Re: Possible non-existence of a NY City death record #general

Ira Leviton

Dear Cousins,

Shari Kantrow asked "Is it possible for someone to have died in NY City between
1910-1930 and not have left a record? I know it is possible for birth records
to not exist, as I have personally experienced this. Whether it's possible for
a death record >from New York City not to exist, similar to non-existent a birth

My brief answer is definitely - no.

It's possible for somebody to have been born in N.Y.C. a century ago to have no
birth record because people didn't need birth certificates to open bank accounts,
get driver's licenses, and so on. By the 1910's, it occurred infrequently, and
by the 1930's, it was rare.

But for somebody to be buried, or cremated, or even have a funeral, there had to
be a death certificate, as well as a transit permit to move the body. The funeral
home couldn't do anything until the person was "declared" dead. I forget when
this became law, but it was prior to 1900.

That's not to say that the death certificate had the right name - it could have
been spelled wrong, indexed incorrectly, the first name and surname could have
been transposed, a similar but different name could have been used, or depending
on the circumstances of death the person could have even been "unknown white male"
-- all of the things we try to think of when our relative isn't in the index
where expected, with the explanations getting more complicated the further we
look. Residents of New York City could have also outside of the five boroughs,
with their deaths recorded somewhere else.

Ira Leviton
New York, N.Y.

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