Frequently Asked Questions


What is the status of a request for a vital record or photograph?

The current processing time for birth, death and marriage certificate copies is approximately three-to-four weeks.

Orders for photographs are processed in four-to-six weeks.

Please do not request status updates or “tracking” information unless the order has not been fulfilled within six weeks.  Thank you.

What should I do if I have not received the complete order?

The Municipal Archives often ships vital record copies separately even when ordered at the same time. Please wait three weeks after receiving the first item before inquiring about the remainder of the order.

What do I do if my credit card was denied?

Many patrons from outside the U.S. have difficulty with the credit card processing service that we use. Please contact us for further instructions if your credit card has been denied.

How do I place an order if the date of birth, death or marriage is not known and/or the certificate number is not known?

Patrons can now search indexes to most vital records on-line, for free, courtesy of the local genealogy organizations the Italian Genealogical Group and German Genealogical Group, as well as www.Ancestry.com and other commercial sites.

How do I order a birth record created between 1910 and the present?

All inquiries regarding birth certificates after 1910 - copies of certificates, amending the certificate, "long-form" certificate, etc. must be directed to the Department of Health.

How do I order a death record created after 1949?

All inquiries regarding death certificates after 1949 - copies of certificates, amending the certificate, "long-form" certificate, etc. must be directed to the Department of Health.

How do I order a marriage record created after 1950?

All inquiries regarding marriage records after 1950 - copies of certificates, amending the certificate, "long-form" certificate, etc. must be directed to the City Clerk.

What is the difference between marriage certificates and marriage license records?

Prior to 1908 there is only one available marriage record, the "certificate" recorded by the Health Department.  Beginning in 1908, in compliance with N.Y. State Law, couples planning to marry were required to obtain a license.  In the five boroughs of New York City, the City Clerk issued the license. The City Clerk marriage record series typically includes an "affidavit" filled-out by the couple, the "license" issued by the Clerk, and a “certificate” filled-out by the person performing the wedding ceremony.

The Health Department continued to record marriages until 1937. Consequently, there are potentially TWO entirely separate records of a marriage for the time period from 1908 through 1937—the Health Department Certificate and the City Clerk License/Affidavit/Certificate. Although the information in both series is duplicative, the City Clerk series includes additional information:  parents of the bride and groom, country of birth, and the bride's occupation.

The two series are filed and indexed separately.  On-line searchable indexes to Health Department marriage records are available for free, courtesy of the local genealogy organizations the Italian Genealogical Group and German Genealogical Group; indexes to the Marriage License series are available via www.Ancestry.com and other commercial sites.

How do I request records of birth, death, or marriage that took place in New York State outside of the City of New York?

Contact the New York State Department of Health for vital records from jurisdictions outside New York City.

How do I obtain divorce records?

For information about divorce records contact the County Clerk in the County where the divorce action was heard, or, contact the New York State Department of Health (divorce after 1963).

How do I request a correction or amendment to information on a birth, death or marriage record?

Birth records prior to 1910, death records prior to 1949, and marriage records prior to 1950 cannot be amended or corrected.

How do I get a letter of exemplification?

The letter of exemplification is only required for dual citizenship applications. If required, check the appropriate box on the application form (the fee for the letter is $5.00).

Can I use a camera or portable scanner in the Rebecca Rankin Reading Room (Rm. 111) and the Leonora Gidlund Reference Room (Rm. 103)?

Patrons may request permission from the Municipal Library and Archives Reading Room (111) desk attendant to use a camera or portable scanner to copy materials. Use of a camera or portable scanner is not permitted in the Leonora Gidlund Reference Room (103).

What is the cost of copy services for Vital Records?

Patrons may request certified paper copies of vital records over-the-counter in the Vital Records Services Room (103) for a charge of $11.00 each. There is not a self-service option for vital records.

How do I purchase a house or building photograph?

In 1939/40 and again in the mid-1980s every house and building in all five boroughs was photographed. For information about the collections and how to view and/or order copies, go to our Order Form.

Is it true that the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) has photographs of every house in the city, taken around 1940? How can I see them and/or order copies?

Yes, between 1939 and 1940, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) staff photographed every house and building in the five boroughs for property tax assessment purposes. The photographs are not currently available on-line, but you may view them on microfilm at DORIS during regular opening hours. You can order copies of these photographs online, at DORIS, or by mail.

How can I submit a FOIL Request to the NYC Department of Records and Information Services?

Please submit Freedom of Information Law requests at openRECORDS.