ERC: Genealogy and Family History: Records
DEATH CERTIFICATES: NEW YORK STATE
notes before I discuss the death certificate and burial-transit
permit shown below. I can only detail here what procedures are
followed in New York State, as the rules, regulations and
vary from state to state. Also, the death
certificate and burial-transit permit forms used in New York State
is different than those used in New York City. Some of the differences are that the
New York State form is filled out in triplicate, the New York City
form is not. The New York State form lists cause of death, the New
York City form does not (this is true at least for the last ten
When a person passes away in a hospital, the attending physician
fills out the part of the death certificate that is his or hers to
complete. Remember that it is the "attending physician"
who fills out the form, not the physician on duty at the time or the
emergency room physician. The
attending physician is most likely the one who has acted as the
family physician or your internist, or perhaps
he is the one who is a specialist, who has been attending to their
treatment. Just as you must wait for your attending physician to pay
you a visit during your stay in a hospital, this is also the case
when a person passes away. Hopefully, when a person does pass away,
the attending physician will come that day to the hospital and fill
out his part of the death certificate, but this can't be guaranteed.
If someone passes away at home, the police must be called. If, after
examining the scene, foul play, suicide, etc. has been ruled
out, it is then up to
the local Medical Examiner to decide whether they need to perform an
autopsy before releasing the body to a funeral parlor. If the
ME/Coroner chooses to receive the body, then it is up to him or her
after examining the body, to fill out the medical portion of the death certificate.
Either way, once that part of the death certificate has been filled out and the
family of the deceased has chosen a funeral home, the body is picked
up along with the partially-filled out death certificate and brought
to the funeral home where the body will be prepared for burial. If
for some reason the medical portion of the death certificate has not been filled out
by the time the body has been delivered to the funeral home, the
funeral director fills out their portion of the certificate.
There is more, of course, to this process. The family of the
deceased sits down with the funeral director who proceeds to ask
questions about the deceased so the death certificate can be completed properly.
The information gathered by the director is listed below. It should
be noted that the name of the deceased is listed twice on the
death certificate--once by the certifying physician or coroner/medical examiner and
once by the funeral director. If the funeral director learns that a
mistake has been made by the physician, e.g., the name of the
deceased has been spelled wrong, he may correct it. There is also no
hard and fast rule that states that any of the information entered
onto a death certificate has to be typed. It is usually hand-written (hopefully in
a legible fashion.)
Once the death certificate has been completely filled out, it is manually brought to
the local registrar's office. In New York City the registrar is the
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Vital Records.
In other towns, it may be the City Clerk in the Town Hall. Next comes
the Burial-Transit. cont...
Sample of a current
New York State
(left-click on this thumbnail photo and the one below in order to see a
Please look at this sample of the death
certificate that is used today in New York State and compare it with the
ones used in the 1930s and 1940s [webpage].
This newest form is, more or less, broken down into four parts, two of
which are filled
out by the Funeral Director, and two by the Certifying Physician/ME).
The Funeral Director writes in the information about the decedent,
including date of birth, race, level of education, usual occupation,
etc. This part also includes a request for the names of the decedent's
parents and their address. The Director also fills out the disposition
information, e.g. the method of disposition of the body, the place of
burial, and the particulars about the funeral home and director, etc.
The Certifying Physician/ME/Coroner fills out the "Certifier" part.
This includes his/her information including license number; also the manner
of death, i.e. natural causes, accident, homicide, suicide, undetermined
circumstances, or "pending investigation." Lastly, the Cause of
Death is filled out, i.e. the immediate cause, and any other conditions
that might have contributed to their death. Interesting enough, the
question is posed as to whether tobacco use contributed to the death,
and did the death occur at work, etc.
BURIAL-TRANSIT PERMITS: NEW YORK STATE
Once the completely filled out death
certificate is hand-delivered to the local registrar's office, the clerk
there looks over the form to make sure it was filled out properly. If
everything is in order, the death certificate is approved and an
official stamp is place upon it. The registrar's
office assigns a unique number to the certificate. The desired number of
copies of the death certificate are ordered. Then, a burial-transit
permit is filled out and approved. This will allow the burial to take
place. Occasionally, the funeral director fills out the permit at the
funeral home and brings it along with the death certificate to the local
registrar for approval. Whichever the case, if all the forms are filled
out properly, the death certificate and permit are approved and the burial-transit
permit is returned to the
funeral director. The director then calls up the cemetery where the
person is to be buried, giving them all the pertinent information, which
may be entered onto a form that the cemetery will use (see below the "Grave Order Memorandum" form).
Arrangements are made for the burial between the funeral director and
It must be pointed out that a burial cannot take place in
New York State without a burial-transit permit accompanying the body for
burial. Also remember that cemeteries do not generally have copies of
individual death certificates, only burial-transit permits. On their premises
they may only have the more recent ones; however, the permits that are
associated with much older burials, e.g. pre-World War II, may no longer be
extant or may be stored away somewhere in a different location.
Copyright © 2006-11 Museum of Family History
All rights reserved.
Image Use Policy