Early birth, marriage, and death registration 1847-1850s
In 1847 New York State passed a law concerning birth, marriage, and death registration. Compliance with the law was not especially good and doesn’t seem to have improved (outside of New York City) until a new law was passed in 1880. The legislative intent of the 1847 law is reasonably well documented in old newspaper items, examples of which follow below.
Some of the birth, marriage, and death records for Lansingburgh created under the 1847 law do survive, to varying degrees. Some marriage records are in the Lansingburgh Historical Society’s collection at the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Otherwise, there are some old transcriptions taken from originals that seem to have been lost or destroyed.
The New York Academy of Medicine, upon the motion of Dr. Griscom, seems to have taken the initiative by sending a memorial to the State Legislature in February of 1847, urging a registry law.
Duffy, John. History of Public Health in New York City, 1625-1866. Russell Sage Foundation, 1968. 308. Citing New York Academy of Medicine, Minutes, February 3, 1847, in New York Academy of Medicine Mss., 28-29.
NEW YORK ACADEMY OF MEDICINE.—The first regular meeting of this academy was held on Wednesday afternoon, at the Lyceum in Broadway. […]
Dr. Griscom presented a memorial on the subject of the registration of births, marriages and deaths, which was approved of by the academy, and was signed by the officers and fellows and ordered to be transmitted to the Legislature. The object of this memorial is to induce the legislature to enact the law which they are now considering.
New York Morning Express. February 5, 1847: 1 col 5.
Wednesday, May 6th, 1846. […]
Dr. GRISCOM moved that a Committee of Five be appointed to consider the expediency, and, if deemed expedient, the mode, of recommending, and urging upon the several State governments the adoption of measures for a registration of the Births, Marriages, and Deaths of their several populations. Carried nem. diss.
Proceedings of the National Medical Conventions, Held in New York, May, 1846, and in Philadelphia, May, 1847. Philadelphia, PA: T. K. & P. G. Collins, 1847. 20-21.
NATIONAL MEDICAL CONVENTION,
HELD IN THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, IN MAY, 1847.
PHILADELPHIA, May 5th, 1847. […]
Dr. GRISCOM, of N. Y., Chairman of the Committee appointed by the last National Convention to consider the expediency and mode of urging upon the State governments the adoption of measures for a registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, presented a Report, which was received, and laid upon the table in order to be printed. (See Document H.)
Proceedings of the National Medical Conventions, Held in New York, May, 1846, and in Philadelphia, May, 1847. Philadelphia, PA: T. K. & P. G. Collins, 1847. 34.
The Committee appointed by the National Medical Convention, held in May, 1846, to consider the expediency, and (if expedient) the mode of recommending and urging upon the several State governments the adoption of measures for a Registration of the Births, Marriages, and Deaths of their several populations, respectfully
That in their deliberations upon this vitally important subject, the expediency of such a recommendation has not for a moment admitted of a doubt. They believe the medical profession of the United States would unhesitatingly and unanimously approve the recommendation, and that such a step, by their representatives assembled in this Convention, would receive a universal sanction.
A uniform and systematic Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths, appears to be a measure somewhat difficult of accomplishment in populations like ours, and must, necessarily, rely upon the energy and intelligence of comparatively few to carry its provisions into effect, yet it is of such primary importance to the best interests of the people, as to justify our urging its adoption upon the several State governments, with the confident belief that when its merits are once fully understood, all will unite in its support.
With regard to the second branch of the subject submitted to us, the mode of recommending the adoption by the several States, of measures for this purpose, there would seem but one course for the Convention to pursue, and that is, to address the State governments upon the subject. To this end, your Committee have prepared a document in the form of an address, which they propose, if accepted, should be signed by the officers of the Convention, printed, and properly transmitted.
As this whole subject is one which can, in its primary aspect, be fully appreciated by but few others than the members of the medical profession, it must depend, in a great measure, upon their efforts for its successful accomplishment, and where such exceedingly desirable and valuable results are attainable, your committee will not suffer themselves to entertain the thought that it will be permitted to fail, through negligence on the part of their professional brethren in the different sections of the country.
