New Jersey Church Records
While many church records in New Jersey have been lost or destroyed, those that have survived are informative and useful. One of the first places to look for them is the twenty-volume Directory of Churches in New Jersey, by the Historical Records Survey (Newark, 1940–41) and, for individual denominations, the eleven-volume Guide to the Church Archives of New Jersey (Newark, 1938–41). William Nelson, Church Records in New Jersey (Paterson: Paterson History Club, 1904) was originally published in the Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 2 (1904): 173-88, 251-66. It is arranged by name of place and, while dated, is still very helpful in locating church records in the Garden State. Another list of church records is in the 1912 Yearbook of the Holland Society. Donald Arleigh Sinclair covered 454 items in A Guide to Original and Copied Records of Religious Organizations, Largely New Jersey Churches in the Special Collections and University Archives of Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.: Genealogical Society of New Jersey, 1999). Many synagogue records are in this collection, listed there in a survey by Ronald L. Becker; other records are at the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest (901 Rt. 10, Whippany, NJ 07981-1156), and the Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey (228 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901).
Many New Jersey church records have been published in state historical and genealogical journals, such as The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, volumes 1 and 2 of Stillwell’s Historical and Genealogical Miscellany, and the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, as well as in New York and Pennsylvania publications. For the earliest church in New Jersey, see Bergen Records: Records of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in Bergen in New Jersey, 1666 to 1788, edited and translated by Dingman Versteeg and Thomas Vermilye, Jr., originally published 1913–15 in the Year Book of the Holland Society of New York and reprinted in one volume in 1976 by Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore. Other individual publications include Charlotte D. Meldrum’s works of Early Church Records for Bergen, Burlington (3 volumes), Gloucester, and Salem counties, and Barbara Epler Wright’s Early Church Records of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, New Jersey, all published by Family Line Publications of Westminster, Maryland, in the mid-1990s. Original and transcribed material is to be found at The New Jersey Historical Society, Rutgers University (including the DAR collection), the Gloucester and other county historical societies, and in New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania sources and libraries, particularly in the collections of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.
Some volumes of records of individual churches have been published, such as those for the Presbyterian churches of Madison, Morristown, and Freehold; Dutch church records of Bergen, Hackensack, Schraalenburgh, and Acquackanonk (Passaic); and so forth. Volume 2 of William Wade Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy contains records from only two monthly meetings in New Jersey—Salem and Burlington. Other Quaker records, in original form and transcript, are found, among other places, at the New Jersey Historical Society, Rutgers University, the Friends Historical Library in Swarthmore, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Records of other meetings, particularly Philadelphia, should be checked for New Jersey ancestors. Early Catholic records are scarce, but see Janet Drumm Dirnberger, New Jersey Catholic Baptismal Records from 1759–1781 (Searbrook, Tex.: Brambles, 1981), which is an index to 285 baptismal records taken from Rev. Joseph M. Flynn, The Catholic Church in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the sources that Flynn used for his work are no longer extant.
The Historical Society of the Reformed Church in America, 21 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, has published a Guide to Local Church Records in the Reformed Church in America and to Genealogical Resources in the Gardner Sage Library, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Local Church Archive Group Special Guide No. 1, edited by Russell L. Gasero (New Brunswick, New Jersey 1979).
University Archives, Seton Hall University, South Orange Ave., South Orange, NJ 07079, maintains microfilm copies of parish registers from 1832 to 1914 for the Archdiocese of Newark, which until 1881 included all of New Jersey. A small research fee is charged for inquiries. Records after 1914 are in the individual parishes but are not open for research. In 1881 the archdiocese was divided, with a Southern Archdiocese in Trenton, which lost most of its records in a fire in 1956. Another split in 1937 created archdioceses at Paterson and Camden. Trenton and Camden have no archives. Diocesan House of the Episcopal Church, 808 W. State St., Trenton, NJ 08618, has copies of baptismal and confirmation records from individual churches. The church archives has a full run of diocesan journals, which are not indexed but are useful for tracing clergy and convention delegates; the church newspaper; published and manuscript church histories; and fragmentary records for only eighteen of the eighty or more extinct churches.
The Methodist Church has an archives for each of its two state conferences: United Methodist Church Archives, Northern New Jersey Conference, Drew University, 36 Madison Ave., Madison, NJ 07940; and United Methodist Church Archives, Southern New Jersey Conference, Bishop’s Building, Pennington School, 40 Delaware Ave., Pennington, NJ 08534.
Inquiries about Presbyterian records should be made to the Presbyterian Historical Society (see Pennsylvania—Church Records), and about Baptist records to the American Baptist Historical Society in Rochester, New York (see New York Church Records).