Reporting of Vital Record in Syracuse, NY in 1909 - Cliff Lamere









Transcribed by Ruth Ann Messick    Aug 2001


Notes and Webpage by Cliff Lamere   25 Aug 2001



Here are two 1909 Syracuse Herald (Onondaga Co., NY) newspaper articles.  The first explains why you may not be able to find birth records for some of your NY ancestors.  The second deals with making doctors responsible for filing death records.  The articles were found and transcribed by Ruth Ann Messick, a genealogical researcher from Saratoga Co. 

I knew someone who was born in 1911.  He and two of nine siblings never had birth information submitted to the state.  1911 was 31 years after a law was passed to require birth, marriage and death data be collected by local governments (county, town(ship), city or village) and then forwarded to the state.   Obviously, it was an imperfect system for a long time.  Births with the help of a midwife was a common occurence, and I suspect that few of those deliveries were ever recorded.


The Syracuse Herald, Wednesday Evening, June 2 1909


The birth rate in Syracuse for May is a decided improvement over that for April.

During the thirty-one days that elapsed between the beginning and the end of the month the stork paid no less than 201 visits to Syracuse families. In several cases, however, the visits were made in quick succession, the long legged bird simply depositing one precious burden and flying off to bring a little twin brother or sister for the new baby.

Registrar John Metz of the Bureau of Vital Statistics is of the opinion that many more babies are born in Syracuse than those whose births are recorded and he bases his belief upon the fact that there are MANY physicians in the city who RARELY if ever file a birth certificate - among them some of the doctors who make a specialty of acting as aids to Herr Stork.

"We have written them letter after letter and have used every means that we know of to get the births reported" said the Registrar, "and still we are thoroughly convinced that we don't get anywhere nearly as full returns as we ought.  There are three or four doctors in town who, between them, could easily swell the birth list by SEVERAL HUNDREDS a year from whom we hear almost nothing.  And there are midwives practicing who do not file their birth certificates, they are not many, because the midwives realize for most part that there are few easier ways of earning a quarter than by filling out a blank and reporting a birth to this office."

"I can't see any possible reason why either physicians or parents should object to the filing of birth records, and, as a matter of fact, the failure to send them in is caused merely by carelessness.  In some families the doctor gives their children what they receive from death and birth certificates, and in that case there is no danger that we won't get the names of all the new babies.  The youngsters watch for them like hawks, and 'papa' has no peace of mind until he gets his certificate ready.


The Syracuse Herald, Friday Evening, June 4, 1909


Amendment to Law Makes Them Responsible for Certificate.

Instead of Undertakers

Heretofore the Doctors have collected the fee and Undertakers have been obliged to get papers filled out and filed - New law about filing of Births

Physicians will have more work under an amendment to the public health law which the State Department of Health is preparing to enforce.  When a doctor's patient dies he must within twenty-four hours deliver to the local registrar a certificate of the death and the probable cause.  The amendment transfers the responsibility from the undertaker to the physician, relieving the undertaker of the necessity of calling upon the physician for the necessary data.

Under the new law, in case an inquest is required by law, the Coroner or the Coroner's physician must fill out the certificate, and if no inquest is required and no physician has been in attendance, the certificate shall be filled out by some reputable person known to the official issuing the burial permit, and the person thus acting must make an affidavit to the facts set forth in the death certificate.  The old law required the undertaker to file the physician's certificate before securing a burial permit.  The amendment enables the Health Department to deal directly with the physicians.

Another amendment requires that the registration of a birth must be made within thirty-six hours to the local health authorities, the object of this provision being to enable the Health Department to prepare the vital statistics of the State, another amendment requires that statistics must be forwarded from all localities on or before the fifth of the month.

The State Health Department is preparing circulars, which will be sent to local health officers for distribution among physicians.
Registrar Favors Law

"The amendment can scarcely fail to be of benefit," said Registrar of Vital Statistics John Metz this morning. "The physicians have always received the fee for the filing of death certificates and the undertakers have shouldered the responsibility of the filing.  Therefore, of course, the undertakers have been more or less dissatisfied.  They have frequently been obliged to call at the house of the doctor more than once in order to get a death certificate signed, and often there has been delay in the issuing of the burial permit."

"Another good result of the new law will be the holding up of cases which ought to belong to the Coroner and giving him an opportunity to act upon them before the hour of the funeral.  If a death certificate is filed within twenty-four hours after the death occurs, it will make it possible to get all the necessary information in case there is any reason for inquiry."

"The filing of birth certificates within thirty-six hours is another excellent point and one which I trust will be possible to enforce.  At present, we have pretty hard work to get the birth certificates filed at all, and if we can get full returns and get them quickly, it will certainly be a very good thing."


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