Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site

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HELPFUL INFORMATION from Ruth A. Messick, April 4, 2000 - these are drop down links to information below

NYS VITAL RECORDS & problem areas




Under NYS Health Dept law, the towns were required to submit each birth, death and marriage that was recorded in each municipality to the NYS Health Dept commencing in 1880. The first year, 1880, few did that. A few more did in 1881 and then they were told YOU WILL not MAYBE send the vital records to the Health Dept. in Albany. Those of NYC are not in Albany (there are some volumes in NYS Library 1907-1918 of NYC) but are at Chambers Street at the Municipal Archives for all of the boroughs.

The law prescribed protection of 75 years on births and 50 years for deaths and marriages. After that anyone may obtain them, related or not. The clerks are to keep these records but after that time, may release them.

At the NYS Archives in Albany you may look at microfiche of all vital records that are permitted. You will find the surname, first name, date of the event, place of the event (and that is where it is recorded), and a 4-5 digit number on the far right. If you were to order it from Albany at the Health Dept., you use that number and they can make a copy in a few days. Otherwise it might take a year to 18 months. We were told that they have one person WORKING on those that are sent in by mail and do not have the actual date. Remember that some names are not always spelled the same so they might look in the year(s) specified and not find it.

When the Health Dept "allowed" the microfiche to be placed at the Archives in 1991 (after almost a year of meetings, letter writing campaigns to our representatives in Albany, letters to the editors of newspapers in the Capital District, and anything else that we could think of) it was with the agreement that they would never allow it to be printed from the microfiche. The entire set of microfiche could be reproduced in a very short time to a hard copy and the whole world could look them up in no time. It is very time consuming to look thru several years of microfiche.

New York is also one of the longest holding periods on vital records. In Florida it is 24 hours and you can get any vital record. Some states are 5-10 years and up to 25 years. When you realize that about the only thing they don't print in the newspaper with the birth, death or marriage is the mother's maiden name. Otherwise, todays vital records in the newspaper have what use to be family secrets.

So you cannot inventory the vital records of any town other than to know the dates they start and continue. Whitney Point, Broome, NY does not have a lot of them. First a fire took down the entire village. It was rebuilt and then a few years later a flood wiped out part of the town with the clerk's office. So not everyone has info back to 1880.

NYS VITAL RECORDS and problem areas:
May 2001

I attended a super genealogical and historical conference here in Saratoga this past Friday and Saturday that was arranged by the NYG&B. WOW!! We attended 5 - 1hour talks a day with 15 minute breaks. Lunch and dinner speakers on Friday and luncheon speaker on Saturday. Helped set up on Thursday and manned a table off and on from 7:30am until 9pm on Friday. Talked to a few hundred people in 2 1/2 days about genealogy and history. Part of the title "A match made in Heaven" really hit the nail on the head. They combined archivists, genealogists, and historians who crammed so much information into our heads in their one hourof speaking as well as notes from each presenter.

Basically, the whole idea is to get all groups WORKING together to change how we have all been WORKING in the past - that is - 'separately' and sometimes refusing to share information. Historians are beginning to realize that genealogy researcher sometimes seek more and different sources. We also know that genealogists have loads of info (miss loads of info too) and do not fully use what info they find to really do a bang-up job of writing a family history that could be done.

The sharing that went into this conference was great. We also had 3 book dealers who filled one large room with thousands of books of interest to historians and genealogists. Mindboggling to say the least. People who checked in on Thursday night got a head start looking at the books and still had not finished really doing a good job of looking at all the titles until Saturday.

What I especially want to share with you is the talk by Peter Carucci, head of NYS Health Dept. vital records. I came away feeling very hopeful that there is really some attempt underway to change some things in NYS vital records. You know how government things happen but I think if you would talk to your legislator for your district and follow through telling that person you will be back to them for a report of what is going on, we can really get these things moving. That is what we keep being told by higher sources here in Albany and they keep telling us to get busy contacting these people so we keep it before them.

