Genealogical Research in New Jersey
- A Brief History of New Jersey
- Common New Jersey Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them
- New Jersey Genealogical Organizations and Archives
- Additional New Jersey Genealogical Resources
- New Jersey Genealogical Records
- Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female New Jersey Ancestors
On This Page:
There are many genealogical records and resources available for tracing your family history in New Jersey. Because there are so many records held at many different locations, tracking down the records for your ancestor can be an ominous task. Don’t worry though, we know just where they are, and we’ll show you which records you’ll need, while helping you to understand:
- What they are
- Where to find them
- How to use them
These records can be found both online and off, so we’ll introduce you to online websites, indexes and databases, as well as brick-and-mortar repositories and other institutions that will help with your research in New Jersey. So that you will have a more comprehensive understanding of these records, we have provided a brief history of the “Garden State” to illustrate what type of records may have been generated during specific time periods. That information will assist you in pinpointing times and locations on which to focus the search for your New Jersey ancestors and their records.
A Brief History of New Jersey
Native Americans arrived in the area between the Hudson and Delaware rivers about 6,000 years ago. They were a peaceful, family oriented agricultural group who clung rigidly to a tradition that a pot of food must always be warm on the fire to welcome strangers. Giovanni da Verrazano was the first European explorer to reach New Jersey in 1524. In 1609 an English captain sailing under a Dutch flag, Henry Hudson, sailed along the New Jersey shore and into Sandy Hook Bay, establishing Dutch claims to the area. A trading post was established at Bergen, the site of present day Jersey City in 1618.
Despite a series of treaties deemed fair by the Swedish, Dutch, and English settlers, the Native Americans soon lost most of their land; traded for trinkets, guns, and alcohol. The guns and alcohol, combined with smallpox nearly wiped out the Native Americans, and when a treaty was signed establishing an Indian reservation in 1758, only a few hundred natives remained.
I March of 1664 the English seized control of the area when King Charles II granted his brother James, the Duke of York a tract of land from the Connecticut River to the Delaware River. James then deeded the area, which he named New Jersey, to his court friends John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, and Sir George Carteret, who became proprietors of the land, owning it outright and having the right to govern its people.
New Jersey was subsequently divided into two regions, East Jersey and West Jersey, the east being settles by mostly Puritans, while Quakers were the majority to settle in the west. By the time of the American Revolution the colony was divided in both political and religious belief, though the dissent between Loyalists and Revolutionists was the most obvious.
Because of the influence of governor at the time William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, the initial response from New Jersey to join the fight for independence was somewhat delayed. The state did however, in June of 1776, send five new delegates to the Continental Congress, all of whom voted for the Declaration of Independence.
The role of New Jersey in the Revolutionary War was a prominent and pivotal one, George Washington and his troops making their winter headquarters in the state three times during the first four years of the war, and major battles being fought in the region. During the war many of New Jersey’s towns had been ravaged by armies from both sides, and the state languished upon its completion. New Jersey did however; support the cause for the federation of states with equal representation in a single legislative body which would eventually become the U.S. Senate.
By the 1830’s canals and railways had invigorated the state, and a course of industrialization and urbanization began. The iron mines which sprung up around the canals found markets in major cities like Philadelphia and Boston, while weaving and dyeing mills prospered in Paterson, propelling Newark to become the first incorporated city in the state in 1836. Factories sprung up along the railways due to easy access to coal delivery, while the railways also helped to establish the states tourism industry by delivering passengers to the Jersey Shore.
The state was split bitterly by the Civil War, Democrats opposing the fight because of their lucrative ties to southern markets. The state fulfilled its obligations to the Union cause however, and sent its full quota of troops into battle. More important were the armaments and equipment supplied by the state’s factories, though with the war’s end, New Jersey stubbornly opposed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Finally in 1870, blacks were given the right to vote.
- Important Dates in New Jersey History
- 1618 – Dutch trading post established at Bergen
- 1640 – First Swedish settlements founded at Cape May and Raccoon Creek
- 1641 – First English settlement founded at Salem Creek
- 1664 – Established as a proprietary English colony
- 1666 – Newark founded by Puritans
- 1674 – Divided into East and West Jersey
- 1702 – East and West Jersey unite to form single province
- 1766 – Rutgers University founded
- 1776 – First State Constitution adopted
- 1787 – Third state to ratify U.S. Constitution
- 1790 – First state to sign Bill of Rights
Famous Battles Fought in New Jersey
Many other battles took place in New Jersey territory during the Revolutionary War due to its strategic significance, and for a comprehensive history you can visit the Revolutionary War History in New Jersey website.
