How Do I Search for Genealogical Information?
Use this guide as a starting point to research birth, marriage, and death records from Monroe County, NY. If you have questions after consulting these resources, Ask a Librarian for help. This guide offers a list of helpful genealogy links, as well as answers the following questions:
Tracking down birth, marriage, and death records (also referred to as vital records) can be time consuming. Records usually are kept by the local authority that recorded them. Few records are on the Internet. You most likely will visit one location to search an index of records and then contact another location to obtain a copy of the record. Most places charge a fee for the copy.
You may not be successful in finding the records you want. Information was not always recorded accurately. Records may be misfiled because names were misspelled. In addition, records might have been destroyed by floods, fires, or theft. You may also be searching in the wrong location as borders for counties, cities, and towns have changed.
Information on who may obtain copies of birth certificates (and death certificates for immediate family members) and how to request copies from the Monroe County Office of Vital Records is posted on its Birth and Death Records web page. The New York State Vital Records Service also contains information on how to request copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates on its website.
Note: In New York, death and marriage records filed in the last 50 years and birth records filed in the last 75 years are not available to people who are not direct line descendants, due to privacy restrictions. Those who are eligible must supply documentation.
If you are looking for marriage records from 1876 to 1943 recorded by the City of Rochester, you can start your search online with the Historic Marriage Research Site. Information on how to search and obtain copies of marriage licenses is included on the web page.
Continue your search with the microfiche indexes for New York State records of births, marriages, and deaths. These indexes are located in the Retrieval Room of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, housed in the Rundel Memorial Library Building, 114 South Ave., Rochester, NY. You will need to search the records in person. This is a multi-step process. Plan on spending one or more hours. Library staff will explain to you how to search the indexes but will not be able to perform the search for you.
A successful search will give you the date of the birth, marriage, or death and which jurisdiction houses the record. As the library does not have the records on file, you will not be able to determine parents' names for birth certificates, partners' names for marriage certificates, or survivors' names for death certificates. You will need to contact the jurisdiction housing the record, either in writing or by phone, in order to obtain a copy.
In addition to requesting copies of the records themselves, many people also search Rochester newspapers for birth, marriage, and death announcements. Microfilm copies of the Rochester Times Union (1918 - 1997), the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (1870 to the present), and other newspapers published 1818 and later are available in the Retrieval Room. Consult the newspaper indexes (on microfilm, in book format, and on index cards) located in both the Retrieval Room and the Local History and Genealogy Division of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. The Division also has obituaries published in local newspapers since the late 1930's. These obituaries can be found either in scrapbooks or in the clippings file. The Local History and Genealogy Division is located in the Rundel Library Building, 115 South Ave., Rochester, NY.
There are also other resources for finding information about a person who lived in the Monroe County region. See the next section on searching for records prior to 1880.
The City of Rochester has marriage records from 1876 to 1932 online at the Historic Marriage Research Site. Other than that, no official records exist. You can search for references to an individual through church publications, business newsletters, cemetery records, newspaper and magazine articles, census records, history books, scrapbooks, and other sources found in local archives. Many local towns, colleges, and universities have local history or archive collections. Call them to ask if you can search their collection.
Libraries in the Monroe County Library System have many of the resources listed above. (See also section on library resources below.) Because there are many resources and no one comprehensive index of names that can be searched, plan to spend several hours for your search. Library staff will direct you to the most appropriate resources and explain how to use them. Library staff will not be able to do the search for you.
In New York, death and marriage records filed in the last 50 years and birth records filed in the last 75 years are not available to people who are not direct line descendants, due to privacy restrictions. (Those who are eligible must supply documentation.) Some of the best sources of information are local newspapers for birth, marriage, and death announcements. You can find microfilm copies of the Rochester Times Union, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and local town newspapers in the Retrieval Room of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. Check with local town libraries for other newspapers. You can also search the many resources found in libraries' local history, genealogy and archive collections.
GenWeb of Monroe County, NY has a web page, Monroe County Genealogical Resources, which lists local offices that keep birth, marriage, and death records.
Libraries in Monroe County have many resources where genealogical information can be found. The largest collection is in the Local History and Genealogy Division of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. Below are three of the more useful resources.
- Halsey, Richard T. Genealogical Guide to Monroe County, New York, 2nd ed., 1996
- Guides to Historical Resources in [county] Repositories (also known as the "red books")
- Statewide WPA guides (arranged by county) to church and civil record holdings Note: These guides describe the holdings of the churches and offices. They do not contain people's names or specific dates.
There are other resources as well. Search the library catalog by subject, using the terms listed below.
- Church records and registers New York (State) Rochester
- Church records and registers New York (State) Rochester Indexes
- Rochester (N.Y.) Genealogy
- Insert name of church Rochester N.Y.
- Registers of births, etc. New York (State) Rochester Indexes
- Monroe County (N.Y.) Genealogy
- Monroe County (N.Y.) Registers
Rochester & Monroe County
Cemeteries of Monroe County, New York -- links to the Monroe County page on the Interment.net site, which publishes cemetery transcriptions for cemeteries all over the United States. The Monroe County page includes Blossom Cemetery, Holy Sepulchre, Holy Trinity, North Rush, and Riverside cemeteries.
Birth and Death Records, from the Monroe County Office of Vital Records
Early News of Monroe County -- transcriptions of early newspapers coordinated by Glenda Subyak and hosted by Rootsweb.
Genealogy and Local History Collections at the Ogden Farmers' Library
GenWeb of Monroe County -- home of Monroe County's contribution to GenWeb, an international project devoted to collecting and organizing genealogical information. Contains information on cemeteries, vital records, place names, and more. Also home to MONROE-L, the genealogy mailing list for Monroe County.
Rochester Historic Marriage Records -- a searchable site offered and maintained by the City of Rochester. Includes over 170,000 marriage records from 1876 through 1943.
Rochester Genealogical Society -- official web site for the RGS. Includes information on joining the society, plus a wealth of information on researching family history in western New York.
Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet -- a portal of comprehensive links to more than 350,000 family history information sites.
Castle Garden Ship Passenger Lists -- searchable database of immigrants, who came to the United States through Castle Garden, New York - 1820-1892.
Ellis Island Ship Passenger Lists -- searchable database of immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island, New York - 1892-1954.
Family Search -- official genealogy site of the Latter Day Saints; contains one of the largest collections of free family history and genealogy records in the world.
Fulton History -- searchable database of over 37 million historic newspaper pages from the U.S. and Canada.
Heritage Quest -- an extensive resource that includes the Federal Census, over 28,000 family and local histories, maps, Freedman's Bank and Revolutionary War Pension records. Free use from any computer with MCLS library card.
New York State Archives -- Ancestry.com New York: free access to digitized records from New York State.
National Archives & Records Administration's Genealogy Page -- basic information on using the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) to find family records.
Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records -- a directory of searchable death records for the United States. Includes an obituaries guide.
Roots Surname List -- RootsWeb searchable surname list. Will help you find other people researching the same name.
Social Security Death Index -- search for information kept by the Social Security Administration on the deceased. Limited access, now available on HeritageQuest, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org.
Study Center for Early Religious Life in Western New York, from Cornell University archives (an index to early church documents)
Vital Records Information United States -- provides information on finding vital records in the United State and internationally.