31 Days to Better Genealogy – Day 7: Explore the FamilySearch Wiki

Amy Johnson Crow has been sharing on her Generations Cafe Facebook Group a prompt each day for May. They are based off of her book 31 Days to Better Genealogy that you can buy on Amazon (shown below).

Day 7 of 31 Days to Better Genealogy is: Explore the FamilySearch Wiki. In a webinar that I watched from NYG&B, Sue Miller mentioned that certain counties in NYS hold vital records (rather than the village/town/city).1 Those four counties are: Chemung, Monroe, Onondaga, and Tompkins. I am intrigued by this and would like to learn more.

Checking the FamilySearch Wiki for New York Vital Records (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/New_York_Vital_Records), it says that in 1880 the law that was passed required births, marriages, and deaths to be reported to the town, village, or city clerk – no mention of a county clerk being the record holder.

I know that Sue Miller is correct though as when I ordered some death certificates from Elmira, I ordered them from the Chemung County Vital Records Office. However, they only have the births and deaths as I had to obtain a marriage record in the same county from the Town Clerk.

So I next checked the FamilySearch Wiki for Chemung County, New York Genealogy: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Chemung_County,_New_York_Genealogy. And here is where I found the answer! The wiki says that “Chemung County is considered a consolidated county because birth and death records were collected from the towns, cities and villages are are on file with the Office of Vital Records in Elmira.”

Interesting side note, the Chemung wiki article says that extensive flooding has damaged the birth and death records. It’s good to know that a copy should have been sent to the NYSDOH in Albany to help cover if the record you are looking for was one of the ones damaged in flooding (of course, you’ll have to wait over a year to get it…). I lived in Elmira for seven years and I remember that they had two significant floods of the Chemung River.

I checked the other counties (Monroe, Onondaga, and Tompkins) and the FamilySearch wiki articles said they were all considered to be consolidated counties. Fascinating to learn that new (to me) term!


  1. Susan R. Miller, “Finding and Accessing New York State Birth Certificates: 1880s through the early-1900s,” live feed, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (https://www.newyorkfamilyhistory.org/ : 2 April 2020); this webinar is now archived and available for members.