Frequently Asked Questions

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REOPENING AND APPOINTMENT INFORMATION

The Municipal Library and Archives research rooms at the New York City Department of Records & Information Services (DORIS) will re-open to the public on July 12, 2021, with appropriate health and safety protocols in place.

The research rooms will be open by appointment only.

For Appointments:

Please note the following procedures for booking an appointment:

  • Appointments can be made only after consulting with staff via email 
  • Due to current room capacity limits, all individuals accompanying researchers must also be registered with an appointment
  • Patrons are allowed to make up to 4 appointments per email consult with staff 
  • Appointments made without first consulting with staff will be cancelled 
  • Appointments must be made at least 48 hours in advance 
  • Once onsite for an appointment, patrons can book additional same day or next day appointments if there are slots available by emailing  research@records.nyc.gov or familyhistory@records.nyc.gov
  • To cancel an appointment, email research@records.nyc.gov or familyhistory@records.nyc.gov
  • Appointments can be rescheduled by clicking the “change your appointment” link at the bottom of the appointment confirmation email or by emailing  research@records.nyc.gov or familyhistory@records.nyc.gov


The opening hours for the research rooms are:

  • Monday – Friday: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm; with appointment times available at 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm; closed 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

DORIS will continue to provide online research assistance whenever possible; please email inquiries to the contacts listed above.

DORIS continues to implement precautions for visitor safety in accordance with New York and CDC COVID-19 practices and restrictions, including:

  • Masks will be required for all persons at 31 Chambers Street.
  • Health screenings are required upon entry to 31 Chambers Street.
  • Social distancing and room capacity limits will be in effect.

Family History Appointment Questions

  • Pending requests for vital record orders cannot be picked up during the appointment time.
  • Property card and photo orders may be picked up at 31 Chambers Street without an appointment.
  • Orders for copies of vital records during appointment times will be fulfilled. Orders must be placed ½ hour before appointment time ends. If there is a delay, the order will be mailed to you.
  • Microfilm for non-digitized collections will be available for browsing for all appointment times. It is not necessary to secure specific requests before your appointment.

ORDER STATUS

  1. What is the status of my photo order?
    • Photographic prints are fulfilled in approximately two weeks.
    • Digital orders are fulfilled in approximately 4-5 days.

  2. What is the status of my vital records order?
    • Hard-copy certificates are fulfilled in approximately 8-12 weeks.
    • Digital orders are fulfilled in approximately 5 days.
    • Requests for records only on microfilm (NOT digitized) for both print and email orders are delayed approximately 8-12 weeks.

  3. What do I do if my credit card was denied?
    • Please contact us for further instructions if your credit card has been denied.

  4. 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.

  5. How long does it take to receive a refund?
    • A refund request can take up to 6 weeks to process.

  6. Will I get a refund for the shipping cost when I agreed to accept a PDF copy of the vital record instead of the hard copy I originally ordered?
    • No, the additional charge covers administrative processing and will not be refunded.

VITAL RECORDS

  1. How to place an order for a historical vital record?
  2. What do I receive with my order?

    The NYC Municipal Archives will provide the following documentation based on your requests and research needs:

    Vital Records
    • Certified Vital Record: A true copy of a vital record in the custody of the New York City Municipal Archives, issued by the Department of Records and Information Services. Printed on certificate paper without a wet signature and without a raised seal.
    • Letter of Exemplification: A true copy of a vital record in the custody of the New York City Municipal Archives, issued by the Department of Records and Information Services, and a letter re-stating the specific borough, year, and certificate number of the vital record. The copy of the vital record will have a raised seal of the Department of Records and Information Services. The letter will have a wet signature and a raised seal.
    • No Amend Letter: A letter stating the Archive's policy that prohibits editing, correcting, and/or amending historical records in its custody. The letter will have a wet signature and a raised seal.

    Other Records
    • Certified Property Card, OCME, or Civil List records: A true copy of the record with a raised seal and stamp, certifying issuance by the Department of Records and Information Services.

  3. 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?
    • You can place an order for a search by filing in the information that is known. Your order must contain a name, year range and borough range. A search for an additional year or borough is $2.00.
    • Search online indexes for free, courtesy of genealogy organizations: Note: Ancestry.com citations often link all names listed on a vital record (spouse, parents, children) to one certificate number. Please be sure the certificate number you provide corresponds to the individual named in the request.

  4. What is the difference between Health Department marriage certificates and City Clerk marriage license records?
    • 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 single certificate.
    • Department of Health Marriage Certificates were issued until 1938. They were filled out by the person performing the wedding ceremony. These certificates contain limited information.
    • 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.
    • All orders for a Marriage Search will include a search in both indices.

  5. What if I need a vital record for legal procedures (e.g. dual citizenship, apostille process, veteran benefits)?
    • Request a Letter of Exemplification. This option provides:
      • A true copy of a vital record in the custody of the New York City Municipal Archives, issued by the Department of Records and Information Services with a raised seal.
      • A letter re-stating the specific borough, year, and certificate number of the vital record with a raised seal and a wet signature.
    • The order must be delivered via USPS.
    • For additional information on the Apostille process, contact the New York State Department of State, Division of Licensing Services.

  6. How do I request a correction of 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. Please contact us for information about obtaining a 'no amend' letter.

  7. Why did I receive a Not Found Letter?
    • There was not a vital record that matched the information in the search request.
    • Approximately 25 percent of all births prior to 1910 were not reported to New York City.
    • Church records or the federal and state censuses are alternative resources.
    • The federal census is available from the National Archives.

  8. Why did I only receive part of my order?
    • Requests are being fulfilled by certificate type not by order.

  9. What vital records are available digitally onsite?
    • If records are not available digitally, they are available on microfilm.
Borough /
County
Health Department
Marriage
Certificates
Death
Certificates
Birth
Certificates

Manhattan

1866-1937

N/A

1866-1909

Brooklyn/Kings Country

1866-1937

1862-1948

1866-1909

Bronx

1898-1937

1898-1948

1898-1909

Queens

1898-1937

1898-1948

1898-1909

Staten Island/Richmond County

1898-1937

1898-1948

1898-1909

OTHER RECORDS

  1. How do I request records of birth, death, or marriage that took place in New York City for later years?

  2. How do I request records of birth, death, or marriage that took place in New York State outside of the City of New York?
  3. 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), Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza Albany, NY 12237.

  4. How do I request a name change record?
    • For information about name change records contact the Civil Court in the County of residence.

  5. What is the difference between Health Department marriage certificates and City Clerk 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' 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.

  6. 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 and again in the 1980s? 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 City photographed every house and building again in the 1980s. The photographs can be searched and viewed in the agency website.