New Jersey Vital Records
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Among the Mid-Atlantic states, New Jersey has the longest continuing run of statewide registration of births, marriages, and deaths, which began in May 1848. The New Jersey State Archives has these records, with indexes, through 1923 for births and through 1940 for marriages and deaths. Transcriptions of vital records for May 1848 to May 1878 can only be requested by mail for the current fee of $10, using the online request form at www.state.nj.us/state/darm/links/pdf/vsrequest.pdf.
For the period 1848 to 1878 there are consolidated indexes by event, but they vary in the type and amount of identifying detail.
There are also consolidated indexes for births and marriages (1878–1903; for grooms only, 1901–03). All death indexes are arranged by place within the registration period July through June, with an alphabetical index for 1901–03. From 1904, records are filed yearly in alphabetical order for each event, with marriages arranged by name of groom (a brides’ index from 1901 forward is at the state health department but it has never been microfilmed).
Requests for certificates of records after May 1878 should be submitted on the proper form to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, together with the required current fee of $4 (and $1 for each additional year to be searched): New Jersey Vital Statistics–Customer Service Unit, New Jersey State Department of Health, P.O. Box 370, Trenton, NJ 08625-0370. Further instructions, fees, and downloadable forms are online at the department website www.state.nj.us/health/vital/vital.htm. Local registrars (city, borough, township), listed on the State Registrar’s website, should have vital records back to 1910; some have duplicate copies of returns back to 1848, but the method of getting copies at this level varies.
Like the other Mid-Atlantic states, New Jersey had a colonial law that provided for the recording of births, marriages, and deaths in town records from about the 1670s, but this was rarely followed, as was a later law of 1799. The only known early records are those for Woodbridge and Piscataway. The former begin in the 1660s and were published to 1750 in Woodbridge and Vicinity by the Rev. Joseph W. Dally (New Brunswick, N.J.: A. E. Gordon, 1873), 315–57, and reprinted as Vital Records of Woodbridge, New Jersey (Lambertville: Hunterdon House, 1983). Those for Piscataway were published in Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, 3d series, beginning with volume 2 (1896): 73; the original records, however, do not seem to have survived. Other early public vital records include marriage bonds for the period 1711 to 1795, available at the New Jersey State Archives. Some but not all information from these bonds, together with some church and other marriage records, was published as volume 22 of Documents Relating to the Colonial History of New Jersey, 1st Series, 42 vols. (Newark, Paterson, and Trenton, 1880–1949), popularly known as the “New Jersey Archives.” It was reprinted as William Nelson, New Jersey Marriage Records, 1665–1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967), and should be supplemented by the bonds published for 1727 to 1751 by Charles Carroll Gardner in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey (vols. 14 through 23) and by the originals at the state archives. The originals often show additional information not included in the published version, such as the names of bondsmen; although more rarely, they may even show a parents’ consent for a minor or a prior marriage.
Marriages were also to be kept by the county clerks from 1795. Most of these are available in published books or on microfilm at the state archives, which also has the original marriage returns and/or books for Atlantic (vol. 2 only), Burlington, Cumberland, Essex, Mercer, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Union counties. The originals for Middlesex County are in the Department of Special Collections and Archives, Alexander Library, Rutgers University. Individual books of marriage records have been published for Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Salem, and Sussex counties. Others have been published in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey (earliest records for Essex, Monmouth, and Morris) and the Somerset County Historical Quarterly (Somerset). For Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties, see also H. Stanley Craig, comp., South Jersey Marriages (Merchantville, N.J.: the compiler, n.d.). At the state archives are some records of slave births that were mostly recorded in the counties in the early 1800s. These records for two counties have been published in book form: Black Birth Book of Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1804–1848 (Freehold: Monmouth County Clerk, 1989), and Ackerman Hawkey, Book of black birth [sic] in Bergen County, N.J. between 1804 and 1844 as recorded in the Bergen County Clerk’s Office at Hackensack (Englewood: Bergen Historic Books, 1999). See also The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey 54 (1979): 83-94, for slave births for Sussex and Warren counties. The Guide to Vital Statistics Records In New Jersey, compiled by the New Jersey Historical Records Survey, 2 vols. (Newark, 1941), while dated, is helpful in determining what records exist for what communities.
For the period 1743 to 1850, divorces in New Jersey were granted by the chancery court or act of the legislature and are available at the state archives. Legislative divorces (1778–1844) are indexed in John Hood, Index of Colonial and State Laws of New Jersey Between the Years 1663–1903 Inclusive (Camden: Sinnickson, Chew and Sons, 1905), 390-94, available at the New Jersey State Library, county law libraries, and elsewhere. This list is also found in George E. McCracken, “New Jersey Legislative Divorces, 1778–1844,” The American Genealogist 34 (1958): 107-12. The original laws to the 1830s are on microfilm at the state archives and state library, and the archives has Chancery Court divorce cases to 1850, with microfilmed indexes through 1900. For later divorce records, address the Clerk of the Superior Court, Matrimonial Section, Hughes Justice Complex, P.O. Box 971, Trenton, NJ 08625-0971.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- New Jersey, Births and Christenings, 1660-1980
- New Jersey, Marriages, 1678-1985
- New Jersey, County Marriages, 1682-1956
- New Jersey Deaths and Burials, 1720-1988
- New Jersey Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing New Jersey birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.