NYC vital record

I recently purchased a New York State birth certificate from the Municipal Archives in NYC, in PDF format. It appears that although it is a state certificate that it was originally filed with the New York City Department of Health.

This is the citation I wrote for it but I don't know if I have all the elements in the right order. Also - I feel like if I lead with "New York City" it will be redundant. Hopefully I got this right but would appreciate any feedback on this.

City of New York Department of Health, New York State Certificate and Record of Birth certificate no. 3804 (1904), Arthur Knowles; PDF, Municipal Archives, New York City.


Attached is the header of the document for viewing.

Submitted byEEon Mon, 06/08/2020 - 10:27

Eventide, you're not alone in your quandary about how to handle those birth certificates from the NYC municipal archives. We've had several prior discussions on this. Type "New York municipal archives" and "New York birth certificates" into the search box above and see if one of these helps you.  (Run these in two separate queries. If you combine all the key words into one query, the system throws a hissy fit and decides you only need one result.)

Submitted byEventideon Tue, 06/09/2020 - 09:20

I had looked at the other forum posts before posting this one. I checked them again, and the book again - and came up with the same citation. So either its not sinking in or perhaps I am just over-thinking it. :)

Submitted byEEon Sun, 06/14/2020 - 14:34

Eventide, the pivotal point here is the identification of the office from which you acquired the document. County offices in many states (if not all of them) did use forms pre-printed "State of _____."

Regarding Layer 2 of your citation, the "PDF" raises a question as to why you are including that. Are you saying that you acquired a digital copy through the Municipal Archives online? If so, it would be helpful—to others and to yourself at a later date—to fully cite the website.

Submitted byEventideon Mon, 06/15/2020 - 08:40

Actually I take that back - I did, or at least through the Department of Records and Information Services

City of New York Department of Health, New York State Certificate and Record of Birth certificate no. 3804 (1904), Arthur Knowles; NYC Records and Information Services, Municipal Archives, NYC ( ", PDF, issued December 2019. 

Submitted byEEon Wed, 06/17/2020 - 10:28

Eventide, I noticed that you also posted the last message above in a different thread, which I answered there. For those who are reading this thread, I'll cross-post the answer here:

Eventide... In light of all the points we've discussed, E's version would be this:

City of New York Department of Health, New York State Certificate and Record of Birth certificate no. 3804 (1904), Arthur Knowles; PDF obtained via NYC: Records & Information Services ( : December 2019), "Order Historical Records" page.

My identification of website owner/creator and website title is what I see when I used your URL. Past that point, given that you accessed through the order page, EE would cite that page.

Submitted byEventideon Thu, 06/18/2020 - 09:12

Sorry about the double posting, not sure what happened there.  It was one of those late nights I spent deep in the weeds with EE trying to fix the hundreds of sources I have in my genealogy software...I was probably a little too tuckered out to be posting anything at all!  ha ha.

Thanks again for the guidance.

Submitted byScallionon Sun, 08/14/2022 - 09:43

RE: Your reply to Eventideon. As of March 2022, the NYC Municipal Archives offers PDF images of historical vital records. Question 1: Should you treat it as any other image you download from an Internet database or as a PDF as in the example above? I typically note that it is an “image” and do not distinguish between PDF or JPEG. Also, should you precede the date the image is acquired, “accessed” or “downloaded”? Is the citation below correct? Note: The family was new immigrants, and probably there was a language barrier. The last name in the record is Balaky, but from all the other information, I confirmed this is an error, and the surname is actually Balogh.

City of New York Department of Records and Information Services, New York State “Historical Vital Records,” birth record for Joseph Balaky [Balogh], Manhattan, certificate no. 6850 (1909); digital image, NYC Municipal Archives ( : accessed 30 March 2022); citing record B-M-1909-0006850.

Question 2: I have certified copies of NYC City vital records. NYC Municipal Archives is rolling out the historical records, with a portion now available online and rolling out the rest over the coming months and perhaps years. I am writing up family histories. Should I go on the site and look each of them up and note the online version, or should I just go with the citation for the hard copy I have in my possession?

Hello, Scallion:

Question 1a: If the document has to be ordered and is not available as an ordinary download for anyone to access, I would treat it as the PDF example above. In your case, the issue becomes this:  Are you citing a certified copy that you ordered, or are you using the open-access image online?

Question 1b: EE would specify whether a file was delivered as a PDF rather than a JPG. Their characteristics are significantly different.

Question 1c:  It should always be clear what is represented by the date in the parentheses that holds publication data  (posted, accessed, downloaded, etc.). In the case above, the citation already says that it was "obtained" from the service  followed by the place and date where/when it was acquired. It would be redundant to put the word "obtained" or "acquired" before the date.

Question 2: Publication time is the time to “clean up” our citations. We review every citation, making sure that the format is consistent for each website or source type and making sure that URLs to online citations still work. At that point, you would do your readers a favor by consistently citing the online version they can access and view for themselves, as opposed to a certified hard copy that exists only in your files.

Regarding your suggested citation, there are several issues of issues of “form”—i.e., how your citation communicates with others and how others would read it. Certain conventions exist because they communicate certain things. Following (or not following) those conventions affects clarity.

Arrangement of elements (see EE’s QuickStart Guide tipped into front of book):

  • Citations to original documents typically follow this format, going from smallest element to largest: Creator, Identity of item with file and collection info, Office or Agency or Archive where housed, City and State where the office or archive is located.
  • As structured, your citation says that the creator of the birth certificate was  “City of New York Department of Records and Information Services, New York State.”  But, of course, the current Information Services agency did not create the record; and the services is not an agency of both the “City of New York” and “New York State.”

Titles (see EE 2.22 “Citing Titles, Basic Rules”:

  • A website is a standalone publication—as with a book or a journal or a CD.  The titles of standalone publications are placed in italics.  
  • If a website offers multiple things, each module or database or article is just a part of the larger whole—as with one chapter in a book, one article in a journal, or one song on a CD. That “part” of the whole is identified by placing its title in quotation marks.

Citing both an original document and a website that delivers it: (see QuickStart Guide and QuickLesson 19

  • When we cite both an original record and the website that delivers the image, we have two entities to identify. This typically means a two-layer citation. Layer 1 will cite the original document and Layer 2 will cite the website.
  • Details that identify one entity should never be mixed into the layer that identifies the other entity. This harks back to “Arrangement of elements” above, and its second bullet. You’ve taken the ID of the creator of the website and assigned that cretaor to the original document—combining it with the actual creator of the document.  That’s how you ended up saying the document was created by ‘City of New York, but no, it was New York State.’

At this point, I could rewrite your citation for you and provide a “finished product” you could copy for all your citations to this site. Instead, because we all learn more by doing than “being told,” I’m going to let you work through the rearrangement yourself. If you’re still uncertain, after reviewing the QuickStart Guide and QuickLesson 19, just paste the new citation in the next message box and we can go from there.