Your Committee respectfully submit the following resolutions for adoption by the Convention:—
Resolved, 1st. That it is expedient for this Convention to recommend to, and urge upon, the various State governments, the adoption of measures for procuring a Registration of the Births, Marriages and Deaths occurring in their several populations.
Resolved, 2d. That a Standing Committee be appointed by the Convention to take a general charge of the subject, and report annually to the Convention.
Resolved, 3d. That the State Medical Societies be requested to assume the duty of carrying out the objects embraced in the first resolution; and that in those States where no organized societies exist the delegates therefrom in the present Convention, be charged with the duty for their respective States, and report to the Standing Committee.
Resolved, 4th. That in procuring the Registration, the forms and nomenclature adopted should be, as nearly as possible, similar to those prepared for, and reported to, the Convention.
Resolved, 5th. That the paper hereto annexed, be adopted as the voice of the Convention, be printed, and signed by its officers, and transmitted under their direction to all the State governments of the Union.
All which is respectfully submitted.
JOHN H. GRISCOM,
CHAS. A. LEE,
Philadelphia, May 5th, 1847.
The United States National Medical Convention, assembled in the City of Philadelphia in May, 1847, desirous of the promotion of the true and vital interests of the people of their common country, in all their varied locations, circumstances and conditions, do respectfully recommend to the governments of the several States of the Union, the adoption of measures for a GENERAL REGISTRATION of THE BIRTHs, MARRIAGEs, AND DEATHS, which may occur within their respective borders.
No effort need here be expended in elucidation of the more ordinary purposes for which such a Registration should be universally adopted, such as proofs of lineage, rights of dower, and bequests of property. The importance of these cannot but be perceived on the least reflection.
But there are reasons more profound and far reaching, results more important to the welfare and glory of man, obtainable by this measure, which not only justify, but demand its early adoption, and thorough consummation.
There are two facts to be noticed in this connection, which may not be denied:—
First. Upon the circumstances connected with the three important eras of existence, birth, marriage and death, are dependent, to a very great extent, the physical, moral and civil condition of the human family.
Second. A knowledge of these circumstances is necessary for a full comprehension of important means for the certain advancement of the population of States, in prosperity and civilization.
To the political economist and vital statist, the laws which regulate and control the lives and destinies of the people of the present, cannot be a subject of indifference;—to the legislator and statesman, ignorance of them is a bar to the full appreciation of their responsibility to the people of the future. The philosophy of increase of population is intimately connected with, and dependent upon, the proposed measure, and can be properly learned only from its facts and deductions. In countries longer settled than ours, this science has come to be one of profound importance to those who are called to legislate for the future as well as for the present. For example:—The population of England has increased, as the census prove—and the excess of births over deaths leaves beyond a doubt—in a geometrical progression for forty years, and at a rate by which, if continued, it will double every forty-nine years. Whether the means of subsistence keep pace with that increase, or whether the density of population will, ere long, be too great for its area, are important questions to be decided by their own statesmen.
An increase of population has, however, nothing in it irresistible or inexorable; it consists in nothing but an increase of the births over the deaths—and will be suspended if the births cease to maintain the same ratio to the population; and the births may always be reduced rapidly, by retarding the period and number of the marriages, without taking into consideration the increase by immigration. Circumstanced as this country is now, with its millions of unreclaimed acres, its exhaustless resources of subsistence and wealth, in its mountains and valleys, in its mines, rivers and forests, it would be judicious to invite, even with the vast immigration to be expected, rather than discourage, an increase of a native population, by encouraging early marriages, provided that thereby immorality or misery in any form, will not advance with them.
But before we can make any recommendations on this subject, or before we can even intelligently discuss it, we must have a knowledge of the facts as they are. By commencing a Registration now, our successors will be furnished with the necessary material in time for any exigency that may arise.
Conclusive evidence is furnished to us of the value of a well-digested system of Registration for the improvement of the people in their moral and physical condition, and in the length of their lives. From the facts obtained thereby, are deducible the rules and inferences of health, and the sources of disease and premature mortality— many of which need but be known to be avoided. Coincident with improvements in the health and condition of individuals, are increase of years, and advancement in private and public morals, and in the strength and virtue of the State.
