New York City Board of Health Adopts Amendment to Article 207 Expanding Those Who May Access Birth and Death Records Without Embargo Periods

The following message was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson, International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, and republished here with her permission:

The IAJGS Records Access Alert reported in March about a proposed amendment to Article 207 of the New York City Health Code allowing certain direct descendants and other family members to access the birth and death records of their deceased relatives prior to the records becoming public. The New York City Department of Health held a hearing on April 23, the deadline for all comments. See: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/notice/2018/noi-provisions-of-article-207.pdf.

On June 4, 2018 the New York City Board of Health held a meeting where they unanimously passed the proposal. However, rather than become effective in 30 days, New York City Registrar, Steven Schwartz, Ph.D. requested implementation be delayed until the end of 2018 giving the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene time to update procedures, update the website and required staff training. Forms will have to be updated and a new procedure for proof of relationship through an attestation or notarized form will have to be developed. No comments as to when that process will be available prior to the end of the year, or whether the new process will be subject to a public hearing before adoption.

While the genealogical community requested a researcher category be added to the list of expanded persons able to immediately access birth and death records from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, other than mentioning it in Dr. Schwartz’s report to the Board, nothing further was done- and it was not added to those who may immediately access birth and death records. The request for “informational copies” to be made available was not incorporated, and Dr. Schwartz said the “unofficial copies” was a “bad idea” as records should remain either open or closed.

It was also mentioned that Dr. Schwartz will be leaving the Department after 30 years as he has been nominated for a post at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). Dr. Schwartz has been the instrumental person at the Department for advocating the 125/75 years embargo periods for birth and death records access when transferred to the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) the Municipal Archives. This was the regulation adopted in March, 2018 : http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/notice/2018/noa-amend-article207.pdf.

Thank you to Susan R. Miller, Director of Programs, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, who attended the Board of Health Meeting on June 4th and reported it to the NY-RPAC, of which IAJGS is a member.

To read the previous postings about the NYCDoH&MH regulations on both the expansion of family members who may access birth and death records directly from the NYCDOH&MH without waiting for the embargo periods, and the transfer of birth and death records and embargo dates on the IAJGS Records Access Alert go to the archives of the IAJGS Records Access Alert at: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/private/records-access-alerts/. You must be registered to access the archives. To register go to: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/listinfo/records-access-alerts and follow the instructions to enter your email address, full name and which genealogical organization with whom you are affiliated You will receive an email response that you have to reply to or the subscription will not be finalized.

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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