Family History Researchers will find a lot of town halls, county courthouses, and the New Jersey State Archives in New Jersey. This state, however, has a dense population, a long history and numerous instances where records have been destroyed. This RecordClick genealogist has had some success in finding information… and I’m still looking.
A good family history researcher sniffs out any manner of documentation… ledgers, letters, lists or logs. When doing an ancestor search in New Jersey, you’ll come across the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton which specializes in government documents and newspapers. Many other repositories are available to family history researchers.
I’m going to focus on three of New Jersey’s largest resources for family history researchers:
- New Jersey Historical Society
- Genealogical Society of New Jersey
- Rutgers University
The New Jersey Historical Society
Located in Newark at 52 Park Place, The New Jersey Historical Society has a great deal of family history research and information for genealogy in New Jersey and is easily accessible from New York City. With a collection of historical books, the archives will be of special interest to the family history researcher.
The archives here contains approximately 1,700 manuscript groups including
- Family records
- Church and religious records
- City directories
- Education records for both New Jersey genealogy and New York genealogy
- Family name files
- Jewish history
- Military records
- Papers from the colonial era through the 20th century
- Non-profit organizational records
- A vertical file with all manner of information
- Vast newspaper holdings (list is online)
When family history researchers do archival research at The New Jersey Historical Society, the he or she should know that not all materials are easily accessible or onsite. It might be best to make arrangements ahead of the visit so that the desired records are available. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the online catalog is extensive with good descriptions of their holdings.
The Genealogical Society of New Jersey
The Genealogical Society of New Jersey doesn’t have a brick and mortar presence in the state. That doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted. The group, founded in 1921, has a long, rich history of promoting genealogy in New Jersey. One of their first projects was the transcription of information from the state’s oldest tombstones which are now possibly gone or unreadable. In 1925, The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey was started. Now, almost 90 years old, this journal has published a number of data bases of interest to family history researchers.
From the beginning, the society became the recipient of manuscript collections pertaining to genealogy in New Jersey and beyond. In 1960, these manuscript collections were placed on deposit at the Special Collections and University Archives in Alexander Library of Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
This collection includes:
- Transcribed inscriptions from over 800 New Jersey cemeteries
- 5,800+ original, photocopied or transcribed family records including an online index
- An Emigrant Register of residents who left the state in or before the 19th century
- Military Service Records including the Chester N. Jones Collection of 30,000 cards created on New Jersey soldiers in the Revolutionary War
There are online indexes for these collections that are informative and easy to use. The Alexander Library at Rutgers University is readily accessible and the staff is helpful.
Rutgers University Archives
Family history researchers often overlook college and university archives. These can be a boon to family history researchers because frequently they contain more information than a family history researcher might imagine. In addition to housing the collections of The Genealogical Society of New Jersey, the Alexander Library of Rutgers University in New Brunswick is home to numerous papers, collections and photographs relating to the university and of value for genealogists in New Jersey.
With a modest start and a colorful history dating to before the Revolutionary War, Rutgers University is now an integral part of New Jersey and genealogy in New Jersey. Rutgers has come to include a number of colleges and has changed from a private to a public educational facility.
Rutgers’ history includes:
- 1766, Queens College chartered. A private liberal arts college, it was affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church.
- 1825, The institution was renamed Rutgers College for Revolutionary War patriot Henry Rutgers.
- 1864, Rutgers became a land-grant institution.
- 1908, The New Jersey Law School opened in Newark. Affiliations were formed with Dana College, the Newark Institute of Arts and Sciences, the Seth Boyden School of Business and the Mercer Beasley School of Law.
- 1918, Rutgers started the New Jersey College for Women.
- 1926, South Jersey Law School was incorporated in Camden, New Jersey.
- 1927, College of South Jersey, a two year institution, was founded in Camden, New Jersey.
- 1936, The University of Newark was established encompassing the New Jersey Law School.
- 1945, Rutgers was designated as The State University of New Jersey, a public institution.
- 1946, The University of Newark merged with Rutgers.
- 1950, Rutgers acquired the College of South Jersey and South Jersey Law School.
- 1955, The New Jersey College for Women was renamed Douglass College after its founder, Mabel Smith Douglass.
- 1956, Rutgers was designated as The State University of New Jersey.
- 1981, the faculty of Douglass College merged with Rutgers and became Rutgers Douglass Residential College.
The Rutgers University Archives holdings include papers and collections relating to the history of the college, its faculty, officials and alumni.
Databases at the Alexander Library include:
- The Rutgers Magazine Index
- Photo collections
- A vertical file.
- Information on enrollment and student organizations.
Of note to family history researchers: During World War I, a War Service Bureau was created with the hope of keeping Rutgers students, alumni and staff in touch with each other as they served in the military. There is an oral history archives program with alumni relating their experiences beginning with the World War II era.
Does family history research in New Jersey seem overwhelming? A RecordClick genealogist can help. We will develop a research strategy with you for your genealogy search in New Jersey and help you find that illusive piece of information for your family history research.