Anyone have experience with marriage records from New York state and whether they list parents?

+6 votes
Does anyone have any experience with marriage records from New York state, especially those 100+ years old?

I've found the marriage index/certificate number for the marriage I am interested in, which took place in May of 1914 in Buffalo.

The index, however, does not indicate parents' names.

- Do parents names show up on the actual record if it's ordered?

- The Buffalo city clerk indicates they want proof of death for both parties in the marriage. Both parties in this marriage were born in 1890 and died in the 1970s in Florida. Do they really want death certificates to prove the death of people born in 1890? (I tried emailing them to clarify this but have gotten 0 response.)

- If the certificate is ordered through the third party website indicated on the city clerk's page, do they also require proof of death? (I can't recall the name of this site off-hand, but the fee is greater and it seems to handle certificate requests for the entire country.)

Sadly I've not been able to find out the parents' names of the bride throuh any other means. The only other census she is listed in with her parents has her mother there, but the father is not listed despite the mother being noted as Married still. The surname is common enough to not be able to guess.

I suppose I could also try to find her birth record, though I think I'd be at the same brick wall of trying to prise information out of Buffalo, New York, which doesn't seem to have anything digitized and requires a lot of extra paperwork (mail order, proof of death, etc.) to even get a genealogy copy of something.

Any help/advice is appreciated!
in Genealogy Help by Kristen Louca G2G6 Mach 3 (34.2k points)
retagged by Maggie N.
There is a reference to a source listed in questions below this questions.  It was given by Kay Sands on April 19 but it is from Ancestry.  Look up what discussion is given.  Also, if you are more computer literate than I am, try
OldFultonPostCards.  It over powers me, not always readable,  has a lot of
different sources. Not postcards as you might think.  Use google to get better URL

5 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer

My maternal grandparents were married in Buffalo in 1926, and their parents are listed. THEIR parents were also married in Buffalo, in the 1890s, and the parents are listed on theirs, too (including maiden names).

Basically, just 3 records prove all my mother's grandparents, and great-grandparents. In fact, one of my gt-gt grandfathers on that side was widowed, and he remarried - I think HIS marriage record is my only record to show what HIS mother's maiden name was.

For early years, you have to cautious about vital records in NY state, because the big three cities - NYC, Buffalo, and Albany - had different rules and might be kept separate from the rest of the state.

Buffalo has a city archives you can call for older records. They're set up to deal with genealogical requests. For copies, you still have to go through the regular office, but they contact them for you and get you set up.

For marriage records like you're speaking of, I always go to the main library downtown, and look at them on microfilm in the local history section (the "Grosvenor Room"). They have the early birth records on microfilm, too, but it's a brutal experience to look one up (it can easily take an hour). Those early birth records are ordered by when the birth was REGISTERED, and so there barely any order at all, and your record can easily be days (or even weeks) away from others for that date. Nobody has ever found my grandmother's birth certificate, although it should be there. Oh, and the handwriting is BRUTAL, too, and often the baby wasn't named at birth, so you have to look through the parents' names.

Anyway, if you're in the area, or are inclined to travel there, the Library is the way to go - you never know if some civil servant is just going to screw it up, especially since it's older than they're used to dealing with, and they probably just look at it as a pain in the butt they shouldn't have to do. If you call the Grosvenor Room at the library, they might be able to do it for you for a fee (I don't know if they do that, but I've heard of other places looking up obits for people), or know of somebody who will.

Or call the city archives, like I said. Don't subject yourself to just dealing with the non-history bureaucrats.
by Living Stanley G2G6 Mach 9 (93.3k points)
selected by Kristen Louca
I guess they call the City Achives the "Inactive Records Center", and they call themselves "Records Management" there. All the contact info you need is on their web site:

There is a ton of info on those marriage records, so I would recommend getting them, whether you find that maiden name or not.


If you want to try the Grosvenor Room, THEIR web site is:

If you can go there, they have a ton of church records on microfilm too, besides old newspapers, and all kinds of stuff.
Thank you!

I believe I found my way to that site initially, though the need for "proof of death" they indicate kind of threw me off.

Did you have to provide proof of death for getting a copy of the marriage record from 1890?

The marriage record index for the couple I am interested in is noted in the New York State marriage index, so that one seems to have at least made it to the state records.

Unfortunately I am not local - I am in Ontario, Canada, and Buffalo would be at least a 5-6 hour drive.

I do have the exact date of the marriage, however. I'm just not sure if I'm going to be denied due to not having proof of death, though there is no way either bride or groom could be alive if married in 1914.
Like I said, I look up Buffalo marriages in that timeframe myself on microfilm, at the Grosvenor Room, so I didn't have to fill out some form for somebody. You just go find the microfilm in a drawer, and put it on the reader. You can even save a copy of the image on your thumb drive! All free. You're supposed to sign up for a microfilm reader, but you don't even have to talk to anybody.

