
I just want my marriage license off of public record. Being as it isn’t that long ago. That is identify thief of a very alive couple.
Aloha,

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    I have the same problem with a 3x great grandfather who died in an asylum in Tennessee. They claimed the HIPPA law. The same law that wasn’t even written back then.

    They said we had to be next of kin or guardian. Since he died in mid 1880s… My cousin and I ARE the next of kin!!!

    They also told us to get a lawyer… oh but it has to be a TN lawyer because they don’t recognize courts from other states.

    All we wanted to know was his exact death date and where he’s buried…. geez, gimme a break… HIPPA? Seriously???!!!

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    Who was her executor? Possibly that person had an executor . Perhaps with documentation and a letter from the latest person in that sequence you can get the records or you can get that person to request the data. Presentation as a health issue for your family might also help. The policy is stupid. Follow the money.

    Maine state probate records may be on file on Ancestry. Another source may be the burial transportation permits. They are not restricted in my state and are on file with the city.The ones I saw in my town included cause of death.

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Brainiac Genealogist May 5, 2016 at 7:49 pm

The straw that breaks the camel’s back, I hope. We need coherent records access policies now, not whimsical applications of “now you can, now you can’t”

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The NYC Department of Health has a history of actively blocking public access to public records.

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    Why? Because they can. And they are not there to serve the public. It would make them actually have to WORK!

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Genealogists in PA complained about lack of access and PA passed a similar law. There was no lack of access prior to that law – forget the year but within the past 10

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The New York City Municipal Archives has only birth records through 1909 and death records through 1948. The Health Dept. has refused to turn over later records to the Municipal Archives and will not make records available for genealogical purposes. All of this is in violation of NY State Law, but that does not seem to faze the Health Dept. Reclaim the Records and others have tried for years to get this fixed.

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    Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum May 6, 2016 at 10:02 am

    I’m going to be in NYC in a few months and I’m going to try to get the 1911 birth record for an aunt who died at age 3. I already have her death record and her exact date of birth from her father’s naturalization papers. Unfortunately, the 1911 birth index for Brooklyn doesn’t exist. I read something about a fire and have no idea whether it was just the index that was lost or the certificates themselves. In addition to her death record, I have my mother’s birth certificate (naming the same parents) and my birth certificate naming my mother. I’m loaded for bear.

    It would be a lot easier if the MA was given the certificates through 2015.

    Liked by 1 person

Angelia Roberson May 6, 2016 at 9:05 am

This group is working to preserve access to public records. Perhaps this should be added to their “To-Do” list. https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/

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    Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum May 6, 2016 at 10:37 am

    It was already high on their “To-Do List” to expand the available indexes to 2015.

    What many of us don’t understand is “why now?” The Resolution to remove the indexes from public access was passed in 2008. You can’t tell me that it took the DOH eight years to figure out that the NYPL had them.

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More and more records are being removed from access. Identity theft will continue to occur, regardless of whether they hide our genealogical records. That’s a fact. I also suspect that the majority of identity theft has nothing to do with the records. It’s a flimsy excuse to make politicians look good in the public eye, nothing else. We will soldier on and continue our fight. Thanks for the post Dick.

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These records are still on familysearch. I sure hope this does not affect THEIR database. Do you know if they are going to make THEM pull them as well Dick?

For anyone who doesn’t know how to access them there, here are the links:
BIRTHS
https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2240282

Marriages
https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2143225

Deaths

https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2240477

New York State is really a stickler for ANY kind of info being available to the public. Yet OTHER states just throw anything at the wall and you can find compromising info on ancestry.com all the time. I found a marriage record on myself from VA andalso one on my husband from Nevada, that not only listed our specific DOB’s but also gave BOTH parents names—I had ancestry pull them—so DO check on ancestry for yourself as some states ARE putting compromising info out there.

Unfortunately NJ and NY have gone the total opposite direction. WHAT can possibly be compromised for people born 1909 or earlier, or who died 1949 or earlier.

JMHO this is total nonsense. If someone is on the 1900-1940 Census you can get info on living people anyway–although nothing specific, but hiding specifc DOB/DOD in the parameters NY is doing is just nonsense. No one living can be affected by that information.

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    The New York City Municipal Archives controls all the records on Family Search, Italiangen.org and other databases. All of these records are from before the legal blackout period. Birth records since 1909 are currently being held by the NYC Health Dept., despite the fact that records over 100 years old are to be turned over to the Municipal Archives, according to law. The Health Dept. does not recognize “genealogical purposes” as a valid reason to access records it holds. You will need to be creative.

