INCORRECT or NOT FOUND SEARCH RESULTS
Why do my search results return the wrong certificate?
First, make sure that the correct Borough, year, and certificate number was entered into the site. If the result is still incorrect, check the date of the birth, death or marriage event. If it took place in December, it is possible that the certificate for the event was not filed until the following year. Try changing the year entry to the following year.
Confirm the Borough, year and certificate number information with one of the other available indexes. The Municipal Archives application uses the indexes created by the Long Island Genealogy Federation. There are alternative indexes available at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Please note the Ancestry site links all the names listed on a vital record to one certificate number. Be sure the certificate number you enter corresponds with the individual you are researching.
If these strategies do not produce the correct result, there may be an error in the index or the link to the image. We are developing ways to crowd-source corrections and will be announcing updates in the coming weeks.
Why do I get a "no result" page? I’ve confirmed all my search parameters.
The birth, death or marriage event was not reported to the appropriate civil office.
Births: Legislation dating as far back as 1847 required persons attending at a birth to report the event to the Department of Health. However, many births were not reported, especially in the 19th and early 20th century when most births took place at home. There may have been a reluctance or inability to report the birth if the family or the attendant was not literate in English. Some families, especially in the Irish Catholic community, obtained a baptismal record from the church, but did not report the birth to the civil office.
Marriages: Sometimes persons officiating at the ceremony, particularly in a religious venue, failed to report the event to the Health Department. If the marriage took place after 1908, it is possible that there is a license record on file in the City Clerk marriage license series, but not in the Health Department marriage certificate series.
Deaths: To the best of our knowledge, cemeteries required evidence of the Department of Health death certificate prior to burial. A "no result" return for a death record is likely due to incorrect search parameters, or an incorrect index entry, as described below.
Not correctly indexed.
Vital records are numbered sequentially beginning with no. 1 on January 1 of each calendar year. And each Borough of New York City maintained separate series of birth, death and marriage records. Therefore, in order to locate the requested birth, death or marriage record, it is necessary to search indices to identify the certificate number, Borough, and date (year).
The indices to the vital records exist in varied formats, including hard copy and electronic, but all have one thing in common: they were created by people reading the original record and transcribing the index information: name(s), date, certificate number etc. Given this process, there were inevitable mistakes, especially since most of the original records are hand-written. The result is that some records are mis-indexed in such a way that even a diligent search of varied name spellings, etc. will not identify the correct entry.
Assuming all available indexes have been searched, and there is good evidence that the certificate does exist (e.g. date of burial information from a cemetery), one alternative is to search the records directly, based on the date of the event. This is generally recommended only or death record searches or more recent marriage record searches.
When will digitization of the City Clerk marriage license records be completed?
Approximately 40,000 marriage licenses will be digitized and published quarterly, beginning in September, 2022.
Digitization of the Manhattan deaths and City Clerk marriage license records is on-going. Newly digitized/indexed records will be added to the site on a quarterly basis. See Digital Vital Records for charts detailing what has been digitized and more About the three phased digitization project.
What is the difference between a marriage certificate and a marriage license?
Couples who married between 1908 and 1937 may have filed records with both the Department of Health and City Clerk. In these instances, two records will exist: the license and the certificate.
Department of Health Marriage Certificates were issued until 1938.
City Clerk Marriage Licenses were issued beginning in 1908 in compliance with NY State Law. The City Clerk marriage record series typically includes:
- Affidavit filled-out by the couple.
- License issued by the Clerk, (includes parents’ country of birth and bride’s occupation)
- Certificate filled-out by the person performing the wedding ceremony.
How do I find a marriage license record?
Search the index at Ancestry.com. Search results on the Ancestry site may include both the Health Department marriage record (for marriages reported from 1866 to 1937) and the City Clerk license record (for marriages reported from 1908 to 1949). The record number in each series is different. Make sure the correct number for the City Clerk license has been identified. On the Ancestry site, the source for the City Clerk license number will indicate: "New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018."
After obtaining the City Clerk license number from the index, return to Historical Vital Records to view the record, or to order a copy. Note that digitization of the license records is on-going. The Marriage charts detail whether the record has been digitized. If not, the record can be viewed on microfilm at the Municipal Archives, or order a copy.