Records Request #03

Index to New York State Deaths (Outside of New York City), 1880-1956

On January 4, 2016, Reclaim The Records submitted a FOIL request to the New York State Department of Health for a copy of the entire New York State death index, from June 1880 through December 31, 1956. We requested the index only in this FOIL request.

And seventeen months later, we won the records!  Full information is here, in our latest newsletter.

New York State death index - image #1 of 2

The full text of our request is available below, and also available to follow on the MuckRock website:

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New York State Freedom of Information Law (1977 N.Y. Laws ch. 933), I hereby request the following records:

I would like to receive a copy of the New York State death index, from June 1880 (or as early as such records are available) through December 31, 1956, inclusive. Please note that this request is for the basic index only, and not the actual death certificates.

The New York State Department of Health has already made this index freely available in microfiche format at various public libraries in upstate New York, as well as at the New York City branch of NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration. However, that microfiche is only accessible to researchers who are physically onsite at one of those locations.

The New York State Department of Health has also made a selection of data from the index for the years 1957-1965 available to the public in database format on the New York State open data portal, at this online address:

That data is available for searches online and for download to a personal computer. The data is updated quarterly for the more recent years with a fifty year lag; e.g. the information from 1966 will start to be added to that file in 2016.

If the more modern data from 1957-1965 is already available to the public, then there doesn’t appear to be any reason that the older data from 1880-1956 could not be made available too, in whatever format it currently exists.

This request is not being made for commercial purposes. The requested documents will be scanned and uploaded to the Internet, and will be made freely available to the general public. It is anticipated that some non-profit genealogical groups may choose to transcribe the information in the death index, to turn it into a new text-searchable database. We would be happy to share any such database with the Department of Health.

If possible, I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or via other media. Please be advised that if any microfiche or microfilm copies need to be made, these will also require shipping fees to California. Please inform me of any potential charges in advance of fulfilling my request.

Please also be advised that this FOIL request is being filed publicly through the website, and all correspondence about this request will be immediately published to the general public.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

Coming soon: information about how we did it.

Record Set Details:

  • Record Content Type: Death Records
  • Record Years: June 1880 through December 31, 1956
  • Record Format: Index Only
  • Record Physical Format: Microfiche (not microfilm)
  • Number of Records (Estimated): Millions.