Among the first communities to establish a system of Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths, was Geneva, where it was begun as early as 1549, and has since been continued with great care. The registers are there viewed as pre-appointed evidences of civil rights, and it appears that human life has wonderfully improved since they were kept. The mean duration of life increased more than five times from 1550 to 1833; with the increase of population, and more prolonged duration of life, happiness also increased; though with advanced prosperity marriages became sewer and later, and thus the number of births was reduced, a greater number of infants born were preserved, and the number of adults—with whom lies the true greatness of the state—became larger. Towards the close of the 17th century, the probable duration of life was not 20 years—at the close of the 18th century it attained to 32 years—and now it has arrived to 45 years; while the real productive power of the population has increased in a much greater proportion than the increase in its actual number, and, Geneva has arrived at a high state of civilization.
These results, so glorious for individuals, for the community, and for humanity, are derived from the better knowledge and understanding of the science of life and health, the data for which are furnished by the statistics of the Registers.
The information obtained by the Natural History surveys which have been made of many of the States of the Union, is directly interesting only to a very small number;-while the facts and inferences deducible from a sanatary survey and registration, interest and benefit, directly, the great mass of the people, for all are interested in their personal condition. Thus are produced in them more expanded views of the worth of life, and the necessity for its preservation; a more thorough appreciation of the importance of purity in the principal sources of its continuance, air and food; more attention to the comforts of dwellings and clothing, more refined sensibilities, greater energy, and a better regulated state of public and private morals. These results have been obtained in Geneva.
In Prussia these measures are attended to in a mode deserving the highest commendation. Every fact relating to the health, lives and condition of the population, is there collected with great care by a central officer at Berlin, and published for the benefit of the people. The most beneficent results have accrued from the admirably arranged statistical returns made for several years past in England. Of more than one large town, but of Liverpool especially, it was ascertained that the mortality was great, and the average age at death of the population low, whereas before, the inhabitants had boasted of their salubrity and longevity. The registration has, to them, truly proved the means of increase of health and years, after removing from their eyes the scales which blinded them to their own destruction.
In many of the European states besides those mentioned, facts in connection with this subject are registered, and collated, in the most scientific and systematic manner, and, to use the language of a distinguished American statist, “whatever we Americans may say to the contrary, the average longevity, in many places, where these measures have been in operation, appears greater than with us.” Indeed we have no little reason to apprehend that unless something is done to arrest the progress and pressure of the causes of premature mortality in this country, we shall be in danger of possessing only a very young and immature population. The average age of death in many of our large cities, as far as returns enable it to be shown, is under 20 years, a fact which can only be due to the unfavourable physical circumstances of the people, and their ignorance of the true means of living and avoiding disease.
The registers of the ancient Romans, which were preserved with great care, and recorded the births, sexes, periods of puberty, manhood, age at death, etc., kept by order of Domitius Ulpianus, prime minister of Alexander Severus, afford us the means of ascertaining the mean duration of life in Rome nearly 2000 years ago, and comparing this with the results of estimates made at the present day in in places where similar records are kept, we are thus enabled to establish the gratifying fact of the great extension of the average period of human life in various cities and countries.
Of the results obtainable by the suggested measure, in connection with the census returns now regularly made in each of the United States, not the least important and desirable are tables exhibiting the probabilities or expectation of life.
By this simple and elegant method, the mean duration of life, uncertain as it appears to be, and as it is, with reference to individuals, can be determined with the greatest accuracy in nations, and in still smaller communities. This is important not merely in reference to the payments of life annuities, and the business of life insurance, whose great value is but just beginning to be felt in this country, but it is of inestimable interest, as determining to individuals their probabilities of living in their different classes, occupations, locations, and habits. “As it might be expected from the similarity of the human organization, that all classes of men would, caeteris paribus, live, on an average, the same number of years, it becomes important to ascertain whether this be the case, and if it be not, to determine to what extent life is shortened in unfavourable circumstances. The Life Table answers this purpose, and is as indispensable in sanatary inquiries as the barometer or thermometer, and other instruments, in physical research. Upon applying it to any number of well-selected cases, the influence of any external cause, or combination of causes, can be analyzed; while without its aid, and extended observation and calculation, we are liable to be misled at every step by vague opinions, well-concocted stories, or interested statements, in estimating the relative duration of life; which can no more be accurately made out by conjecture, than the relative diameters of the sun, moon, and planets of our system.”* [* Fifth Annual Report of the Registrar-General in England.]