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    No, the indexes removed from NYPL are NOT on FamilySearch. They cover years after the ones you listed.

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Thought that would happen after the Finding Your Roots episode (LL Cool J, I think) that showed them using the birth indexes and what they knew of the adoptee/birth parents and a bit of research know how.

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You can also get specific DOB info in directories on ancestry, probably come from mortgages or something…so NY’s reasoning does not hold water. MOST ID theft occurs in other ways. People are specifically targeted. Crooks are not going to bother doing genealogical research to try to locate the living descendants of folks. Now if they want to do something USEFUL let the govt shut down websites that sell your CC info and all kinds of other stuff. THAT is where ID theft starts (and people losing their wallets, corrupt people at various offices including Dr’s offices, MVA etc).

There was a show on 60 minutes not long ago wherein people were paying folksin Dr’s offices to give them SS numbers in order to file phony income tax returns.

There are so many EASY ways for crooks to get what they want, they are NOT going to waste their time doing genealogical research to find things…that would be a lot more work than they have to do.

Too many other ways to get info to steal ID’s CC’s etc.

What NY just did re freezing NYPL Records is NOT justifiable. They are just using that as an excuse to appease their constituents to say “see we ARE doing something” and the darn constituents don’t even realize how harmless those records are and how ineffective doing this is going to be. It is not going to affect ID theft ONE IOTA.

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Those who are concerned about familysearch records. They too are blocking records. Countries are hoping after them for violating contracts. Jamaican record have been blocked starting a few days ago. It’s only a matter of time more countries will follow suit.

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NEW YORK, known to we genealogist as “the black hole” has just gotten more black and a lot bigger!!!!

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Just another example of no matter how big your hammer you can’t pound common sense into stupidity.

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Maine within the last year closed all birth-death-marriage records from 1892 through the present. Until then, vital records were available at the Maine Archives up through 1955, with some newer scattered records on microfilm. Fortunately, a number of libraries and historical societies throughout the state purchased those microfilms before the state decided to make them unavailable. Those “missing” items also are viewable on Ancestry and FamilySearch.

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The USA-Land of the free? Free of what?
Thank the Lord I’m not an American.
H.M.

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This is not only stupid, but a real indrence to research !. I started my family research back in 1961 here in Michigan, Lenawee County to be exact. On my days off I’d drive out to Adrian to do research in cemeteries and the County building. I got to know the ladies there and when I appeared they would just wave me into the large vault that held all the Birth, Marriage and Death books and I’d spend hours in there. I can never thank them enough. Now that I live in Adrian, the rules have changed…..certain days and hours, length of time researching, then one has to leave and return a half hour later to continue.Some book you cannot even look at.
I haven’t been back in years since researching on line is much simpler.

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I’d used the printed Birth and Death indices for New York City at the NY Public Library on 42nd St. for more than 20 years and last accessed them on April 24, 2016. They are invaluable resources to genealogists. Whomever the officials are who authorized this ought to be drawn and quartered!

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As already said but to enforce the thought – Unelected bureaucrats seem to need some sort of self esteem mechanism and thwarting the public thru senseless regulations seems to be the agent. It needs to stop!!

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Chris Schneider May 8, 2016 at 9:13 pm

The Board of Health is going to lose money for this removal of public records. I tried to get my deceased father’s birth certificate, paid extra for them to find it because I didn’t have the certificate number. They sent me a leter saying ‘not found’. I used the microfiche at NYPL and after several hours finally located his birth; his surname had been misspelled. Without access to that index, I would never have found what they failed to find. And again, the death indexes from the years after 1948 allowed me to fiind the cert# of other relatives, obtain their death certificates from the Health Dept and honor their life at their burial sites.
NY State allows you access to death certificates 50 years after the fact.

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    Neither the law, nor the threat of losing money seems to affect the NYC Health Dept. They maintain that these records are not subject to New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), despite several court decisions to the contrary. It is probably time, especially if ReclaimtheRecords.org can’t get them, to petition Mayor DeBlasio about this.

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I was born in Brooklyn and was shocked that I was able to order my own birth certificate online about 15 years ago. I haven’t followed all the discussion, but certainly there should be safeguards.

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David Paul Davenport May 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm

As a professionally trained librarian I am shocked that the New York Public Library would withdraw anything from its collection. This violates the cannons of librarianship as expressed many times in the “Code of Conduct” of the American Library Association.

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It already has been catastrophic, having lost the use of the SSDI

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