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New York didn't require registration of vital records until well into the 1880s. In fact, even after this legislation was enacted, compliance was spotty at first.
There are other ways to determine these facts. One major one is church records, which will record baptisms, marriages and sometimes deaths. Newspapers are another good source. I have found that deed and probate records can be a gold mine of information.
Don't neglect guardianship records as they can give the relationships of family members.
However, I still keep running into snags in trying to find my NY ancestors. You just have to keep digging and perhaps have a bit of luck.
I do a lot of research in NY State, It depends on which County you are researching. There are 2 sites that are outstanding, one is the Delaware County genweb site and the other is the Tri-County site which includes Chemung Co. NY and Tioga and Bradford County in PA. Another site that is good is Green County, but you want Sylvia Hasenkopf's site. They are continually updating these sites.
Don't overlook the historians in any of the counties, I have found them to be a great help and have received records, photo's etc. from many of them.
You can also find many records in the card catalog on ancestry.com. Be sure to use the "old search" when doing any research, as less information needs to be entered. I found a lot of ancestors with just the last name and county, especially census records. In the card catalog I use no names just the alphabetical listings for eg: Dutch Church Records, d then du etc. You can also find some counties that way too, for eg Columbia, c then co, col etc.
Hope this helps you.