There were some interesting things to note which I was not aware of. Registration procedures was one of them. Up into the 1920's babys were born at home and usually delivered by someone such as a midwife. When you go to a town clerk, THEY DO NOT HAVE THE ORIGINAL filed by the doctor or midwife. The original was sent to NYS Health Dept in Albany. The State of NY provided the clerks a book to transcribe the info into at the local level from the original and they did not have all the details from those original records. Thus, the possibility in having an error in transcribing could happen at this point. A copy of the original in Albany is going to be more accurate. This was also what was happening with deaths. One thing to be especially careful is the date the midwife/doctor signed on the vital record AND the date it was filed. If it was not within a day or two, be concerned that they got busy and might have filled it in "from memory" of what they think someone told them a several days ago. This is another good chance of some mistakes.

In 1917 Vital Registrars were established to records of births and deaths. Marriages were recorded in the Town or City clerks. They might be in two places for this reason after 1917.

There are now sets of the microfiche index of the NYS Health Dept in The Federal Archives in NY City and Rochester Library as well as the set that has been at NYS Archives in Albany. (By the way, if you are planning on coming to Albany to look up vital records, you might be put on a time limit of 1 hour if there are others waiting as they are currently moved to the 3rd floor. The 11th floor is being renovated for the next 2 years.) There are only 4 readers (use to be 8 on 11th floor) so it is now necessary to sign up ahead when you arrive.

The problem of clerks refusing to give people vital records was discussed openly by over 100 people and Mr. Carucci. He got an earful about some of the worst ones around NYS. Several people related their experience and refusal by the Walton clerk. If you have had problems in obtaining vital records from the Walton town clerk, please send me a private message to with some details. I told him I would locate these people and bring him those names and problems. Had quite a few from this list at one time but lost them in a computer crash. She insisted she had to copy my driver's license and notarize it. When I said that is not done anywhere else, she said her town required it and the NYS Health Dept. knew that they were doing that but it is not required by NYS Health Dept to obtain a vital record. I did not have to state or prove that I was a descendant of my grandmother to obtain her 1893 marriage. Deaths and Marriages are open to anyone to obtain after 50 years and you do not have to be related. For $11 and a two hour wait, I received a note typed on a piece of paper that it WAS on file in that office but received no other information. I came to Albany, obtained a copy of that complete vital record and had the NYS Health Dept call her and discuss these three points

Mr. Carucci then gave us his office number (518-474-5245) and said his secretary will take the information. If anyone has a problem with any town or city clerk, his office will contact them and explain the law and that ANYONE may purchase these vital records from town and city clerks if they are: Births 1880 - 1926 (need to know that this person is deceased) - Death 1881 - 1951 (50 years protection). Marriage 1881 - 1951 (50 years protection) My question for Mr. Carucci: Three years ago, Robert Freeman of the F.O.I.L, wrote an opinion about marriages which Mr. Carucci agreed on and the clerks can give the information on them except the actual street address and their Social Security #. The rest of the information can be given to you and not invade their privacy. The standard form that everyone gets from the Health Dept. states that you prove that both the bride and groom are deceased but that is no longer necessary to obtain their marriage.

Some places in NYS are WORKING toward putting their very old vitals online and one of these is Buffalo. Keep talking to your legislators about the need to obtain these AND HOW MUCH REVENUE THEY COULD GENERATE FOR THE STATE OR TOWNS if towns clerks would issue these instead of refusing. Encourage electronic forms for the Internet, especially indexes with an ordering procedure at that site.

As many of you know, there are some records from an earlier attempt to collect vital records state-wide. They are scattered but the dates were from 1847 to early 1850's. One of the best sources for tracking these is throught the WPA reports for births, deaths and marriages which were published in early 1940s. Many libraries have a copy of these books, including NYS Library. Many of those found in the late 1930's in clerk's offices state-wide, as indicated in these books, are long gone but some may still be found in some clerk's office, historical societies, museums or who knows where. You have a legal right to have those with no restrictions if found. Let others know if found.