These battle accounts that exist can be very effective in uncovering the military records of your ancestor. They can tell you what regiments fought in which battles, and often include the names and ranks of many officers and enlisted men.
Battle of Donaldsonville, 1863 – Civil War
Battle of Baton Rouge, 1862 – Civil War
Battle of St. John’s Bluff, 1862 – Civil War
Battle of Georgia Landing, 1862 – Civil War
Battle of New Orleans, 1815 – War of 1812
Common New Jersey Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them
Boundary Changes: Boundary changes are a common obstacle when researching New Jersey ancestors. You could be searching for an ancestor’s record in one county when in fact it is stored in a different one due to historical county boundary changes. The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries can help you to overcome that problem. It provides a chronological listing of every boundary change that has occurred in the history of New Jersey.
Name Changes: Surname changes, variations, and misspellings can complicate genealogical research. It is important to check all spelling variations. Soundex, a program that indexes names by sound, is a useful first step, but you can't rely on it completely as some name variations result in different Soundex codes. The surnames could be different, but the first name may be different too. You can also find records filed under initials, middle names, and nicknames as well, so you will need to get creative with surname variations and spellings in order to cover all the possibilities. For help with surname variations read our instructional article on How to Use Soundex.
New Jersey Genealogical Organizations and Archives
Genealogical resources include not only records, but the organizations that house them, or can direct you to them. These institutions include: Archives, Libraries, Genealogical Societies, Family History Centers, Universities, Churches, and Museums.
New Jersey Archives
- Following are links to their websites, and a summary of the records.
- Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – county records, census, manuscripts, historical newspapers, maps, photographs, Native American index, surname list, military name index
6425 SW 6th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099
- Kansas State University – manuscript collections, literary papers, diaries and journals, photographs, broadsides, maps, audio visual items, oral histories, and printed material.
Manhattan, KS 66506
Tel: (913) 532-7456
Additional New Jersey Genealogical Resources
New Jersey Mailing Lists
Mailing lists are internet based facilities that use email to distribute a single message to all who subscribe to it. When information on a particular surname, new records, or any other important genealogy information related to the mailing list topic becomes available, the subscribers are alerted to it. Joining a mailing list is an excellent way to stay up to date on New Jersey genealogy research topics. Rootsweb have an extensive listing of New Jersey Mailing Lists on a variety of topics.
New Jersey Message Boards
A message board is another internet based facility where people can post questions about a specific genealogy topic and have it answered by other genealogists. If you have questions about a surname, record type, or research topic, you can post your question and other researchers and genealogists will help you with the answer. Be sure to check back regularly, as the answers are not emailed to you. The message boards at the New Jersey Genealogy Forum are completely free to use.
New Jersey Newspapers and Periodicals
Many genealogy periodicals and historical newspapers contain reprinted copies of family genealogies, transcripts of family Bible records, information about local records and archives, census indexes, church records, queries, land records, obituaries, court records, cemetery records, and wills.
- New Jersey newspapers and periodicals that you can search online or on-site.
- Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – African American publications, Civilian Conservation Corps, Labour Populist publications, Socialist publications, Territorial period newspapers, History of Kansas newspapers from1916
6425 SW 6th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099
- Kansas Heritage Center – most of the newspapers published in Dodge City from 1876 to the present and newspapers from several other Kansas towns.
PO Box 1207
Dodge City KS 67801-1207
- GenealogyBank.com – free searchable database of Kansas newspaper archives, 1841-1981
- Library of Congress Digital Newspaper Directory – free searchable database of historical U.S. newspapers dating from 1690-present
- The Online Books Page – links to historical books and periodicals available for viewing online, dating from mid-16th century
- NewspaperArchive.com – largest online database of historical newspapers in the world.
Historical New Jersey Maps and Gazetteers
Maps are an integral part of genealogical research. They help us to locate landmarks, towns, cities, parishes, states, provinces, waterways and roads and streets. They also help us to determine when and where boundary changes might have taken place, and give us a visualization of the area we’re researching in.
