Hit a roadblock finding death certificate for NYC: names, certificate number, but no death year #general #usa #belarus


Hi, all. On Ancestry.com, I found a couple I had been seeking on an index to New York, NY death certificates (this shocked me, since I was sure they were martyred in Grodno during the holocaust). The names are unique, and there was a common certificate number for both of them (this also puzzled me), along with birth places, spouse, and child, but no year of death. I tried to order the death certificates from the NYC records department (source of the index for Ancestry.com) but I was unable, because ordering requires a year of death - which was not provided on the index that was itself derived from NYC. I tried getting clues about year of death several ways, looking on NYC genealogy group sites ( www.germangenealogygroup.com ; www.italiangen.org), on find-a-grave, looking for family trees, etc. but no luck. And the Records Dept. can't help without the year, even with the certificate number. Anyone have any suggestions?


David Oseas


Are you certain that you are looking at the death records for the couple and not their database entries (as parents) in the death record of their child?

It is unusual (though not unheard of) for a couple to die on the same date.  However, I've never run across a situation where two people were given the same death record number:  the pages were usually pre-printed (or stamped) with sequential numbers, so it would require that both deaths to be recorded on same form.

David Oseas

Sherri Bobish


Can you post the names of the people you are seeking?  If some of us can look at what you are seeing than perhaps we can be of help to you.


Sherri Bobish
Princeton, NJ

Marshall Lerner


I was a member of the team under of the leadership of John Martino of the Italian Genealogy Group that created the index which is used to find deaths, births, marriages, etc. at the NYC Archives. For the most part John's team worked from photocopies of microfilm images of varying quality over the course of many years.We did the best we could to interpret those source documents but team members were frequently required to make educated guesses about the spelling of names, certificate numbers, etc.from records that were barely legible. As a result I would subjectivity rate the accuracy of the index at 70-85% depending on the year. Please bear those limitations in mind when pursuing your research.



I also worked on the transcriptions for John Martino, but most images were of indexes, not the actual documents. I spent extra time sorting my work in any number of ways to cut down on errors due to poor quality images, but I (and hopefully others) flagged questionable entries in the spreadsheets. I don't know if the Italian Genealogy Group did any proofing after it received the transcriptions made by the volunteers. For the most part, I don't use the IGG portal at all these days as familysearch.org has actually pulled more accurate info and more details, especially in the NYC marriages, even including parents names of the bride and groom. A final note for the IGG death index--I never left off a date, because the indexes were chronological. At most it would be off by a year because an event happened in late December and not being recorded until the following year.
Eli Savada
Bethesda MD


Hi Rafael,

I had a similar experience to yours while looking for my great-grandfather Solomon Gantcher's death certificate, also after receiving an Ancestry.com hint. It listed his name, his wife's name Pauline, and that of his son Louis, and while it gave the certificate number, there was no date of death. I had always assumed he died in Russia sometime before 1910 and was very surprised to find that he may have died in NYC.

I filled out the NYC Archives order online (leaving out of course the death date) and emailed it with my credit card payment. Within a few days I got a return email with a copy of both sides of the death certificate attached. There was no problem with the missing date for some reason. However, it was not my great-grandfather Solomon's certificate--it was that of his son Louis! When I later checked, I found that another Ancestry.com hint had shown up for my great-grandmother Pauline (Solmon's wife), also with the same certificate number, and this time again for their son Louis. Mystery solved.

It seems Ancestry.com's hints do not in any way say whose death the certificate is for, but just lists the names of the parents, their birthplaces, and the name of their child. There's a separate hint generated for each person on the Ancestry record. This was an unfortunate example of Ancestry's hints sometimes causing more confusion than help.

Laura Katz
Great Barrington MA

LIPITZ - Smiela, Cherkasy, Ukraine
DAN - Veliuona, Kaunas, Lithuania
GOLDBERG - Bialystok, Podlaskie. Poland
GANTCHER - Slonim, Grodno, Belarus


Thanks to all of you! I had the child’s death certificate information but never considered that the parents’ information would seem to be presented as the subjects of the death certificate rather than referenced in another death certificate. I should have realized it, but thank you all for wasting yet more time on it. Thanks much also to those of you who offered other fixes or to help me directly. 



Belarus: Grodno (Ratman, Bendeson, Ciemnolis, Farbarovitch), Brisk (Tarman), Turov (Shifman)
Poland: Bialystok/Czyzewo (Dveiras, Goldberg)

Stephen Weinstein

First, the reason it's a common certificate number is that it's just one death of one person, but ancestry indexed it under more than one name.  And it might not be either of their deaths; it could be their child's death (death certificates commonly include the names of the parents of the deceased).

Second, since you know that the year has to be some time from when the child was born to the present, and has to be a year that was included in the index, you can narrow it down to a range of 50-100 years.  Submit orders for all of those years -- it will cost you a lot of money, but you should get the record eventually.

But first look on the German and Italian sites for the child's death, and any other names that were in the index entry on ancestry; if you find a death with that certificate number, it's not a coincidence; whatever year the database gives you is the one to order.