Death certificates are filed in the township where the deceased is pronounced dead. The tricky thing now is that if a person stops breathing and is given CPR enroute to the hospital, and is not revived, they will be pronounced at the hospital even though they were probably dead at the scene where picked up by the ambulance. My mother dropped dead suddenly at her home (I was with her) and was not breathing. The first EMT that arrived started CPR but she could not be revived at Binghamton General Hospital. Her death certificate is in the City of Binghamton clerk even though technically she was deceased in another township.

Death certificates are required to be filed with the clerk in whose township the body is buried. If they die in another county or state and brought back to be buried, they must file a death certificate in the town where the cemetery is located.

Burial permits basically start around 1925 but are sketchy in many places until into the 30's. Some don't exist for many reasons. Here in Saratoga Springs, Greenridge Cemetery has no record for burials 1938-1948 as that book burned in a fire in the caretaker's home in 1948. This cemetery and its many mysteries of information are my pet project. I got the bright idea that possibly the city clerk's office would allow us to just copy the name and date for any that designated Greenridge so we could reconstruct a list for 1938-1948. Guess what? Someone in a prior administration of office decided since they had the death certificates for all burials, why keep the burial permits? Hence they threw them away and they only exist for about the last 18-20 years under the new administration. One of the easiest and best ways to overcome digging everywhere is to go to the NYS Archives in Albany and spend the time looking thru the microfiche of the vital records index. You spend some time in the years most closely possible to the event and play with different spellings of names. Remember that one letter inserted somewhere can locate a name somewhere else in the index. I remember counting one time and the spelling of Petitt and Pettit was separated by 24 other names which alphabetically fall in place because of the i and t difference.

Other occasions are differences in names than what you think they are:

1) Everyone knew a woman by one name but her correct name was given on her death certificate and that is what shows up on the burial permit and in the Social Security Death Index which I examined every entry both under her married name and maiden name before I found it (date and place of death in Florida as reference). She died in Florida and is buried in Oneonta. She had an odd first name that she obviously did not ever want to use. This happens more frequently than you can believe.

2 )My cousin and I went to Johnson City to obtain the death certificate for a little boy who is buried in Walton Cemetery. We knew his correct name. The very patient clerk read for awhile and said she had something similar and we told her a little story about the situation. SOOO, it seems that the parents of the little boy had no money. He got hurt and was the age of a child belonging to another relative who worked for a company that provided hospitization and funeral expenses. The relative used the child's first name then their own son's first name and their surname, thus the child is not registered in his own surname but has only his own first name, another child's first and surname in all of the records pertaining to his hospitalization and death certificate. It is correct in the office at Walton Cemetery. Talk about ironic. The family with the hospitalization and funeral expense lost their own baby three days later and he is buried next to the first child. Imagine how the people at work felt for these people who lost two sons in three days.

3) A very well known woman here in Saratoga died in 1914 at age 102. Big obituary which said she was buried in Greenridge. Went to the office and could not find her in the record. Looked up the sites for people buried there who were of same names as her maiden name and both married names. She died under name Weeks and there she was buried in their plot BUT her children had placed a stone with THEIR name Adkens on her grave and that is how she is listed in the office.

The chances that a person is not listed somewhere in death certificates, burial permits after they start, cemetery office records, etc. is probably slim in most cases but many factors play into the recording and that is when you have to try everything to unravel the mystery. JUST DON'T GIVE UP.

Bye the way -- The two biggest things that I find that people are not finding their vital records.

1) They are recorded with a different spelling so you must look at other possible spellings especially changing vowels around, single and double letters. With Pettit - Petit - Petitt in Saratoga County probate, there are 19 other surnames separating these spellings of Petit. Regardless of how you know they spelled it, you must look for and order them the way they are spelled so they can verify them. Things like Kilpatrick often is listed Killpatrick. Puts you in the alphabet in the index by one letter. Care in soundexing is important expecially with double letters. Women are constantly using another name, often their middle name, all of their life. Agnes Pearl hated Agnes and used Pearl all of her life but legally she is listed on her death or marriage certificate Agnes Pearl. Men often use an initial J. W. Steele instead of their name or have a legal first name and use it only as an initial. J. William Steele. Usually on the death certificate is there REAL AND LEGAL name and that may not have been used all their life. European names are often spelled differently. I united a Charlton family Austro with a long lost family who are related. When the sisters of the Austro immigrant married and moved away, the sister's married names was something like Plotchnisky who are all Plunkett in OK now. They would not have found each other unless they had a wild guess or started seeking the Austro name back here.

