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RESEARCH
Life Records Frequently Asked Questions

This  page is intended to address some common questions regarding Life Records. Please note that records may be purchased for $15.00 per record, and that the library does not have the staff available to perform research on the behalf of patrons. This guide answers the following questions:

How much does it cost to purchase an article from the newspaper? What will I receive for that amount? 

Each record you purchase will cost $15.00. For that amount, you receive a scan or photocopy of the article as it appeared in the newspaper. Please note, each credit card order is subject to an additional $0.33 service charge.

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Which birth notices are included in the database? 

The coverage of births varies from year to year. In some years, only one hospital per week was covered, while in other years, births were not recorded at all. For the years between 1970 and August 20, 1980, the type of information that will appear in library’s index will be the father’s first and last name (for example, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Jacobstein), whether or not the baby was a boy or a girl, date of birth, publishing date, and the name of the newspaper. For the years between September 24, 1980-1993, the type of information that is indexed is the child’s first and last name, middle name, suffix, birth date, publishing date, and the name of the newspaper. The type of information that is indexed from the years of 1994-current date is the same information that is indexed for the years of September 24, 1980-1993 with the exception of the name of the hospital of where the baby was born.Remember that the information that is indexed in the library’s database was taken from the Rochester newspapers as it was printed.

The information that is indexed for the births is identical of what appears in the Democrat and Chronicle and Times-Union newspapers. Only 1 line of information is available in the newspapers. It is not worth paying $15.00 for each birth announcement unless you would like a copy of the actual article. Basically, the information that exists in the database for the births is actually what is printed in the newspapers. Please keep in mind that there is not any other information present in the actual announcement.

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Which death notices are included in the database? 

The index includes death notices published in both the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and the Rochester Times-Union (prior to it going out of business in 1991). While these notices are carefully arranged in recent years, the older newspapers often varied in format from year to year. For example, in the 1970’s, some names were published under “Regional Deaths”. These were single-line notices, with no family or other information listed, and sometimes included only the locality where the event occurred. There is no way to tell from the Life Records Index whether the person was listed under regional or local death notices in the newspaper.

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Why am I unable to find a marriage notice? 

Marriage notices have always been and continue to be optional, and sometimes do not appear for several months after the event has taken place.

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What does it mean when “unreadable” or “N/A” appears in the index? 

"Unreadable" means that our indexers were unable to read the information from our copy of the microfilm. The film itself may be scratched or faded in that spot, or the original newspaper may have been damaged in some way before it was filmed. We do not have access to other copies of the microfilm to check. “N/A” means that the information was not available. Sometimes, it is not available in the newspaper at all; sometimes, it was not recorded by our indexers. Generally, if N/A appears in the “date of death” column, it was not recorded by our indexers; if it appears in another column or in a different index (such as N/A for an infant’s first name), then the information does not appear in the newspaper at all.

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There are four John Smiths listed in your database; I am not sure which is the one I want. Would you be able to look up the notices and tell me if any of them have a wife, Mary and daughter, Joan listed among the survivors? If I order the wrong notice, will you refund my money? 

We cannot check the newspaper microfilm for you due to staff limitations, nor can we refund money if you order an incorrect record. However, you are welcome to come to the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County during the regular hours that we are open and view the microfilms to locate the correct notice. Click here for Library Hours.

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I know my great-aunt Martha died on June 17th, 1978 in Rochester, but her name does not appear in the index. Can you look in the newspaper for me anyway? 

Unfortunately, we do not have staff to re-check the years that have already been indexed. While it is possible that our indexers occasionally missed a name, it is just as likely that the family chose, for reasons of their own, not to publish a death notice. Publication of death notices is entirely voluntary. If you live in the Monroe County area, you may want to visit the library and search the newspaper microfilm in person. Please click here for library hours.

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I am looking for a death notice for a relative who died March 19, 1952. Can you check the newspapers for me? How much will it cost to get a copy of a death notice if you find one? 