If these things are so, and of their truth there cannot remain the shadow of a doubt, it is plain that with this measure are entwined the highest earthly interests of humanity, and it belongs to the legislators of the New World, the guardians and custodians of the interests and glory of the American Republic, to consider well ere they longer postpone the adoption of a measure so essential thereto. “A comparison of the duration of successive generations in England, France, Prussia, Austria, Russia, America, and other States, would throw much light on the physical condition of their respective populations, and suggest to scientific and benevolent individuals in every country, and to the governments, many ways of diminishing the sufferings, and meliorating the health and condition of the people; for the longer life of a nation denotes more than it does in an individual, —a happier life—a life more exempt from sickness and infirmity—a life of greater energy and industry—of greater experience and wisdom. By these comparisons, a noble national emulation might be excited, and rival nations would read of sickness diminished, deformity banished, life saved—of victories over death and the grave, with as much enthusiasm as of victories over each other’s armies in the field; and the triumph of one would not be the humiliation of the other, for in this contention none would lose territory, or honour, or blood, but all would gain strength.” (Idem.)
Proceedings of the National Medical Conventions, Held in New York, May, 1846, and in Philadelphia, May, 1847. Philadelphia, PA: T. K. & P. G. Collins, 1847. 125-131.
Of the Committee on Medical Societies and Medical Colleges, on petitions for the Registration of Marriages, Births and Deaths.
Mr. BACKUS, from the committee on medical societies and medical colleges, to whom was referred the petitions asking for a law directing the registration of marriages, births and deaths, would respectfully report:—
That the subject is considered by your committee as one of great interest, and one that should call for legislative enactment.
Almost every European government has established minute regulations for registrations of this character, and they have been found to be useful in a high degree to all classes of citizens, to the political economist, the legislator, the jurist and the physician; and the public generally would be highly interested and benefitted in various ways. By a law of this character many facts would be elicited which would form the foundation for useful and practical legislation definitely settling many questions of economical science.
It is by the tables that would be formed as the result of these statistics that we could determine with a great degree of accuracy, the laws of increase of population, probable duration of life, comparative rate of mortality in town and country, and the differences in that respect between the different parts of the country, and also between the different cities, the prevalence, peculiarity and fatality of diseases in different sections of our country; it would thus afford statistics much needed by the insurers of lives, a subject which is daily more and more attracting the attention of all classes of our citizens as manifested in the rapidly increasing number of those who are availing themselves of the benefits arising from those institutions.
It would be highly valuable to the jurist as it would enable him to settle the value of a widow’s dower, or a life estate, matters frequently coming before our legal tribunals for settlement. It would prove itself very useful, and in time almost absolutely necessary in the settlement of disputes in which the peace of families, as well as the rights of individuals are concerned, and in the disposition of litigated claims, for all the facts in regard to births, marriages and deaths, would become matter of public record in the town where the act was consummated, and also in the office of the Secretary of State. The want of such records have been felt very much, and their usefulness shown by the difficulties that have occurred so often in establishing claims for revolutionary services, especially in proving the marriage of a widow thus interested.
A law of this kind seems to be demanded in this State and our States generally, so that we may be enabled more systematically and minutely to compare our own institutions, habits, morals, diseases and longevity with those of European countries.—The great extent of our country, the diversity of our climate and employments, and the nature of our peculiar institutions are such, that much curious, interesting and instructive matter may be evolved, should such a system of registration be established in every State.
In Massachusetts, where legislation has existed for the last four years, important results have already been secured.
And your committee believe that this vast amount of highly interesting information can be obtained at comparatively small expense through the admirable system of our common school organization.
Your committee hope that something may be done at this session to effect this object. It is due to the State to afford this information, to herself, her sister States and the world. For she has never been backward in promoting science and the arts and a minute knowledge of her Natural History.