2) Just because someone lived somewhere, that does not mean they were married there, died there or even born there. a)They died of heart attacks, injury and other things and were not at home. Place of residence at time of death and actual place of death could be two different places. If it was a sudden death you should consider checking the paper where it happened and they might have a news article about it too as well as a local obit in their home town. b)Women often went to someone else's home to be there for the birth of their baby so she had help, especially if she had other children to care for so she could be away from her home for a few weeks. Remember woman did not get up for at least 10 days in the old days (60 years or more ago). c)And in most cases, the man went to the town of his bride's for the wedding but they lived somewhere else. d)occupation has an awful lot to do with people moving and residing so consider that too.


Guardianship papers in NYS are located in the Surrogate Court which is where the wills and estates are filed. These are very valuable papers for family information and often overlooked, especially if in the final decree, it states the relationship to the deceased of these children (minor and infants). There is often much more to be obtained.

Looking at paper for each child you usually find:

Susan Harriet was 12 years on her birthday last October 12th. (from the date of this recorded piece of paper) Henry William was born February 6th, after the death of the deceased

These also state the name of the Guardian that is appointed. You rarely find the mother appointed Guardian. Women were usually not involved in legal matters; were not involved in or versed on running the business or farm; were not always able to fend off those who would attempt to manipulate these affairs for their own good; and some were downright greedy (or foolish) about handling money which should provide the care of the children. The Guardian could be another family member or someone from a banking or legal institution. This might be a source of an allied family name you need to check on that you had not previously known. Many a son-in-law handled these affairs and was appointed executor by the court at the widow's request.

There are cases where Guardianships are listed at a later date than the initial estate proceedings. If it is found that there are hardships or some reason that the children must have a Guardianship in place to protect their interest or provide for them when it has not been done, then the legal paper work will be put into place.

In any case, always read the proceedings of each Surrogate hearing which is recorded before the will is finally transcribed in the Will book. These proceedings spell out what has gone on (lots of family squabbles or special facts not recorded anywhere else are found here) and relationships of many people. This is also where you might find the info that states some child(ren) were from a previous marriage or fathered by someone else.

One bit of information that I always hope to find is for the daughter who is married, left home and hasn't turned 21 yet. A husband is not made Guardian for his wife as that could make things complicated and to be sure that his wife's share will be protected for her. Finding these young girls who disappear from census by age 21 can be tricky and married names are elusive. This may be where you find her in this time period of her life.

You will also find Guardianships in other estates than just the father and mother's. Any person under 21 might have a Guardianship paper in another relative's estate such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, etc. It might be in another county or state somewhere. This is why it is important to record ALL of the people who are allied to your direct lineal ancestor. Too often people are taught to stick with ONLY their direct lineal and not bother with any of the other relatives. You know how often you hear "My ancestor missed the census, city directories and everything else." Well, their relatives may not have been missed so you travel on their information until you can go back a generation or two and find the earlier ancestors that they all descend from. That includes their estates. I have one estate that the deceased had no children ever. His living brothers and sisters and all of the descendants of his deceased siblings were listed in great detail. Those under 21 all were given a Guardianship. This gave me almost an entire genealogy of two generations in detail, including one who lived in South America.

The Surrogate is the first place I go to search anywhere I go. You then have many other people on your list to search in all the records after that. I revel in the information that I glean there that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Good habit to get into.


Go to Search Excelsior, the NYS catalog of holdings.

