A. General Info
The County Clerk of New York County is responsible for receiving papers initiating actions and special proceedings and maintaining the official case files of the court, which contain all papers filed with the court in each case. These files (other than older files and electronic files described below) are kept in the Supreme Court Record Room (Room 103 B, in the basement at 60 Centre Street, hours: 9 A.M. to 3 P.M.). Anyone who wishes to do so may examine the case files in that room. There are, however, two exceptions. First, by law the files in all matrimonial cases are confidential and are available only to the parties to the case or their attorneys, upon presentation of proper identification. Second, by law, a Justice of the court may, upon an adequate showing of certain circumstances (e.g., where trade secrets are involved), order that a file in a particular case be sealed in whole or in part or that a portion of the file be impounded by the County Clerk. All documents subject to such an order are confidential and may not be viewed unless the Justice in the order provides for such examination; often, an order will provide for access by (and only by) all parties and their attorneys upon presentation of proper identification.
Documents in cases that have been commenced by means of the New York State Courts Electronic Filing System ("NYSCEF") or that have been converted to e-filed status may be examined in the NYSCEF system at www.nycourts.gov/efile. There are some limits on availability of these documents. In general, if a Justice, pursuant to applicable rule, issues an order directing that a document or documents be sealed, the document or documents will not be available for public inspection. In addition, pursuant to rule (now repealed), some litigation documents, such as those revealing personal health information of an individual, might have been designated "secure" in the NYSCEF system; any such document would not be available on-line except to the attorneys and parties to the case, but, unless subject to a sealing order, would be viewable at the courthouse.
B. Location of Hard Copy Files
Older hard-copy files are stored as follows (the year refers to that in which the case was commenced):
Files at 60 Centre Street:
2004-present - all files (except for 2009, currently being reproduced off-site)
1955-1984 - microfilm only
1985-1997 - recent updates only
Files at 31 Chambers Street, 7th Floor:
1998-2003 - all files
1985-1992 - divorce files that start with 6, 7, 8 only (except in 1985)
1993-1997 - divorce files starting with 3 only
1988 - general asbestos cases (400000/1988)
Files in Warehouse Storage Off-Site:
1910-1954 - Waiting time - two business days
For information about requisitioning files that are in storage or access to files on microfilm, or for other information, contact County Clerk staff.
Supreme Court Record Room - 646-386-5942
County Clerk Archives, 31 Chambers Street, 7th Floor
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 4:30 PM
C. Judgment Docket and Lien Section; Matrimonial Judgments; Business Filings
The Judgment Docket and Lien Section of the County Clerk of New York County is located in Room 109B in the basement at 60 Centre Street (646-386-5940). This record will show, for instance, whether a lawsuit has been commenced that would affect title to real property, whether a lien has been filed against a property, or whether a judgment has been entered by the court. A Matrimonial Judgment Section is located in Room 141B in the basement at 60 Centre Street. This record will contain matrimonial judgments that have been issued by the court. But please note that matrimonial files, as pointed out above, are confidential under New York State law. Business filings are located in Room 109B.
D. Historic Records
Other categories of records maintained at the Division of Old Records at 31 Chambers Street include:
Civil Action Case Files - Various New York State Courts:
Supreme Court (1799-1910)
Court of Chancery (1754-1847)
Court of Common Pleas (1786-1895)
Superior Court of the City of New York (1828-1895)
These files provide information on individuals and corporations (both business and nonprofit organizations). They are indexed by plaintiff alone only on card indexes and by plaintiff and defendant on office databases. The amount of information varies with each case but the following can often be found: addresses, occupations, family relationships and property holdings.
Restrictions by statute:
Divorce proceedings are sealed for 100 years.
Commitments for incompetency are sealed for 75 years.
Surrender of custody for adoption - records and indexes are permanently sealed.
Corporation Certificates (1804-1920) - Contain names and addresses of officers, name changes for businesses and non-profit organizations and the purpose of the business.
Limited Partnership Agreements (1822-1910) - Contain names and addresses of partners and the address and purpose of a business.
Additional records are kept at the County Courthouse, 60 Centre Street, Room 109B, as well as in off-site storage.
The name of an organization is required for an index search. Indexes are available in cards, bound volumes and in office databases.
Petitions and Court Orders (1848-1934). Card index with the original and the new name are in the office at 31 Chambers Street.
Records (1896-1934). Records are off-site, but the indexes are in books on open shelves in Room 103B at 60 Centre Street.
1794-1924 - Records for State courts in Manhattan only. All copies must be made from microfilm, though digital camera use is also permitted.
1907-1924 - Petitions. Bound volumes and on microfilm. Card index.
1794-1906, microfilm only. Index on microfilm and in database.
For information on naturalization records available elsewhere, consult:
1870 United States Census (1st of 2 enumerations), bound but not indexed. All copies must be made from microfilm, though digital camera use is also permitted.
1855 New York State Census - All copies must be made from microfilm, though digital camera use is also permitted.
1905, 1915 & 1925 New York State Census, on microfilm, indexed by residential address and not by name. All copies must be made from microfilm, though digital camera use is also permitted.
Some historically significant court records held at 31 Chambers Street:
Court Minute Books:
Mayor’s Court - 1674
Court of General Sessions - 1683
Supreme Court of Judicature - 1691 The King vs. John Peter Zenger - 1735
Noah Webster debt case - 1797
Aaron Burr indictment - 1804
Aaron Burr divorce - 1836
Central Park property condemnations - 1853
Louis Napoleon vs. Jonathan Lemmon - 1858 (important anti-slavery case)
Andrew Carnegie naturalization petition - 1862
Benjamin Cardozo bar admission - 1891
“Typhoid” Mary Mallon writ of habeas corpus - 1909
Irving Berlin name change - 1911
People vs. Mae West - 1928
People vs. Charles “Lucky” Luciano - 1935
Lillian Hellman vs. Mary McCarthy - 1980
E. Other Records & Custodians
Deeds, mortgages, UCC's, and Federal tax liens are handled by the City Register (212-361-7550; https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/taxes/acris.page).
Marriage licenses are issued by the City Clerk (212-669-8898; https://www.cityclerk.nyc.gov/content/marriage-bureau).
Birth and death records of persons born and deceased in the City of New York are accessible at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 125 Worth Street, New York, NY 10007 (212-788-4500; https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/services/birth-certificates.page).
Vital records (birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce records since 1963) from outside the City of New York are maintained by the New York State Department of Health (www.health.ny.gov/vital_records).