Your Committee ask leave to introduce a bill for this purpose.
Albany Evening Journal. March 16, 1846: 2 col 2.
The Report from Doct. BACKUS, in the Senate, urging a Registry of Marriages, Births and Deaths, will be found in another column. Its importance will strike every reader forcibly. The mode suggested to carry out the proposition is feasible and inexpensive.
We cannot but hope that the Legislature will pass a bill to accomplish not only this object, but also to carry out the philanthropic recommendation of the same Senator to alleviate the condition of IDIOTS. For such Laws the Legislature would be held in grateful remembrance.
Albany Evening Journal. March 16, 1846: 2 col 3.
Dr. Frederick F. Backus (1794-1858)
Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, Monroe County, New York
AN ACT providing for a registry of births, marriages and deaths. Passed April 28, 1847.
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
Section 1. The clerks of the several school districts of this state, organized according to law, and where there shall be no clerk, or he shall be incapable of acting, the trustees or one of them of such district shall annually, on or before the fifteenth day of January in each year ascertain from the most accurate means of information in their power, and report in writing to the town clerk of the town, or one of the aldermen of the ward in which the school house of their district shall be situated, or in the city of New-York to the city inspector, under appropriate heads, and in such forms as shall be prescribed by the secretary of state, the number of births, marriages and deaths which have occurred in their districts respectively during each year preceding the first day of January, the month and day of their occurrence, the names and residences of the person so married or dying, and the names of the parents of such children born during the year, the sex, color and names of the children, name and residence of the officer or clergyman performing the marriage ceremony in cases of marriage, the age of the persons who shall have married or died during the year aforesaid, and the particular disease or cause of their death. The report of all marriages and births in the city of New-York shall be reported direct to the city inspector, and in case there is no physician or midwife in attendance at any birth, then the parents shall be required to report to the city inspector within one month, and all deaths in the city of New-York shall be reported to the city inspector as at present, every week.
§ 2. It shall be the duty of the town clerk of each of the towns in this state, or of any alderman receiving the report as above specified, within fifteen days after the receipt thereof to record the same in a book to be provided by him for that purpose, and to transmit a copy thereof, or of an abstract thereof in such form as shall be prescribed by the secretary of state, to the county clerk or city inspector, whose duty it shall be within fifteen days after the receipt thereof to forward an abstract duly certified by him, in such form as shall be prescribed as aforesaid, to the secretary of state, who shall file the same in his office, make a complete abstract thereof, and transmit the same to the legislature as soon as may be practicable thereafter.
§ 3. It shall be the duty of clergymen, magistrates and other persons who perform the marriage ceremony, to keep a registry of the marriage celebrated by them, and to ascertain as far as practicable and note the ages of the persons married and the time thereof, and their places of birth and their residences in such registry. It shall also be the duty of physicians and professional midwives to keep a registry of the several births in which they have assisted professionally, and the time of such birth, sex, color and the residence of the parents; and physicians who have attended deceased persons in their last sickness, clergymen who have officiated at the funeral, and sextons who have buried deceased persons, to keep a registry of the name, age and residence of such deceased persons and the times of their deaths. It shall be the duty of such physicians, magistrates, clergymen and sextons to allow the clerks of the school districts within which they respectively reside, to inspect such registries from time to time, and furnish them such other information in their power as may be necessary to enable such clerks to make the returns by this act.
§ 4. For the performance of the duties herein required, the officers of the several districts, towns and counties rendering the services herein specified, shall be entitled to such compensation for their services and expenses incurred by them, as may be audited and allowed by the boards of supervisors of such counties respectively.
NOTICE—To the Clerks of school districts in the town of Rhinebeck;—The instructions of the Secretary of State, to School District Clerks, under the “Act providing for the Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths,” having been left with the Supervisor of the town; the Clerks of the several School Districts, will please call immediately for the same, at his office in the village of Rhinebeck.
TUNIS WORTMAN, Supervisor
Rhinebeck, August 23, 1847.
Rhinebeck Gazette. August 30, 1847: 2 col 5.