You will save a lot of time by doing this searching before coming to NYS Library and Archives. Address subjects searches such as Vital Records, Genealogies, Census, Newspapers, Church Records, Manuscripts, School Records, Military Records, and things like occupation of your ancestor.

There is an endless list of Delaware County references for everything from water tests, lumbering, population studies, etc. In some of it might be something of interest and contain names of people.

Also check under listings of DAR Bible records, DAR Clerk and Cemetery records, DAR Graves, (these are not about people who belong to the DAR but records that the DAR published of all kinds of information found and compiled. There are sections for every county in NYS under Clerk and Cemetery records. The DAR Graves are the listings of all known Rev. War men found in NYS.

Check for individual towns, villages and hamlets within Delaware County and check more thoroughly those in the 974. category. Probably most of them are known and available on the Delaware County GenWebPage but occasionally something different shows up that is not known. 974 area is the local, county and state section in most libraries. Use this for researching in any county. (They have quite a bit of New England information in that area too.)

They have all of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Registers NYGBR and New England Historical and Genealogical Registers NEHGR there. In some copies of the NYGBR can be found info that was found years ago and published about areas. In NEHGR, I found the cemetery records of my ancestor buried in Otsego Co., NY which led me to my gggg grandmother's grave in Garretsville area. This led to finding the home of her son who migrated from Mansfield, CT. It is awesome to stand in the house that he built in 1790's.

You should also do a search of periodicals both for places and surnames. This will take some wading thru. Many a college student's thesis have information that could contain stories or records of your ancestor, the area they lived in, their occupation and thoroughly researched these materials. These show up in publication searches by topics, places, etc.

You should conduct similar searches in other libraries maybe in PA as they crossed that border a lot.

There are a set of books published in the 1980's by Cornell University's Olin Library. They are the NY Repository Books for each county. You will be able to see exactly the holdings in each repository in each county at the time of review. This is where you will locate business papers, personal papers, family papers, diaries, school records, photos, diaries, autograph books, Bibles, and so much more.

MILITARY SERVICE RECORDS in NYS ARCHIVES document the service of individuals who served in the State's armed forces during conflicts prior to WW II. The records contain summary data, usually taking the form of financial claims, cards, registers, or one-page abstracts. The Archives holds no military case files (service, pension or bounty land warrant) like those created by the Federal government.

ACCESS TO MILITARY RECORDS Military records in the State Archives are available to the public in the Archives' research room on the 11th floor of the Cultural Education Center in downtown Albany. If records are available on microfilm, use of the original records is restricted.

INFORMATION ABOUT MILITARY RECORDS. Record series in the State Archives are listed in "Guide to Records in the NYS Archives" (1993). Detailed published guides describe records of New York's participation in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War 1, and records of the State War Council during World War II. The "Guide" and other publications as well as the Archives' on-line catalog can be accessed on the Internet through SARA's World-Wide Web Server The catalog only is also accessible via Telnet or by telephone dial-in 518-474-8077 or 518-474-9851; login as apublic and chose the terminal type that matches the abilities of your telnet program, usually VT220 or VT100.

CHARGES FOR COPIES OF WAR SERVICE RECORDS. There is no charge for the service itself. If documents are found for a named individual, the charge for handling, mailing, and photocopies or abstracts of documents is either $3.00 (Rev. War, War of 1812 or Civil War) or $2.00 (Spanish-American War, World War 1). A separate check or money order must accoompany each filled-out search request form. If a record of service is found for a named individual, a photocopy will be sent by U. S. Mail. If no record is found for a named individual, the check or money order will be returned to the sender.

1) Because some documents are either too fragile or too faintly written to be photocopied, the NYS Archives may furnish a complete abstract, rather than a photocopy, of a record of war service.
2) Using available indexes and data provided by the requester, Archives staff will search for the documents relating to war service of a named individual. However, the Archives is not responsible for identifying documents relating to a particular person, especially if a common name is searched.
3) Search requests containing incomplete information will be returned to sender.

To contact the Archives for further information and requests:
New York State Archives
Cultural Education Center Room 11D40
Albany, NY 12230
phone 518-474-8955

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