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New Jersey Court records cover a wide range of genealogy topics that can help you in your research, including land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalizations. Since New Jersey court records cover such a wide variety of subjects, they can help you in many different ways. For example, they may help you locate ancestors' residences, determine occupations, find financial information, establish citizenship status, or clarify relationships between people. It all depends on the type of court records that your ancestors" names appear in. For Definitions of all court trems see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
Land records are held in New Jersey by the county clerks. Those records include maturalizations, 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.
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.
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:
Somerset and Hunterdon (1809-1904)
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 [sic] (Salt Lake City: Accelerated Indexing Systems, 1979), but it does contain some errors. The "New Jersey Archives" first series, volumes 23, 30, and 32 to 42 publication includes abstracts from Trenton records, which range from the 1700s to 1804. Those record abstracts include guardianships, accounts, and administration bonds.
Researchers should be sure to also look at the original records, since the abstracts may contain errors. However, the abstracts do contain useful every-name indexes. The Superior Court Records Management Center, 171 Jersey St., P.O. Box 967, Trenton, NJ 08625-0967 holds original inventories and wills from 1953 onward. Orphans' Courts were given jurisdiction over legal proceedings involving estates in 1784. The Prerogative Court had that power until that time. In 1804, Surrogate's Courts were created to handle those matters, but Orphans' Courts records may also contain useful information, even in records from later years.
Estates not listed in the above index may still be listed in county records. The Surrogate's Court will have records of guardianships, accounts, estate papers, and recorded bonds. Several of those records can be found on microfilm at the New Jersey State archives as well. Researchers should keep in mind that some colonial estate records for what is now New Jersey may actually be housed in Delaware, Pennsylvania, or New York. Some records from those states can also be found in New Jersey's records. Researchers should also note that some estate records relating to southern parts of the state have been published by the Gloucester County Historical Society
Federal census records for New Jersey prior to 1830 are mostly no longer extant. However, tax records from before 1830 can be used to fill in missing information. Those lists for 1773 to 1822 have been organized according to township. The New Jersey State Archives holds the original tax lists, which indicate landowners, household heads, and single adult males. Other information listed included slaves, mills, cattle, horses, and land owned, along with other taxable property. However, only around 50% of the lists from 1773 and 1774 have survived. Certain counties, especially Sussex County, are also missing a lot of information. The records that are available can be found on microfilm in many places, including the state archives, Rutgers University, and the New Jersey Historical Society. Repositories in New York, including the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society also have copies of those records.
The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey began publishing early tax lists in volume 36. Also, the "Revolutionary Census" collection was constructed using tax lists from 1773 to 1786. However, only the tax lists for 38 municipalities listed the number of slaves and number of whites in each home. Most of those municipalities were in the southern part of the state. 1784 tax list abstracts are expected to be published in the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey soon.
Tax records beginning in the 1800s may be available at the municipal or county level. The state archives has some tax lists available for municipalities that no longer exist today as well.
Different sorts of records were created through the naturalization process, among them declarations of intention, petitions for naturalization, oaths of allegiance and certificates of naturalization and citizenship. Each and every record can give details about a person, for instance age, residence, country or city of origin, ethnic background, the date and port of arrival, the name of the ship, names of spouse and children along with their birth dates and places, and former residences or current address.
The majority of the immigrants coming to New Jersey by boat in the 1800s and 1900s went through either Philadelphia or New York. However, some came straight to New Jersey. Passenger lists for those ships can be found at the National Archives-Northeast Region. Those included:
Those records have been indexed. That index, which is called "A Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports," is widely available.
Naturalization records for the 1800s and 1900s are generally found in each county clerk's office. The WPA also created a guide to naturalization records from 1702 to 1886. the following original county clerk's records can be found at the state archives:
The National Archives-Northeast Region holds various naturalization records for Trenton, Newark, Camden, and Fort Dix. Those records range in date from 1838 through 1981. Some early record abstracts are also available.
The New Jersey State Archives has naturalization records from the 1700s and 1800s. Microfilms of county records through 1906 area also available there, but they are incomplete. Also, researchers should note that New jersey residents may have filed for naturalization in Philadelphia or New York City, rather than in New Jersey.