☞ The following letter has been received from the Secretary of State, in relation to the construction of the Act entitled, “An Act providing for the Registry of Births, Marriages, and Deaths,” passed April 29, 1847.
ALBANY, January 7, 1848.
GEORGE VANDEVERG, Jr., Esq., Jamaica, L. I.
SIR: Yours of the 6th inst., was received here to-day. The law requiring the Registry of Births, &c., takes effect immediately, and the returns of the Clerks of the School Districts, are to include the year 1847, and up to December 31st. Marriages are to be registered where the ceremony is performed, and the Clerk of the District should enter the residence of both husband and wife—it may be in another District, Town or County. The entry respecting the residence, should give all the particulars relative thereto, as the Clerk can obtain. Deaths are to be registered in the District where the event takes place, and the “residence when living” given in the proper column. Respectfully Yours,
Secretary of State.
The Long-Island Farmer and Queens County Advertiser. January 11, 1848: 2 col 2.
Of Cortland County, at their Annual Meeting in the Year 1848.
At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Cortland County, convened at the Court House in Cortlandville, on the 14th day of November, 1848. […]
Among the resolutions passed by the Board, were the following, viz:
On motion of John Wheeler it was
Resolved, That the clerks of School districts in this County be allowed $1 a day for their services in Registering births, deaths and marriages, and that such services be audited against the respective towns in which they are performed.
On motion of Dudley Benton, it was
Resolved, That the Town clerks of the respective towns, be allowed one dollar a day for services in registering births, deaths and marriages as reported by the clerks of School Districts.
Cortland County Whig. December 28, 1848: 1 cols 2-3.
REGISTRY OF BIRTHS.—The bill to repeal the act providing for the registry of births, marriages, and deaths in the State, was debated.
Mr. Wilkin opposed the repeal and preferred to see the effect of the bill tried a little longer.
Mr. Geddess said, if we want such a law on our Statute Books, let us so frame it as that it will be obeyed, as it now stands some Towns comply with its provisions, and some utterly disregard them. He wanted to see some penalty prescribed by the law for its violations, so that if valuable information could be obtained by such law, the State would have power to secure the returns contemplated.
Syracuse Journal. March 22, 1849: 4 col 6.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.
The Board of Supervisors met at the Court House, pursuant to adjournment. Present, Messrs. Watson, Wrisley, Fitch, Sax, Adgate, Ransom, Patchin, Averill and Hull. […]
Resolved, That the accounts of the Town and School District Clerks, under act of 1847, providing for the registry of births, marriages and deaths be audited by this Board and charged to the county.
Plattsburgh Republican. August 23, 1850: 1 col 5.
SENATE……ALBANY, Monday, March 12, 1853. […]
To repeal the Registry Act of births, marriages and deaths. Lost 7 to 11.
New-York Daily Tribune. March 22, 1853: 5 col 1.
Board of Supervisors
COUNTY OF ST. LAWRENCE.
Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1880, 8 A. M.
The board met pursuant to adjournment. […]
Mr. Sanford, from special committee on the subject of registration of births, marriages and deaths, made the following report, accompanied by a bill entitled “An Act to provide for and regulate the registration of births, marriages and deaths, and granting burial permits, and to fix and regulate the fees therefor, in the county of St. Lawrence:”
To the Honorable the Board of Supervisors of St. Lawrence County:—
Your committee, to which was referred the subject of registration of births, marriages and deaths, and the granting of burial permits, beg leave to report:
By chapter 322, of the laws of 1880, the governor was authorized to appoint three commissioners, who, together with certain other officials, were to constitute a “State Board of Health”. The organization of the board has been fully completed.
By the seventh section of the Act, it is made the duty of the board to have the general supervision of the State system of registration of births, marriages and deaths, and of prevalent diseases—to prepare the necessary methods and forms for obtaining and preserving such records and to secure the faithful registration of the same, in the several counties of the State. They re also to prepare the necessary methods and forms and prescribe rules and regulations for the issue and use of transfer permits to be used by local organized boards of health, for the transportation of dead bodies for burial, out of the county where the death occurs, and the granting of burial permits, generally.
