New Jersey Land Records
New Jersey is a State-Land State.
The earliest sales of land in New Jersey were by the proprietors of East and West Jersey, the records of which are also on microfilm at the state archives; after the dissolution of its General Board of Proprietors, the original records for East Jersey were transferred to the archives in 1998. Until the Land Act of 1785 transferred the recording of deeds to the counties, land conveyances after the initial grants from the proprietors were recorded in the East and West New Jersey capitals, Perth Amboy and Burlington; during the early eighteenth century they were transferred to the former provincial secretaries. They later became known as the Secretary of State’s Deeds. These deeds, dating 1664 to the 1800s, are at the state archives and are indexed in Colonial Conveyances: Provinces of East & West New Jersey 1664–1794, 2 vols. (Summit, N.J.: Crestview Lawyers Service, 1974). Published abstracts of the earliest deeds, surveys, and patents are in William Nelson, ed., Patents and Deeds and Other Early Records of New Jersey, 1664–1703, originally volume 21 of the “New Jersey Archives” 1st Series (1899; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982). It has been estimated that only a quarter of colonial land transfers were recorded. For more information about the proprietary period, see John Edwin Pomfret, The New Jersey Proprietors and Their Lands, 1664–1776 (Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1964) and related works listed under Background Sources for New Jersey.
At the county level are found the usual deeds and mortgages, with corresponding indexes to each type of record. These records begin for most counties at two stages. Mortgages have been recorded with the county clerk from 1766 and deeds from 1785, and generally one would expect to find such records for all counties established by these dates. There is, however, some variance, and some counties recorded deeds in earlier years. At least two counties, Hudson and Passaic, have abstracts of deeds pre-dating the formation of the county that pertain to lands previously in parent counties. Microfilm of deeds, recorded to about 1900, and mortgages, to about 1850, for almost all New Jersey counties are available at the New Jersey State Archives. Richard S. Hutchinson’s abstracts of early deed books for Burlington, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties have been published by Heritage Books of Bowie, Maryland, which also published John David Davis’ Bergen County New Jersey Deed Records, 1689–1801, covering deed volumes A–N (1995). Other published deed abstracts include Clyde W. Downing, Sussex County New Jersey Deed Abstracts, covering deed books A–I (1785–1804) with 5 volumes to date (Kent, Wash.: the author, 1999– ).
Also with the county clerk are divisions or partitions of lands that include descriptions and often maps showing how the real property of a person who died intestate was divided among his or her heirs (see also New Jersey Probate Records). Many unrecorded deeds are found at the state archives, the New Jersey Historical Society (with indexes to several “loose” deed collections and deeds found in larger collections of personal papers), Rutgers, and in several local historical societies.