For locating place names, a gazetteer is the best possible resource for any genealogist. Gazetteers are also sometimes called “place name dictionaries”, and can help you to locate the area in which you need to conduct research.
New Jersey City Directories
City directories are similar to telephone directories in that they list the residents of a particular area. The difference though is what is important to genealogists, and that is they pre-date telephone directories. You can find an ancestor’s information such as their street address, place of employment, occupation, or the name of their spouse. A one-stop-shop for finding city directories in New Jersey is the New Jersey Online Historical Directories which contains a listing of every available historical directory related to New Jersey.
New Jersey Genealogical Records
Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records – Also known as vital records, birth, death, and marriage certificates are the most basic, yet most important records attached to your ancestor. The reason for their importance is that they not only place your ancestor in a specific place at a definite time, but potentially connect the individual to other relatives. Below is a list of repositories and websites where you can find New Jersey vital records
New Jersey began recording official records of births and deaths in 1911. Marriage licenses were required starting in 1867, but not filed at state level until 1913.
- Copies of vital records after those dates must be requested from the:
- Kansas Office of Vital Statistics
Charles B. Curtis State Office Building
1000 SW Jackson Street
Topeka, KS 66612-1221
- Kansas Genealogical Society – various historical vital records
KGS, PO Box 103
Dodge City, KS 67801-0103
Tel: (620) 225 - 1951
- Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – extensive collection of vital records dating from pre-territorial times
6425 SW 6th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099
Marriage and Divorce Records
Marriages prior to May 1913 were recorded in the district county courts where the marriage took place. New Jersey marriage licenses did not include the names of the parents unless the bride or groom was underage. Records can be found at:
Divorce records from 1861 until July 1951 were recorded in the New Jersey District Courts.
Copies of official divorce records after July 1951 can be ordered from the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics.
Census records are among the most important genealogical documents for placing your ancestor in a particular place at a specific time. Like BDM records, they can also lead you to other ancestors, particularly those who were living under the authority of the head of household.
- Federal census records for New Jersey exist from 1860 through 1940, and can be found in the following repositories:
- Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – state census records from 1855-1940
6425 SW 6th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099
- Kansas Heritage Center – selected Kansas and U.S. census records
PO Box 1207
Dodge City KS 67801-1207
- Kansas Genealogical Society – county census records
KGS, PO Box 103
Dodge City, KS 67801-0103
Tel: (620) 225 - 1951
- The Free Census Project has transcribed many Kansas indexes and new material is added daily
- African American Census Schedules Online – slave schedules, mortality schedules, slave-owners census
- Native Americans in Census Records (US National Archives)
New Jersey Church Records
Church and synagogue records are a valuable resource, especially for baptisms, marriages, and burials that took place before 1900. You will need to at least have an idea of your ancestor’s religious denomination, and in most cases you will have to visit a brick and mortar establishment to view them.
Most church records are kept by the individual church, although in some denominations, records are placed in a regional archive or maintained at the diocesan level. Local Historical Societies are sometimes the repository for the state’s older church records.
- Below are links archives that maintain church records
- The Family History Library contains many church records from a variety of denominations on microfilm.
- The New Jersey Historical Foundation has filmed the Leonardville United Methodist Church Records, 1882-1999, the St. Joseph Catholic Church Records, 1887-2002, and the records of the Third Presbyterian Church (Topeka, New Jersey) dating from the mid-nineteenth century
Central Repositories for Denominational Records
Most of the records of individual denominations are kept in central repositories.
