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Historical Records

We are celebrating our upcoming Centennial (or Bicentennial, Sesquicentennial, etc). Where can we get information on our community's history?

The history of your community is all around you. You just need to do a little searching. Your local government will have records on the creation of your town, city or village. Be sure to also look at records of your local historical society. These will be useful for providing further information on people in your community and their history. 

If I do decide to accept the donation, what do I need to do to document it?

A deed of gift that clearly addresses the physical and legal custody issues should be written. Ideally, the deed of gift will state that there are no restrictions on access to the donated records and that the donor has agreed to transfer copyright to your institution. If you are willing to accept donations that will be closed to researchers for a given amount of time (e.g., 25 years, until after the donor's death) or agree to allow the donor to retain copyright, these conditions must be clearly outlined in the deed of gift. The deed of gift should be notarized.

Someone wants to give my organization an historical record. Should I take it?

Any organization collecting historical records must have an acquisitions policy, a written statement that outlines its collecting focus (e.g., records documenting the history of a specific locality, group of people, or event). Such a policy will ensure that your institution is collecting items appropriate to its mission. It also makes it easier to refuse donations that do not meet your organization's collecting priorities.

If a suggested donation does not fit your acquisitions policy, try to identify another repository that would be a more suitable home.

Where do I obtain birth, death, marriage, and divorce records?

Contact DOH Vitals (Vital Records Section, NYS Department of Health, Empire State Plaza, Albany NY 12237, tel. 855-322-1022 [toll free]) for such records from outside NYC. Also try their website: For New York City events, contact the NYC Department of Health (Vital Records, NYC Department of Health, 125 Worth Street / Box 10, NY, NY 10013, (212) 788-5300) for such events in the city.

Where do I obtain student records from a closed private elementary or secondary school?

Contact the public school district in which the private school was geographically located. Private elementary or secondary schools which close are required to either (1) place their student academic records with another school or "agency" for permanent preservation and notify the public school district in which the school was geographically located of that arrangement, or (2) send the records to that public school district which is then responsible for their continued permanent preservation. SED has no student records from public or private elementary or secondary schools.

Where do I obtain student records from a closed proprietary school?

"Non-degree granting" proprietary schools come under the jurisdiction of the SED Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision. Proprietary schools are required by 8 NYCRR 126.11 to maintain student academic records for 20 years after the student completes his/her program at the school. After that, the records may be destroyed. If a proprietary school closes, it is required to (1) transfer its student academic records to another school or agency for the indicated retention period and notify the SED Bureau of Proprietary School

Where do I obtain records from a closed college or professional education (nursing, dentistry, etc.) school?

As a general rule, contact the SED Office of Higher Education. Higher and professional education schools which close are required to (1) transfer their student academic records to another school or agency for permanent preservation and to notify SED of that arrangement, or (2) transfer the records to SED which then maintains them permanently. In practice, there are several units within SED which become involved.