A law of 1847, (chapter 152), still in force, provides for the registry of births, marriages and deaths, and is the only law which prescribes any system of State registration. It provides that the clerks of school districts shall, on or before the 15th of January in each year, ascertain as best they may, and report in writing to the town clerk, in the form prescribed by the Secretary of State, the number of births, marriages and deaths which have occurred in their respective districts during the past year, with such data as to dates, names, &c., as will enable to town clerk to make a proper registration, and it was made his duty to record the same in a book and transmit a copy or abstract thereof to the county clerk, who must certify the same to the Secretary of State, and he to the legislature.
It is the duty of clergymen and magistrates solemnizing marriages to keep a register of marriages, and of physicians and midwives to keep a register of births at which they assist, and of physicians and clergymen, of deaths, and these registers are open to the inspection of district clerks. From these sources, the district clerks, if clergymen, magistrates and physicians faithfully discharge the duties imposed upon them, may derive the necessary information.
The officers of the districts, towns and counties were entitled to such compensation for their services as the supervisors should allow.
This law was acted upon for several years, but has, by its non-observance, become practically obsolete. But the act of 1880 (chapter 322) recognizes its existence, puts it into renewed operation, and commits the superintendence of its execution to the “State Board of Health,” and, to aid such board in accomplishing the purposes of the law, additional powers have been conferred upon the board of supervisors, by an amendment of chapter 482 of the laws of 1875, (chap. 512, of laws of 1880). This act authorizes boards of supervisors to provide for the registration by town clerks, of births, marriages and deaths, in certain specified books, and by the use of certain specified forms, to be furnished at the expense of the county, and also to fix the amount and provide for the payment of registration fees.
To this is added the power to provide rules and regulations relative to the transportation and burial of the dead, and grant permits for burial, in all cases.
A proper and thorough registration of births, marriages and deaths, is a matter of great importance. It has been one of the glaring defects in our system, that no efficient provision has been made for it. For its bearing upon the descent of estates and in questions of pedigree and legitimacy, it is of great importance. To say nothing of the benefits to the present generation, these records of lives, and heritable rights and relationship are equally as important to those who are to succeed us, as are the public records of estates. Besides this, the study of the laws of health and life, and of the legislation necessary for their preservation and protection, will be greatly facilitated by the faithful and thorough execution of these statues, as will appear from the duty devolved upon the State board, by the sixth section of the act: “To take cognizance of the interests of health and life among the people of the State, and make inquiries in respect to the causes of disease, and especially of epidemics, and investigate the sources of mortality, and the effects of localities, employments and other conditions upon the public health, and to obtain, collect and preserve such information relating to deaths, diseases and health as may be useful in the discharge of its duties, and contribute to the promotion of the health or the security of life, in the State of New York.”
The law of 1847, so far as forms and books of record were concerned, provided all that was necessary, but its execution was left to the impromptu action of school district clerks, to whom no specific compensation was offered. The law of 1880 installs the “State Board of Health” as the central power—the mainspring, so to speak, to set and keep the whole machinery in motion—with a secretary devoting his whole time to the work, and asking the co-operation of supervisors to offer to district clerks and other officers, a certain and specific inducement to gather and record the information.
We therefore recommend the adoption of such provisions as shall secure a thorough execution of the statute, and herewith submit for your consideration, a bill embracing such regulation.
Canton, Nov. 29, 1880.
E. D. BROOKS,
M. D. BECKWITH.
The bill was read twice and referred to the committee of the whole.
By Mr. Sanford:
Resolved, That an order be drawn by the clerk of this board in favor of Dr. H. D. Smith, of Nicholville, N. Y., for two dollars, to be paid by the county treasurer out of the contingent fund in his hand.
On motion of Mr. Sanford, ordered that the petition for the registration of births, marriages and deaths be published with the minutes.
To the Honorable the Board of Supervisors of St. Lawrence County:—
We, the undersigned, citizens of said county, respectfully ask that you take such action, at your present session, as will secure as far as possible, a registration of births, deaths, and marriages in said county, in pursuance of chapter 512 of the laws of 1880.
W. W. HOWARD,
Pr. Board of Health, […]
St. Lawrence Plaindealer [Canton, NY]. December 8, 1880. 1 cols 3-4.