- Major congregational archives for New Jersey with links to their websites
American Baptist Historical Society1106 South Goodman Street
Rochester, NY 14620
Phone: (716) 473-1740
Fax: (716) 473-1740
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Early Mormon Church records for Kansas can be found on film located at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City and can be searched via the Family History Library Catalog
- Disciples of Christ
Disciples of Christ Historical Society
1101 19th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
Phone: (615) 327-1444
Fax: (615) 327-1445
Baker University Library
606 Eighth Street
Baldwin City, KS 66006
Phone: (913) 594-8414
Fax: (913) 594-6721
- Deets Library Southwestern College
100 College Street
Winfield, KS 67156
Phone: (316) 221-8225
Fax: (316) 221-2499
The Moravian Archives
41 West Locust Street
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18018
United States of America
Phone: (610) 866-3255
Fax: (610) 866-9210
Presbyterian Historical Society
United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: (215) 627-1852
Fax: (215) 627-0509
- Roman Catholic
Diocese of Dodge City
P.O. Box 137
Dodge City, KS 67801
Phone: (620) 227-1500
- Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas
12615 Parallel Parkway
Kansas City, KS 66109
Phone: (913) 721-1570
Fax: (913) 721-1577
New Jersey Military Records
More than 40 million Americans have participated in some time of war service since America was colonized. The chance of finding your ancestor amongst those records is exceptionally high. Military records can even reveal individuals who never actually served, such as those who registered for the two World Wars but were never called to duty.
- Number of links to websites and archives that contain New Jersey military records.
- Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – primary and secondary source material including muster rolls and lists of free-state forces, Civil War militia rolls, unit histories and rosters, military pensions index, Spanish American War records, WWI and WWII veterans and registrations indexes
6425 SW 6th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099
- U.S. National Archives – WWI Draft registration cards, casualties lists, WWI and WWII service records, Korean War records, Vietnam War records, Civil War and Spanish-American War records, and casualties lists.
- US Department of Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator – includes information on veterans and their family members buried in veterans and military cemeteries having a government grave marker.
- United States Index to Indian Wars Pension Files, 1892-1926 – military pension records of soldiers who fought in the Indian Wars between 1817 and 1898
- United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914 - index of men who enlisted in the United States Army, 1798-1914.
- United States Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926 - index to Mexican War pension files for service between 1846 and 1848
- Civil War Soldiers Service Records - Service records for both Union and Confederate soldiers indexed by soldier's name, rank, and unit.
New Jersey Cemetery Records
As convenient as it is to search cemetery records online, keep in mind that there are a few disadvantages over visiting a cemetery in person. They are:
- Tombstone information is not always accurately transcribed
- The arrangement of the graves in a cemetery can be crucial as family members are often buried next to each other or in the same grave. This arrangement is not always preserved in the alphabetical indexes that are found online.
- Databases that can be searched online for New Jersey Cemetery records
- African American Cemeteries Online – African American, slave, and Native American cemetery records
- Find a Grave – over 100 million grave records can be searched on this site. Search can be conducted by name, location, or cemetery name.
- Interment.net - A free online database containing approximately 4 million cemetery records from around the world.
- Billion Graves – as the name implies, you can search a billion records including headstone photos, transcriptions, cemetery records, and grave locations.
New Jersey Obituaries
New Jersey Wills and Probate Records
The documents found in a probate packet may include a complete inventory of a person’s estate, newspaper entries, witness testimony, a copy of a will, list of debtors and creditors, names of executors or trustees, names of heirs. They can not only tell you about the ancestor you’re currently researching, but lead to other ancestors.
Most of these records must be accessed at a county court or clerk’s office, but some can be found online as well. You can obtain copies of the original probate records by writing to the county clerk.
New Jersey probate records have been recorded by the probate division clerks of the New Jersey District Courts and include dockets, wills, oaths, inventories, letters, bonds, appraisements, accounts, court orders, claims, and final settlements.
New Jersey Immigration and Naturalization Records
The naturalization process generated many types of records, including petitions, declarations of intention, and oaths of allegiance. These records can provide family historians with information such as a person's birth date and place of birth, immigration year, marital status, spouse information, occupation, witnesses' names and addresses, and more.
Most overseas immigrants came to New Jersey through east coast ports such as New, and then traveled by railway to New Jersey. Earlier immigrants landed at New Orleans and then traveled by steamboats upriver to New Jersey. The U.S. National Archives has passenger lists or indexes of American ports for 1820 to 1940, as well as immigration and naturalization records for the entire United States. These records can also be accessed at the National Archives Regional Branch in New Jersey City
New Jersey Native American Records
- New Jersey Native American Records
- New Jersey Historical Society – Native American census reports
- U.S. National Archives - information on American Indians who maintained their ties to Federally-recognized Tribes (1830-1970).
- Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
- American Indians Records Repository - records dating from the 1700s including trust, education and other historic Indian Affairs records
American Indian Records Repository
17501 West 98th Street
Lenexa, KS 66219
Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female New Jersey Ancestors
Looking for female ancestors requires an adjustment of how we view traditional records sources. A woman’s identity was often under that of her husband, and often individual records for them can be difficult to locate. The following resources are effective in locating female ancestors in New Jersey where traditional records may not reveal them.
- Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women, Margaret Cook (Journal of Rutgers University Library, 1971)
- Fortunes of War: New Jersey Women and the American Revolution, Linda G. DePauw (New Jersey Historical Commission, 1975)
- New Jersey Quilts, 1777 to 1950: Contributions to an American Tradition, Heritage Quilt Project of New Jersey, (American Quilters Society, 1992)
Selected Resources for New Jersey Women’s History
Farleigh Dickinson University
Rutherford, NJ 07070
Special Collections and Archives
New Brunswick, NJ 08903
Common New Jersey Surnames
The following surnames are among the most common in New Jersey and are also being currently researched by other genealogists. If you find your surname here, there is a chance that some research has already been performed on your ancestor.
Acolia, Ahearn, Aldrich, Alpaugh, Apgar, Applegate, Ayers, Barker, Barnes, Baxter, Beecher, Bishop, Bissel, Blakeslee, Bliss, Bloom, Bonham, Borton, Bradbury, Brown, Burd, Burke, Burns, Butler, Cahill, Campbell, Carolan, Carson, Cervenka, Chamberlain, Champlain, Chapman, Chappell, Cheregothis, Cherry, Chludzinski, Church, Cockestarles, Conklin, Conlin, Cook, Coppock, Corbishley, Cottrell, Crammer, Crampton, Creighton, Creighton, Cross, Cunningham, Curtis, Davidson, Davis, Demuth, Dennis, Derr, Diehl, Doran, Downer, DuBois, Dufford, Earlin, Earling, Eckert, Edwards, Ehret, Eick, Elliot, Ellis, Emery, Emhardt, English, Erwin, Evans, Faulkner, Finnegan, Focht, Follett, Folz, Foret, Fowler, Franklin, Freeburger, Frome, Fuchs, Fuhrmann, Geer, Glen, Glenn, Goeke, Goeller, Gotwals, Grace, Grau, Gray, Griswold, Gross, Haag, Hahn, Haines, Hallisy, Halsey, Hancock, Handshuch, Harger, Harney, Hickey, Highfield, Hillig, Holcombe, Holden, Horn, Howarth, Hutchinson, Hyde, Jansson, Jezabek, Johnson, Jones, Katz, Kemp, Kightlinyer, Knox, Korzun, Kotowski, Libby, Lightsky, Lindsey, MacCauley, Mack, Mackey, Maddalena, Malsbury, Maltby, Mansier, Mansir, Masters, May, McBride, McCollum, McCrelis, McCullough, McGill, McHugh, McKeown, McKinney, McNally, McPeek, Meier, Melick, Miller, Mooney, Morris, Morton, Mowbry, Murdock, Murphy, Myers, Nagy, Navatkoski, Needham, Nowatkowski, O’Harrow, Oberlin, Oberly, Olds, Ott, Park, Parke, Parker, Partlow, Percy, Perrin, Perrine, Phelps, Philhower, Phillips, Pickell, Pinney, Pirigyi, Pittman, Pogorzelski, Poland, Potter, Powell, Pownell, Price, Radline, Redlne, Reeder, Rege, Rice, Rich, Richardson, Rosenwig, Rosenzweig, Rosewig, Rudy, Runyon, Ryno, Salmons, Saxton, Schaefer, Schmidt, Sclover, Scott, Seaman, Searl, Shaeffer, Sheaffer, Sheets, Shine, Shippe, Sly, Smith, Spellman, Springfield, Stainbrook, Staszewski, Stavrakos, Sparta, Stehzerin, Steven, Stout, Stratton, Swackhammer, Sweezey, Taylor, Thomas, Tichenor, Tomlinson, Torry, Tory, Tripp, Tuohy, Vela, Waggoner, Wagner, Walsh, Walter, Walters, Warren, Waters, Webb, Weleh, Wernock, Wheelock, White, Whitman, Williams, Wales, Wilson, Winter, Witzmann, Wolf, Woodward, Wright, Yearling, Yeomansons, Young, Youst, Zwecker