New Jersey County records differ vastly from county to county in either quality not to mention quantity. Some have been very carefully preserved while some have been substantially mistreated and uncared for. Some New Jersey records have simply vanished. For genealogists carrying out research in New Jersey there is no valuable replace to have an on-site research of county courthouse records.
There are 21 counties in the state of New Jersey which contain 566 municipalities; 250 boroughs, 52 cities, 15 towns, 245 townships, and 4 villages. Each county serves as the local level of government. Each one has its own records relating to court cases, estates, land transfers, and other important events. A Board of Freeholders governs each county, with each board keeping its own useful records. The New Jersey State Archives and individual courthouses may also hold useful information. That information could include, but is not limited to, the following: Justice of the Peace Dockets, Tavern Licenses, Peddlers’ Licenses, Shopkeepers’ Licenses, Road Books, Slave Births.
New Jersey Counties
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.
|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|
New Jersey Extinct Counties
New Jersey Counties with Burned Courthouses
The damage to New Jersey courthouses drastically has a affect on family historians in every way. Not only are a lot of these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the archives they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they’re destroyed permanently. Although they happen to have been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn too. The most sad aspect of this is the reason that almost all of our courthouses are destroyed from arsonist. Although, don’t assume all records were lost. Many New Jersey counties have suffered a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.
- Gloucester County Courthouse – The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1786
- Somerset County Courthouse – In 1779 the courthouse, then at Millstone, was burned.