At the city records center, they have me write a few things on a form, but never ask for that kind of documentation - they know the people in the records they deal with are deceased. Then THEY call over to City Hall for you, so I guess it's kind of like the City Hall folks know it's OK because it's coming from them. No "unqualified" individual has do simple subtraction, and "go out of a limb" that somebody who was born 128 years ago is dead.  ;)  I'd be pretty confident that the city records people would take your info over the phone, and even take a credit card number and have City Hall mail it to you. The only thing that could go wrong is if marriages are kept by the county, in which case I'm sure they could tell you what to do. They're very helpful - history/genealogy people.


If you're interested, I found your people in the 1915 NY state census. Page 25, E.D. 1, Town on Castlle, Wyoming County. Upper Reservation Rd [apparently a reference to a nearby Indian Reservation]. The 13th image on, indexed as "Leyle Payme", etc. Husband is 25 year old farm hand; "May L Payme" is 24; "Raymond L Payme" is 90D [0 days old]. All born in the US.


Another thing to check out is, although it seems to be having problems today. For example, I found a snippet in the 26FEB1915 issue of The Castilian: "Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Paine are moving here from Buffalo. Lyle will work for Harry Randall and they will live in a part of the house with Mr. and Mrs. Randall." The Randall family is listed immediately before the "Paymes" in that 1915 census. Mr. Randall is a farmer.


Ontario? Wow. Fort Erie Ontario is literally walking distance (across the Peace Bridge) from Buffalo, and even Toronto is only about 2 hours away. You must be REALLY "out there"! Good luck, "neighbor"!
+6 votes
Kristen, are the profiles of the said people whose marriage you are looking for on WikiTree? Can you post their profiles here and I will see what I can find tonight.

FamilySearch does have many Buffalo marriage records but it's tricky to use.
by Maggie N. G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Yep! They are on WikiTree. I unfortunately forgot to link one of them to this post.

Here is the bride, whose parents I am trying to figure out:

The certificate number is listed in the Sources.
+6 votes

I have ordered (and received) some marriage and death certificates from various places in the state of New York. I've always done that through the appropriate government office - never through a third-party site. If you have to provide other information (proof of death or personal relationship to bride or groom) to a municipal agency, the chances of a commercial site being able to obtain a copy is extremely suspicious. Also, some municipal agencies require a fee to look for the information, whether or not it is found.

I'm not trying to discourage you from trying to obtain the certificate, just passing along some experience. The information on a marriage certificate varies from place to place, and from certificate to certificate. Some locations, for instance, don't require recording parents' names at all; others only if the applicants are under a certain age, etc. As a result, a certificate may have places to enter parental names and indication of consent, but they may not be filled in. Bottom line: you won't know what information appears on the certificate unless you see the certificate.

by Bruce Veazie G2G6 Mach 6 (63.7k points)
Thanks for the input!

The site I mentioned was recommended on the Buffalo city official page. I checked and it is Vital Check.

I'm just concerned about paying the fee and then being told "you need proof of death!"

I do have the Florida death index for the husband and the Find a Grave memorial pages for both husband and wife. I am just not sure if that's "enough" prof.

Maybe it'd be more certain for me to find the birth record for the wife, as that would hopefully for certain list the parent's names. But it's her I haven't been able to find a death record beyond the gravestone.

However, she was born in 1890 and the marriage took place in 1914. Even if both bride/groom were 18 when the marriage took place, they'd have to be 120 years old if they were still alive today.
+2 votes

Another place to look for clues are newspaper articles about marriage, death, etc. Although not definitive proof, great clues. Check out

by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (622k points)
+1 vote
Here's the scoop:

Marriage licenses are issued by any Town or City Clerk in the state. The marriage can take place anywhere in the state and must be returned to the issuing clerk.

Note: There are no unincorporated areas in New York. Every part of the state is in a County and either a Town or City (possibly both a Town and a Village, but always either a Town or a City).

In NYC you can only obtain marriage records from the NYC Marriage Clerk. Elsewhere, you can find get marriage records from the town/city that issued it, or from the state Department of Health (except Albany, Buffalo and Yonkers before 1914), which is usually easier.

In New York, marriage records including licenses are not public! If you are not party to marriage or have another legal reason to search them, you can only get records if "on file for at least 50 years and both spouses are known to be deceased," or if you prove that you are a direct-line descendant. You may especially run into trouble getting records of a marriage close to 50 years ago where a spouse died out of state unless you can prove this or direct-line descent.

Divorces are another matter. These are handled by the Supreme Courts of each county. The county clerks hold the court files for their Supreme and County courts. Matrimonial files are not available to public inspection. The existence of the file (parties, dates filed, index number) is supposed to be public, but depending on the clerk you may have to fight to get that information.

Here's a relevant link:
by Nathan Kennedy G2G6 Mach 4 (40.5k points)
Though the question is - do they have a cut off of some sort for the age of the record in which proof of death is assumed based on the age of the record?

Because both spouses in this case died out of state (Florida).

The age of the record (1914 marriage) would indicate both spouses would have to be dead even if they were 18 at the time of the marriage. (And they weren't - they were 24 at time of marriage.)

I just find it a bit unbelievable that they would even require proof of death for, say, a marriage from 1887, too, wen the people are most assuredly long dead.

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