The publication of death certificates in New York is regulated by the New York State Public Health Act, section 4174, which ensures their confidential nature. Most of the official death certificates from the 1900s and later will contain a wealth of information that can help researchers uncover more records about their ancestors. Before the early 20th century, towns and cities did not always comply with record keeping laws, and New York City's vital records are kept completely separate from those belonging to people from other areas of New York State. For example, if you are looking for birth certificates and marriage records of ancestors who lived in New York State (outside of New York City), you must provide proof of death to obtain these records.
Unfortunately, the same does not apply to those researching in New York City (the boroughs of Manhattan, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Bronx and Richmond (Staten Island)). Finding death records in New York can be a challenge due to the complex history of birth, marriage and death records in the state, but it is not impossible with a little guidance. If the person died in New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island), you can request a certified copy of the death certificate online or by mail from the Vital Records Office. When investigating a single person, it is also best to do it the other way around, such as searching for an obituary.
The death registry is one of the few records that can capture all other life events that occurred before, since all life events occur before a death certificate is issued. If you are still having difficulty finding an official New York death certificate, there is good news: there are plenty of alternatives. If the person died outside of New York City but in New York State, you can request a certified copy of the death certificate online or by mail from the New York State Department of Health. There are many reasons why you may not be able to find an official New York death certificate. If the person died in the United States but not in New York, contact the vital or death records office in the state in which they died.
A similar example applies to those investigating New York City: they must submit evidence that both spouses have died if they seek a marriage record that is less than 50 years old.