Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New York State Marriages, 1908-1935

We all know that New York State's Vital Records are sealed for several years, such as 75 years for births, 50 years for deaths, and 50 years for marriages, right?

Well did you know that there was a small group of years that sort of slipped through the cracks of the NYS Department of Health, Vital Records Department and have been readily available since their creation? Generally speaking the years from about 1908 to about 1935 the marriage records were kept by the various county clerks and because of that you should have total access to them. There are some exceptions of course on the range of years and also as to some counties might still restrict access. However there is a work around.

About twenty years ago I was working on a research project of some families that resided in Broome County and it would be helpful to look at some more modern marriage records. When I presented myself at the county clerk's office and asked to see the 1908-1935 series of marriage indexes and certificates, I was told by the clerk that "they were not available as they are under the care custody and control of the NYS Department of Health!" Well I knew different, and politely told them so and with an emphasis on politeness but remaining resolute, I asked to have someone in authority explain why they were different than all of the other counties in the state?

After receiving the boiler plate answer from a few different clerks, they actually sent the county attorney out to essentially tell to buzz off! I explained to the gentleman that this series was available in all of the other counties that I had been working in and I could not see why they would not let me see them. He again, rather angrily told me to "forget it, they were not going to be seen by me!"

On the way home I was fuming because of their rudeness and obvious ignorance and I figured that by gosh when I got home I was going to write a letter and tell them what was what, and demand to see them on a return trip. Then I got the bright idea to check the LDS Family History Library Catalog, and lo and behold, the series of records I wanted was on microfilm in Salt Lake City. After ordering copies of the films at our local Family History Center I was able to see just exactly what I was looking for and I never bothered to 'get tough" with Broome County, Nahh, nahh, nahh...

Well big deal, you say, so what? Well here are some of the items that you can get off a copy of the original marriage certificate:
Name, age, date of birth, place of birth, and occupation, of both the bride and the groom. You also get both of their parent's names, including the mother's maiden name, and where the parents were born. The names of the witnesses and the officiating person and where the marriage took place is also given.

So you see though these are modern records, so to speak, you can actually take the family back another generation by obtaining the names of the parents.

I do not know the reason that this series of dates is excepted from the NYS Dept. of Health collection, perhaps some reader could enlighten me, The only thing I do know is that these records have advanced the research greatly of many of the people through the years that I have worked on, and I hope they will help you too.

Here is a list of the counties that I was able to locate microfilms of this collection (circa 1908-1935,) for at LDS;
Allegany, Bronx, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Kings, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Nassau, Niagara, Oneida, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenctady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Westchester, Wyoming, and Yates. You will notice that some of the counties do not have the full range of years and a couple have a greater range of years, but most are 1908-1935.

I could find no listing in the on-line Family History Library Catalog for the following counties, however they might exist and perhaps if a reader knows anything more about them please advise and I will update the list: Albany, Dutchess, Erie, New York, Onondaga (however I personally have used these many times from the original books in the Onondaga County Clerk's office and suspect that they have been filmed by LDS, but they do not appear in the catalog,) and Suffolk. I have no idea why any of these are lacking but am in hopes someone can tell me.

You can search for these and any other sort of records at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (LDS,) the Mormon church's Family History Library Catalog on-line at Click on "Library" then "Family History Library Catalog", then do a "Place Search," for instance: Broome, New York. You will then see all of the things in their collection relating to Broome county, and these marriage records would be listed under "Vital Records."

Though all of the above discussion is in regards to the records kept at county level, if you need something that was in a major metropolitan area then the records would be held by the City Clerk, so check the LDS catalog for those film numbers.

Here is a link to the official NYS Dept. of Health, Vital Records Dept.

You may print this out and keep it handy if it is helpful. Please come and visit our website, and note the "NEW" url at

Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy (

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