One of the best places to look for rare and hard-to-find early American records are State Archives. It is their mission to preserve and make available to the public the records of historical consequence to that state (or colony). As you might expect, some states are further along than others in digitizing and putting online their records. But in time, I’m sure all will have wonderful online portals to their records.
New Jersey State Archives Online Databases
But today, let’s look at the treasure trove New Jersey has waiting for the eager genealogist. At the end of this post, I’ll link you to a page that gives you access to more archives, online databases, and the catalog. For now, here are some of the online databases you can play with. Did I mention this is all “free?” Bookmark one, bookmark them all, and come back often.
Note that these are indexes. The New Jersey Archives doesn’t have the actual records online – at least for now – however, there are clear and easy-to-follow instructions on how to obtain the actual records. (When you click “select” next to the record you want, it auto-completes the citation into an order form that you print and mail with the tabulated fee. Pretty easy!) And, yes, you want to obtain the actual records; don’t stop at the index.
I’ve included databases for the Civil War and 19th & 20th Centuries, too, simply because I think they can be very valuable to the researcher.
Colonial & Revolutionary War Records
Colonial Marriages – This database indexes the marriage bonds and licenses (1711-1795) filed with Secretary of State’s Office. The data file also includes numerous references to early marriages recorded in colonial deeds books and other collections, extending the inclusive dates of the index to 1666-1799.
Death Records – This database indexes death records recorded by the New Jersey Department of Health. Records include death certificates, as well as some burial, reburial, transit, and disinterment permits. Data is being entered from the original Department of Health indexes, and is currently complete for June 1878 – June 1890.
Colonial Land Surveys & Warrants – This database indexes warrants and surveys of the proprietors of the provinces of East and West New Jersey. It includes many of New Jersey’s earliest extant land records. To date, the database covers East Jersey Survey Book L (1675-1688), O (1670-1716) and Liber II (1670-1727) and West Jersey’s Basse’s Book of Surveys (1677-1755).
Supreme Court Case Files – This database provides online searching of the index to Supreme Court Cases, 1704-1844 and provides access to over 54,000 case references. Since the Supreme Court was originally not just an appeals court, this vast record series is extremely valuable for genealogical research in the colonial and early statehood periods.
Revolutionary War Damages – On 20 December 1781 the state legislature was granted means to provide restitution for damages suffered by New Jersey citizens at the hands of British forces, the Continental Army, or New Jersey militia and the militias of neighboring states. The inventories recorded under this legislation were filed as late as 1786 and are not available for every county.
Civil War Records
New Jersey Civil War Records – This database provides access to 82,467 name entries in an electronic version of Adjutant General William S. Stryker’s two-volume Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865, which was originally published by the State of New Jersey in 1876. The electronic version is hosted on the website of the New Jersey State Library.
Civil War Vouchers – New Jersey’s Civil War-period treasury vouchers collection includes New Jersey’s payment receipts for military expenditures and wartime purchases from 1861 through 1866. It includes soldiers’ discharge final pay certificates, affidavits of family members for deceased soldiers’ pay due, and county and city quarterly returns listing the names of soldiers’ families and dependant mothers who received subsistence pay during their service.
19th & 20th Century Records
Legal Name Changes – The majority of the name changes indexed in this database belong to the record series, Department of State /Division of Commercial Recording/Name-Change Judgments, 1876-1947. The index also references earlier name changes done by legislative act, as well as a number of name-change judgments found among the Secretary of State’s Miscellaneous Fillings (Series II).
The 1885 New Jersey Census – The 1885 Census was the fourth decennial census enumerated by the State of New Jersey and is the earliest to have survived in full. Through volunteer efforts, two portions of the enumeration have been indexed.
World War I Deaths – More than 3,400 New Jersey men were killed in action or otherwise died while in United States service during World War I, 1917-1918. In late 1919, the U.S. War Department issued, to the adjutant generals of each state, sample cards for the recording of service information for deceased soldiers and sailors. This database includes name entries, linked to an information card or photograph, or often both.
But Wait! There’s more…
An overview of the collections and archives available and of particular interest to genealogists including more online databases at the New Jersey State Archives can be found here.