New Jersey Court Records

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the New Jersey Family History Research series.
History of New Jersey
New Jersey Vital Records
Census Records for New Jersey
Background Sources for New Jersey
New Jersey Maps
New Jersey Land Records
New Jersey Probate Records
New Jersey Court Records
New Jersey Tax Records
New Jersey Cemetery Records
New Jersey Church Records
New Jersey Military Records
New Jersey Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
New Jersey Archives, Libraries, and Societies
New Jersey Immigration
New Jersey Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of New Jersey
New Jersey County Resources
Map of New Jersey

New Jersey county clerks are responsible for land records, including deeds and mortgages, naturalizations, marriages (usually 1795'1878), and various county court records. A few original county justice of the peace dockets are at the New Jersey State Archives. Estate matters are handled in the Surrogate's and orphans' courts.

The state archives has minute books, indexes, and some case files for records of the prerogative court (1830s'1948, with some scattered earlier); chancery court (1780'1886, with some scattered back to 1743); and state supreme court (1681'1844; indexes to 1947); court of errors and appeals dockets (1869'1949, with some files prior to 1869); and records of the court of common pleas for some counties for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. About the mid-1990s, legislation merged the remaining county courts into the Superior Court and large amounts of pre-1948 court records have been sent to the state archives, including most of the early records for Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Passaic, and Union counties, and a large amount of material for Salem and Sussex counties. Copies of court records can be ordered from the state archives by mail for a dollar a page. Later records are with the Superior Court Public Information Center, 171 Jersey St., P.O. Box 967, Trenton, NJ 08625-0967. Some state court records for the 1800s were destroyed in a fire in 1980.

Records of federal courts in New Jersey are at the National Archives'Northeast Region (see pages 11-12), and some of these are on microfilm. These include the U.S. district court for 1789 to 1960 and U.S. Circuit Court for 1790 to 1911.

At least two important volumes of court records for the proprietary period have been published: Preston W. Edsall, ed., Journal of the Courts of Common Right and Chancery of East New Jersey, 1683'1702 (Philadelphia: American Legal Historical Society, 1937), and H. Clay Reed and George J. Miller, eds., The Burlington [County] Court Book: A Record of Quaker Jurisprudence in West New Jersey, 1680'1709 (Washington, D.C.: The American Historical Association, 1944). A number of court cases have been abstracted in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey.