VITAL RECORDS REGISTERS
For the last three years the Historian's Office has been working to prepare a new index to the vital records of the twelve local municipalities within the county that have registrars. This index is only to the first book of records for each municipality, roughly 1881-1913. It's a huge document, though, so it has been split into eight PDF files. See below for more information and a link to the files.
Births, deaths and marriages were not considered to be a civil record
by the Dutch administration of New York, and when the English took over
in 1686 they mae no serious attempt to overcome this attitude. Even
after the Revolution, the state was one of few which did not require
civil registration of vital records.
New York passed its first statewide registration legislation in 1847,
but compliance was so uneven that this attempt was shortlived. In Yates
County, only the town of Benton
has retained its registrations from this period. However, each
town was required at the same time to file a copy of the register with
the county each year. The originals of these sheets are located in the
County Historian's archive, and have been transcribed for this site. [Town registers filed with Yates County]
The present law requiring vital records registration was passed in
1880, and by 1900 or so compliance was close to 100 percent. Births and
deaths are recorded in the municipality (town or village in Yates
County) in which they occur; a marriage license may be obtained from any
town clerk in the state. Villages have marriage records only through the
first few years of the 20th century. Town birth records drop off sharply
as soon as modern hospital practices begin; many births were recorded in
the village of Penn Yan after 1921 when Soldiers & Sailors Memorial
Hospital opened until its obstetrical ward closed in the mid 1970s. On
the other hand, many deaths still occur there, so the village records a
very large percentage of the county's deaths, regardless of the actual
residence of the deceased person.
Birth and death records are restricted in their use. In general, they
are not available to the public until 75 years (in the case of births)
and 50 years (in the case of deaths and marriages) after they occur.
Official certificates drawn from vital records registers, as well as
copies from the original are available ONLY from the respective town or village clerk's office. In general, local clerks charge $10 for a certificate.
INDEXES AND INQUIRIES
All the municipalities in the County retain the initial register,
issued by the state in 1880; for the most part this first book contains
births, marriages and deaths from whenever the municipality began
recording them up to 1907; some end earlier, some run as late as 1913.
For the municipalities indicated in the list below, the index for the
first volume is on line.
Important note: The index records every name in the book, followed by
a three-part abbreviation:
The letter B, D or M indicating whether the record is a birth, marriage or death;
A number indicating which line of the book the record appears on;
Letters indicating the role of the person named in the event recorded:
Not every record will list all persons involved, and even though women's maiden names were supposed
to be recorded, they were many times listed under their husband's
surname. Names were not always consistently spelled, and the index
reflects this. The register also should list information like
birthplace, and this too was not always entered; nor, of course, was the
information recorded always correct. In most municipalities recording
had started by about 1885, but compliance was not at all general until
after the turn of the century.
Births have an infant (i), a mother (m) and a father (f);
Deaths have a decedent (d), a father (f) and a mother (m);
Marriages have a groom (g), the groom's father (gf), his mother (gm), a bride (b), her father
(bf) and her mother (bm).
The online indexes were made from a microfilm copy. The Yates County
Historian will look up references from the index for a fee of $2 each.
Persons requesting this information will get an uncertified transcript
of the record. The request must contain the citation exactly as it
appears in the index, and a postal address where the transcript and a
bill can be sent. Please put "County Historian Record Request" in the
subject line; to submit a request click the button:
MUNICIPAL VITAL RECORDS REGISTERS
Town of Barrington; Town of Benton; Town of Italy; Town of Jerusalem; Town of Middlesex; Town of Milo; Town of Potter; Town of Starkey; Town of Torrey and Village of Dresden; Village of Dundee; Village of Rushville; Village of Penn Yan
CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS REGISTERS
In addition to, and actually long preceding, the municipal
registration of vital records, civil and religious authorities recorded
events such as marriages, baptisms and deaths. These are not in general
as accessible as the municipal registers, but for the period before 1880
they often provide the only primary documentation for these
Abner Chase was an early Methodist circuit rider in western New York,
and as such married many couples over his long period of service. His
marriage record for the years 1829-1854 survives, a small leather-bound
book with 30 pages in his old-fashioned handwriting. [TRANSCRIPT]
Josiah S. Carr was a local Justice of the Peace and jotted down notes
about the marriages he performed on the flyleaf of one of his docket
books between 1855 and 1865. [TRANSCRIPT]
D H Palmer was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Penn
Yan. His record of the marriages he performed from 1878 to 1881
The original records of St.
John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in the northeast corner of the
town of Potter were in German. The congregation was founded by ethnic
Germans from Pennsylvania who had come from Pennsylvania after about
1790; during the 1820s they were joined by the first of a wave of
German-speaking immigrants from Alsace, which was at that time part of
France. An English translation of the first extant book of vital
records is in the possession of the Yates County Historian and has been
transcribed for this site, and indexed. Included are all recorded
deaths, marriages and baptisms 1842-1888.
Though the original records are no longer available, the
Historian's Office has compiled from various sources the membership,
birth, death and marriage records of the First Presbyterian Church in
Penn Yan from 1823 to 1890, and those of the First Free
Congregationalist Church that split off in 1841. These have been
arranged alphabetically by surname to make searches easier. [TRANSCRIPT]
The records of the Congregational Church in Rushville
from 1811-1906 have been reproduced on microfilm, which can be borrowed
via interlibrary loan from Cornell University's main library. The
Historian's Office has scanned these records and they are now available at the office on CD.
An index to these records is available on this site. [INDEX]
Deaths and marriages were recorded after the enumeration on federal
and state censuses from 1850 through 1875. Deaths were recorded on all
of these, though the names of the decedent was not given on the 1855
state census. Marriages with the names of the bride and groom were
listed only on the 1865
and 1875 censuses.
Two books containing pension and other applications of
Civil War soldiers and veterans of the War of 1812 and their widows
contain many marriage records, and the birth records of applicants'
minor children. For more information on these records, see the Bounty Books page.
Local newspapers ran published notices of weddings, births and
deaths, just as they do now. Only some of these are indexed in any
The Penn Yan Republican began publishing in 1823 and except
for a gap in the 1830s it or its successors have been publishing ever
since (the paper is now the Chronicle-Express). The Yates County
Historian, the Penn Yan Public Library, the New York State Library in
Albany, and other institutions (notably the library at Cornell
University) maintain microfilm copies of these papers, more or less
complete except for very spotty coverage of the 1840s. A two-volume
index of genealogical gleanings from these papers through September,
1867, was created from the microfilm and may be purchased from Heritage
Books, Inc. Both books are available on a single CD-ROM.
An online transcript
of vital records extracts from The Chronicle is being created,
beginning in October, 1867, where Mrs. Stenzel left off.
The Chronicle's predecessor was the Penn Yan Whig.
Our microfilm collection of this paper is quite incomplete, but we are
extracting notices from what we have. At present, the extracts from 1840 and 1841 are on-line.
Otherwise, an extensive but incomplete card index was created by
former County Historian Frank Swann and is now in the possession of the
Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society.
The Dundee Observer has been published since 1878 and has also
been microfilmed. The film is available at all the sites mentioned in
the previous paragraph, plus at the Dundee Library. The Dundee Record,
an older paper begun in the 1850s, has not been filmed, but an extensive
index was created and is maintained by the Dundee Area Historical
Society. Items of genealogical interest
have been extracted from the Observer by the Historian's Office. So far, items for 1878 are available on-line.
The Penn Yan Herald and its successor the Democrat was the first paper published in Penn Yan, its first issue coming out in 1818. A few pre-1850s issues are in the collection of the Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society. We have a volunteer
working on extracting items of genealogical interest from the issues of the Democrat that we have on microfilm. So far, we have online extracts
from the 1840s, 1850, 1852, 1853, 1854, the 1860s, and 1870-1895. From that period to the paper's last issue in 1949, microfilm exists. Indexes of the years 1898-1949 are in the process of being posted on line.
SCRAPBOOKS AND OTHER PRIVATE SOURCES
Newspaper clippings and other documents of a private nature such as letters also contain genealogical information.
They tend to be inaccessible to one degree or another, however.
The Histoian's Office was loaned a scrapbook by Mr. Carl Drakeley that had apparently been compiled by a member of the
Todd family in Jerusalem. The vital records information has been transcribed and is posted on line. The transcription is in two parts:
One: Transcripts of newspaper clippings collected by a member of the Meli Todd family. 1870s and 1880s.
Two: Abstract of the 1875 census of Yates County. Lists of people over 70 living in the County.