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Second in Line: Vital Records in New Jersey

New Jersey vital records were mandated statewide in 1848, just the second state to do so. These and earlier vital records collections can fill pedigree holes.


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Statewide vital records began in 1848 in the state of New Jersey, second only to the state of Massachusetts and first of its Mid-Atlantic neighbors. Using vital records for research gives us exactly what we want – a date and a place of vital events. Vital records can also give us other clues, such as religion and minister's names, parents' names, and residence at the time of the event. In death records, we may even glean such items as cause of death, marital status, occupation, and birth place. Because New Jersey's statewide records began in 1848, vital records can often help us bridge the gap in recorded history left by the missing 1790 - 1820 New Jersey censuses.

Like other Mid-Atlantic states—including Delaware, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania—New Jersey had a colonial law requiring the recording of births, marriages and deaths in town records from about the 1670s, but this was rarely followed. A second law of 1799 had the same effect. Marriage bonds from the period of 1711-1795 were some of the first to be recorded with some regularity, and are available at the State Archives. These marriages were later reprinted in William Nelson's New Jersey Marriage Records, 1665-1800.

Prior to 1848

Your ancestors lived in the Garden State before 1848? Fortunately, other smaller collections of vital records are also available. Between 1795 and 1848, county clerks recorded local marriages. While these records list the date, names of couple being married, and name of minister or justice of the peace, they rarely name parents of the couple. These records, with few exceptions, can still be found at the county clerk's offices.

Slave births were mandated in 1804, those recorded in the counties in the early 1800s are in the State Archives. An example of these slave birth records was published by the county's clerk in Black Birth Book of Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1804-1848.

Divorces spanning years of 1743-1850 were granted by the chancery court or act of the legislature and are available at the State Archives.

After 1848

To access vital records after 1848 statewide registration, a researcher need only contact the Department of Health and Senior Services. In order to narrow down an event date before sending for a certificate, be sure to first search other records such as family documents and censuses. Also, the State Archives has indexed these records through 1923 for births and through 1940 for marriages and deaths. Divorces for the years 1900-1989 are available from the Clerk of the Superior Court.

Vital records can be a valuable source of information, and some collections were created before the statewide mandate in 1848. Keep an eye out for these unique early collections to fill in missing information on your New Jersey pedigree.


New Jersey State Department of Health & Senior Services
State Registrar Search Unit
P.O. Box 370
Trenton, NJ 08625
(609) 292-4087

New Jersey State Archives
Dept. of State Building
225 West State Street—Level 2
P.O. Box 307
Trenton, NJ 08625

Clerk of the Superior Court
Superior Court of New Jersey
Public Information Center
171 Jersey Street CN967
Trenton, NJ 08625

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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