The library’s database of death indexes begins with the year of 1960. The Local History and Genealogy Department of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County may be able to locate the information for you regarding the years before 1960. If a notice is found, then the charge to receive a copy of the notice is $15.00. If you are outside the Rochester area, you have the option to send a letter and a check for $15.00 to the Local History and Genealogy Division with your request. As staff time is available, they will check a newspaper for one or two days following the date of death. Please note that, if you do not have an exact date of death, staff will be unable to check the newspaper for you. If you live in the Monroe County area, you may visit the library to check the microfilm yourself. The microfilms are located in the Retrieval Room in the Rundel library building located on the 1st floor. If you live in the Monroe County area, you may visit the library to check the microfilm yourself.

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I was given up for adoption in 1990. Can I find my birth mother’s name in the birth listings? 

It is not common to list babies who are given up for adoption in the birth records.

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I would like to see if my mother and father published a marriage notice in the Rochester newspapers. I have the date of marriage. Would you be able to locate the information for me? 

Marriage notices have always been optional, and sometimes did not appear for quite awhile after the event took place. Unfortunately, we do not have any staff available to research the years of the newspaper that have not been indexed.

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I noticed that there are two entries for Ruth Jones on December 21, 1987—one in the Democrat and Chronicle and the other in the Times-Union. Can I order a copy of each? 

In most cases, you do not need to order from both the Democrat and Chronicle and Times-Union. The notices are identical most of the time, or may contain only minor differences of wording. As of the 1960’s, Gannett Publishers published both of Rochester’s newspapers and they contain identical death notices.

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I notice there are two entries for John Q. Smith, one on December 1st, 1968 and the other on December 2nd, 1968. Will they contain different information? 

In most cases, the information will be identical. Sometimes, there are two notices because the time or location of the service was changed. Although we have tried to edit duplicate records from the database, there are occasions when we have overlooked them.

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I heard that a friend of mine died in Rochester last week, but I do not see his name in your database. 

Death notices that appeared in the newspaper during the last 30 days will not be in our database; it takes about four weeks for the information to be entered. To view death notices that have appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle in the last 30 days, go to www.democratandchronicle.com and click on the Obituaries link. Births and marriages will not appear in our database until approximately 6 months from date of publication in the newspaper.

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My mother told me that her picture was published in the newspaper as part of her marriage notice. I would like to obtain a copy suitable for framing.  

Our images are reproduced from microfilm; we do not have a way of providing you with a photo-quality reproduction. As a reminder the images will only be printed in black and white. There are services that may be able so supply you with this; call the Local History Division at (585) 428-8370 for more information.

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What about newspapers from the 1800’s? Are they available on microfilm? Are they indexed? 

Early newspapers for the Rochester area are available on microfilm starting in 1818. There is an index that covers the years 1818 – 1903. Many death and marriage notices are included. However, quite often the notices are just that -- a one-line article giving just the name(s) of the party/parties involved and no other information. Births were not recorded in the early newspapers. Staff in the Local History Division can check the early newspaper index for you if you live outside the Rochester area. There is a charge for copying articles from microfilm. The Local History Division can be contacted at (585) 428-8370.

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Will you charge me $15.00 for a poor quality scan? What are my options? 

If we are unable to print out a readable copy of a notice or a picture, we will inform you before charging you. At that point, you will have the option of accepting a scan that may not be entirely readable, for the $10.00 fee, or declining a copy. You may want to hire a local researcher to make a transcription for you; the library does not have staff available for transcription services.

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Can I look up the information on microfilm myself? 

Yes, microfilm is available for viewing during the times that the library is open. Click here for Library Hours. Copies from the microfilm cost .15 per copy with a LibraSense card (available at the library checkout desk) or .20 per copy for cash (microfilm can be viewed only at the Central Library).

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I need a great deal of research done, and I find it difficult to order just three index items per day. I also need someone to check other resources for me and find information on a number of ancestors who lived in the Rochester area. Is there a form I can fill out to have the library do this research for me? 

Library staff are not able to undertake in-depth research for you. They can check general indexes and let you know whether names appear. However, if you need a great deal of information, and are unable to come to the library in person, you may need to hire a local researcher to assist you. The library does not recommend any one researcher, but you can call the Local History Division at (585) 428-8370 for a list of local persons who have asked to be included in our list of researchers.

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Why can’t I get the entire death, birth or marriage notice on-line? 

All of the years of the Rochester newspapers and other items included in this database are protected by U. S. copyright laws. While the library may make a single copy per user for that person’s own use, we cannot legally copy or scan entire months and years of the newspaper to make available on-line.

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