Vital records themselves, such as birth and death certificates and marriage licenses, are NOT filed at the county level and are not available at the Westchester County Archives (with the brief exception of marriage records from 1908-1935). Birth, death and marriage records are filed with the clerk of the city, town or village where the event occurred (births/deaths) or the license issued (marriages). Years covered vary by municipality. After 1881, these records were also filed with the New York State Bureau of Vital Statistics. More information on obtaining vital records for genealogical purposes is available at the New York State Bureau of Vital Statistics Web site.
According to the Vital Records Section of the New York State Department of Health, in New York state:
- birth records are considered public records and available to genealogical researchers when they are at least 75 years old
- marriage records become public records when they are at least 50 years old and both the bride and groom are known to be dead
- death records must be 50 years or older to be considered public records.
Exceptions are possible for direct descendants with certain proof of relationship / death of individual for whom the record relates. The Vital Records Section of the New York State Department of Health Web site lists those specifications.
When it comes to obtaining a copy of birth, marriage, and death records, however, the quicker way is often to contact the local municipality. Try the Westchester County Clerk's list of local municipalties for contact information for Westchester city, town and village governments.
Vital Records Prior to 1881
Prior to 1881, information about births, deaths, and marriages is often very hard to come by. While such information may occasionally be found in governmental records, it is more likely to be found in church records or extracted from newspapers.
Vital Records Available at the Westchester County Archives
During the period 1908-1935, marriage records were filed at the county level and these records are available at the Westchester County Archives, along with an online index for them. In addition, the Westchester County Archives holds town clerk returns for births, marriages and deaths for 1847. An index for these records is available in the Archives' Reading Room.
A catalog of cemetery inscriptions is maintained by the Westchester County Historical Society. For more information, contact the:
Westchester County Historical Society
2199 Saw Mill River Road
Elmsford, NY 10523
Tel: (914) 592-4323
Fax: (914) 231-1515
Much useful information, including the addresses of municipal Clerks and of area churches (whose early records may be more valuable than official records), is available in "The Guide to Genealogical Research for Westchester County, New York" (2003, 3rd ed.) compiled by Marjorie C. H. Renino. For more information or to obtain a copy, contact the Westchester County Historical Society.