New Jersey Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that New Jersey court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
New Jersey Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
New Jersey Court Records
Land records are held in New Jersey by the county clerks. Those records include naturalization’s, deeds, mortgages, and other records. Marriage records, which usually span from 1795 to 1878, can also be found in the offices of most county clerks. The New Jersey State Archives has some original dockets from county justices of the piece on file. Other records can be found in Orphan’s Court and Surrogate’s Court records.
Indexes, case files, and minute books from the Perogative Court (primarily 1830s to 1948) can be found at the New Jersey State Archives, along with chancery court records from 1780 to 1886 with some records dating back as far as 1743. State Supreme Court records from 1681 to 1844 with indexes up to 1947 are also available there, along with Court of Errors and Appeals dockets from 1869 to 1949 and a few earlier records. Some records from the court of common please going back all the way to the 1700s can also be found there. Around the middle of the 1990s, any remaining county courts became one with the Superior Court. Many records from before 1948 have now been moved to the New Jersey State Archives as well. That includes most records from the following counties: Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Passaic and Union.
Large amounts of Sussex and Salem County records are also available. Copies can be requested by mail for a $1.00 per page fee. Later records can be found in Trenton at the Superior Court Public Information Center. Researchers should note that a fire in 1980 destroyed quite a few state court records from the 1800s.
The National Archives-Northeast Region holds New Jersey federal court records. Some of them, including the 1790 to 1911 U.S. Circuit Court records and the 1789 to 1960 U.S. District Court records, have been microfilmed. The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey has also published several abstracts of court cases. See Also Research In Court Records.
New Jersey Land Records
West and East Jersey land proprietors sold land in New Jersey originally. The New Jersey State Archives has those records on microfilm. The East Jersey originals are also there. They were transferred in 1998, when the General Board of Proprietors was dissolved. The East Jersey capitol of Perth Amboy and the West Jersey capitol of Burlington kept all of the land conveyance records until 1785, when the Land Act was passed. The former provincial secretaries, which became known as the secretaries of state deeds. Those deeds, which range from 1664 to the 1800s, can be found at the New jersey State Archives. Abstracts of early patents, surveys, and deeds have also been published. However, estimates indicate that only about 255 of early colonial land transfers were actually recorded properly.
Each county holds mortgages and deeds, along with indexes for each. Generally, each county clerk recorded deeds from 1785 onward and recorded mortgages from 1766 onward. However, some counties did record earlier deeds. For example, both Passaic and Hudson County have deed abstracts available from before the counties were formed, when the land was part of other counties. The New Jersey State Archives has microfilmed copies of mortgages up to around 1850 and deeds up to around 1900 for nearly every county in the state.
County clerks also hold records of partitions and divisions of land. Those records may include maps of the property in question, as well as land descriptions. Some of those records can also be found intermixed with probate records, especially in cases where land was divided after a property owner died with no will. The New Jersey Historical Society and the New Jersey State Archives also have several unrecorded deeds on file, along with “loose” deed indexes and collections. Many of them have been amassed from personal collections and paperwork. Various historical societies and Rutgers University also have many deed collections available. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
New Jersey Probate Records
The New Jersey court that presides over estate issues is known as the Surrogate’s Court. That court takes care of modern probate cases, which are known as “complaints.” However, a “Surrogate’s General Index” includes more than just probate “complaint” listings. It also includes docket books and a listing of files and volumes relevant to a certain case. Orphan’s Court records may also contain information about some probate cases. Records of partitions and divisions of land can be found with the Surrogate Court. Some can also be found in the offices of each county clerk. Those records may include real property maps and descriptions of how land was divided among heirs. Those records for the following counties have been published:
- Essex (1793-1881)
- Middlesex (1780-1870)
- Morris (1785-1907)
- Somerset and Hunterdon (1809-1904)
- Sussex (1789-1918)
- Warren (1825-1946)
The New Jersey State Archives holds original inventories and will through 1952. However, there are not many post-1900 inventories available at the state level. Researchers can pay $5 to order estate packets by mail from the New Jersey State Archives. Index of Wills, Inventories, Etc. In the Office of the Secretary of State Prior to 1901, 3 vols. (1912-13), which was reprinted later as New Jersey Index of Wills (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969), contains many of those earlier records. That printing is organized according to county and estate name. Perogative Court wills are organized in a separate section, as are unrecorded wills. The Perogative court handled estate cases in some counties in New Jersey. It also handled contested estate appeals.
The state archives has index cards for 1901 to 1952 wills. Every card lists a file number for the related records, which are on microfilm at the archives. Those indexes do not include Surrogate Court estate records. So, researchers should make an effort to look at those records as well. Those records may include guardianship and intestate estate records that are not part of the statewide index. An alphabetical list for all of New Jersey for 1901 can be found in Lee Smeal and Ronald Vern Jackson, eds., Index to New Jersey wills, 1689-1890, the testators