New Jersey Counties and Historical Facts
New Jersey County records vary widely from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been carefully preserved while others have been much abused and neglected. Some New Jersey records have simply disappeared.
For genealogists doing research in New Jersey there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records.
New Jersey County Records
There are 21 counties in the state of New Jersey. Each one has its own records relating to court cases, estates, land transfers, and other important events.
Each county is governed by a Board of Freeholders, whose records should not be overlooked.
Other useful county records may be located in the courthouses or at the New Jersey State Archives, including Justice of the Peace Dockets; tavern, peddler’s, and shopkeeper’s licenses; road books; and slave births and manumissions.
The New Jersey State Archives and individual courthouses may also hold useful information. That information could include, but is not limited to
- Justice of the Peace Dockets
- Tavern Licenses
- Peddlers’ Licenses
- Shopkeepers’ Licenses
- Road Books
- Slave Births
Certain counties have their own county archives or county record centers. Older records are transferred to those locations for research and preservation purposes.
The counties that currently have those sorts of facilities are Bergen, Cape May, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Salem, Somerset and Sussex.
However, researchers should still contact county clerks, first, since many of them have retained original records.
The state archives holds some select ancient town books, but many records are still held by the cities, townships, and boroughs.
The Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, the New Jersey Historical Society and other genealogical and historical societies also house many old town records.
Those records may include listings of elected officials and indigents, as well as notices of stray animals and other information.
A state legislative act in 1979 created a system of local historians. It is the job of those historians to “promote and preserve the history of the municipalities.”
However, their coverage is not universal across the state. The New Jersey Historical Commission‘s website provides a list of those historians.
Most municipal records are still in the townships, boroughs, and cities, but some are at the state archives and the New Jersey Historical Society. These list earmarks (although some are also found in county records), indigents, elected officials, stray animals, and so forth.
See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.
List of New Jersey Extinct Counties
New Jersey has counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county.
A lot of these counties were established and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have changed very little since 1900.
These are important for genealogy research purposes. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or joined with some other county.
See the History of New Jersey Counties for more details.
List of New Jersey Counties with Burned Courthouses
Not only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others.
Once destroyed they’re lost forever. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too.
However, not all records were damaged or lost in some counties.
- Gloucester County Courthouse – The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1786
- Somerset County Courthouse – In 1779 the courthouse, then at Millstone, was burned.
List of New Jersey Counties
|County||Date Formed||Parent County||County Seat|
|Atlantic||1837||Gloucester County||Mays Landing|
|Bergen||1683||One of four original counties created in East Jersey||Hackensack|
|Burlington||1694||One of two original counties created in West Jersey||Mount Holly Township|
|Cape May||1692||Burlington County||Cape May Court House|
|Essex||1683||One of four original counties created in East Jersey||Newark|
|Hudson||1840||Bergen County||Jersey City|
|Mercer||1838||Burlington, Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Somerset Counties||Trenton|
|Middlesex||1683||One of four original counties created in East Jersey||New Brunswick|
|Monmouth||1683||One of four original counties created in East Jersey||Freehold Borough|
|Ocean||1850||Monmouth County||Toms River|
|Passaic||1837||Bergen County and Essex County||Paterson|
|Salem||1694||One of two original counties created in West Jersey||Salem|