Posted by Juliana Szucs on September 6, 2017 in Collections

If you’re researching in New York State, we have some good news for you. Ancestry has just launched a collection of New York State death indexes covering 1880 to 1956. The collection includes more than 5 million names of people who died in New York State. Prior to this release, this index was only on available on microfiche in a dozen or so locations in New York, including the New York State Archives.

A couple of things to know about this collection. First, this collection covers New York State, but not New York City, which maintains its own vital records. (There are several existing collections on Ancestry that do cover the New York City boroughs.) Additionally, records prior to 1914 are not currently available from Albany, Yonkers, and Buffalo.

Second, this is just an index. The index includes the name of the deceased, date of death, location of death, and death certificate number. You want to go after that death record, as you’ll get much more detail on the actual record.

Ancestry does have some death records online for various New York counties, and there are a number of other vital records resources available for New York on Ancestry. You can view all of these through the Ancestry Card Catalog or through New York State page.

If the records are not available online, you can purchase copies through the New York Department of Health. They have a genealogy page with details on how to request the records.

Alternative Sources for Death Information

Historical newspapers like those found on may include more details about your ancestors. Be sure to check newspapers in any location where your ancestor lived, as obituaries were often copied to papers in other places your ancestor had a connection with. Look for multiple death notices, even within the same paper. There may be notices over a span of several days, and you may even find multiple mentions in the same newspaper, on the same day. Sometimes you’ll find more detail in one clipping than others.

Find A Grave is a free and extraordinary resource. Memorials sometimes include additional details and some may include digitized records related to that person as well.

Once a death date is known, you may also be able to locate a record for your ancestor in the U.S. Wills and Probates collection on Ancestry. You can get tips on using the probate collection in this blog post.

For more follow-ups and alternatives to U.S. vital records (births, marriages, and deaths), download our free guide.

While our fascination with death may seem a bit morbid, within death records we can find incredible insights into the lives of our people.

You can search the New York Death Index, 1880-1956 here.

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 20 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.


  1. Alex Calzareth

    It’s great that has indexed these records but credit must be given to Reclaim The Records ( )whose hard work resulted in the release of these records and the NYC marriage license index, among others

  2. It’s disappointing that Ancestry touts this as their success when it was Reclaim the Records’ efforts that won these records. It would be nice if Ancestry would mention RtR in items like this blog post and the descriptions of this data set and the NYC marriage license. And for readers, if this helps you, donate (tax deductible) to Reclaim the Records to help them get more records freely available for the genealogy community.

  3. Dana B Sheldon

    C’mon give thanks where thanks is do. If it wasn’t for Reclaim the Records these wouldn’t be here. Sadly now you will charge for them. However Reclaim the Records has made sure they are free for all.

    Make this a free database….show thanks and compassion.

  4. K C

    Did anyone attempt to reach and speak with management about the issue. I agree with you but seems passive aggressive in nature.

  5. Cathi

    Give credit where credit is due!!! These records would never have been available to Ancestry without RECLAIM THE RECORDS!! Please give them credit for the release of this record group.

  6. gemstone

    Thank you for launching the New York [State] Death Index. Many of my relatives lived and died in New York, and with this index as a source, I have been able to add, supplement or correct dozens of their dates and locations not available through Find A Grave or any other resource.

  7. Cyndi

    Hooray for all the efforts of Reclaim the Records! If they hadn’t have spent tons of money and people hours on getting these records released, Ancestry would never have them.

    Of course Ancestry management knows the backstory. Why they are choosing to ignore the invaluable work of RtR, I’ll never know. But it’s not too late…send out a press release and encourage people to donate to RtR so they can expand their efforts faster than the slow pace they’re currently limited to.

    More records means more Ancestry subscribers, even if the records are available free elsewhere. Ancestry brings them together under a single search engine, something no one else does as well. And they transcribed them, which is not a small effort.

    Credit those who did the work that allowed you to have these records. It makes Ancestry look better and it makes it possible to get more records released, something everyone wants.

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