New Jersey Family History Research: Two-Day Virtual Course
This two-day crash course in New Jersey family history research is designed for family history enthusiasts, professional genealogists, and others interested in learning more about researching New Jersey ancestors and families. The course will cover a variety of time periods from 1666 to the present; and will cover various genealogical sources, including land, tax, estate, military, church, vital and other records.
The course will be held virtually on Saturday, February 2 and Sunday, February 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Students will be able to view the presentations, hear the presenter, and ask questions. All students will receive a digital syllabus.
For additional information about the course and virtual attendance, visit our FAQs page.
The course will begin with a brief overview and timeline of New Jersey’s history as it relates to genealogical research, including details about the state’s changing geography and governance; an overview of migrations and settlements during various time periods; and a timeline of major events such as wars, industrial growth, and religious movements. This introduction will also cover the challenges associated with New Jersey research, and will set the stage for future discussions on records that were created over a wide span of years.
Beginning in 1664, New Jersey was separated into two divisions that were governed by the East and West Jersey proprietors—Sir George Carteret, and John, Lord Berkeley, respectively. The Proprietors owned the land, had authority to sell it, and governed New Jersey’s inhabitants. The records of the East and West Jersey proprietors, deposited at the New Jersey State Archives, are complex and require an understanding of the time period and its practices, as well as knowledge of the various types of records created and how they can be used for genealogical research. The Proprietary period ended in 1702/1703, but many of the same records apply to research on individuals who lived in New Jersey during the Colonial period. This lecture also covers Colonial-era records and the information they can provide.
Land, tax and probate records are key record sets for researching New Jersey ancestors who lived during many different time periods, especially the early federal period (given that the 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 federal censuses for New Jersey do not survive). This lecture is an in-depth study of land ownership in New Jersey, including discussion on tax records. The lecture also includes an overview of the probate and administration processes in New Jersey, and the abundance of records they created, how the records are organized, and how they can be used to establish connections between generations.
New Jersey’s federal, state, county, and local courts oversaw numerous types of actions, including equity cases, criminal cases, naturalizations, estate administrations, divorces, adoptions, and other cases. This session will provide an overview of the different New Jersey courts and how to find and use the records they created.
An abundance of state and local military records exist for several conflicts: the Colonial wars, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I. These resources include muster rolls, service records, financial records, pension files, photographs, and useful indexes and transcriptions. The discussion will focus on the records, how they are organized, online and on-site availability, and strategies for using these records in conjunction with federal military records.
Researching New Jersey families in the early federal period presents unique challenges. New Jersey’s government had changed, resulting in changes to record keeping. Vital records did not yet exist, and census records do not survive. However, there are numerous other records at the state, local and municipal level that can be used to solve family mysteries and establish connections between generations. This session covers a variety of institutional records, state census records, and county and municipal records such as coroner’s inquests, prison records, road returns, and other unique record sets.
This lecture covers vital records and the information they provide during different time periods; vital record additions and corrections; delayed vital registration; and stillbirth records. In addition to the types of records that exist, the discussion will focus on availability and restrictions, present-day organization of the records, online and on-site indexes and records, alternatives for restricted or non-existent records, and methods for using vital records, adoption records, and divorce records to solve problems. Discussion will also focus on resources that are useful for finding families who lived in New Jersey during the twentieth century. City directories, newspapers, maps, state census records, and numerous other sources will be covered, and New Jersey’s Open Public Records Access laws will be discussed.
Many of New Jersey’s best reference materials and web resources require detailed explanation in order to be used effectively. This lecture will take students through a variety of published reference books, journals, source material, and finding aids. The lecture will also go over important websites and databases that are useful for New Jersey genealogy research. This lecture will also focus on key repositories—the New Jersey State Archives, New Jersey State Library, New Jersey Historical Society, Rutgers University, and Princeton University—and how to effectively use the catalogs for each. An overview of major collections online at FamilySearch and Ancestry will also be provided.
Several case studies covering different time periods and various types of problems will be presented. Each problem will be resolved using different approaches and a variety of sources that will be explained in detail. Case studies demonstrate how various sources for collateral relatives connect an eighteenth century Newark man to his family when published sources name his contemporary as their son; and how a twentieth-century blended family can be reconstructed using New Jersey records.