New Jersey History

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Brief History[edit | edit source]

The following important events in New Jersey history affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

  • 1623: The Dutch of New Netherland intermittently occupied Fort Nassau (now Brooklawn, Camden, New Jersey) starting in 1623.[1][2]
  • 1630 The northeastern part of New Jersey was the first to be permanently settled because of its close proximity to New Amsterdam (New York City). Bergen (now Jersey City), on the west bank of the Hudson River, was the first permanent Dutch settlement starting in 1630.[3]
  • 1641 The English built a blockhouse at Varkens Kill, now Salem, Salem, New Jersey. Disease took many, and by 1643 many others straggled back to New England. The few remaining accepted Swedish rule.[4][5]
  • 1642-1643: The New Sweden Colony expanded from present-day Wilmington, Delaware north to Philadelphia and east to New Jersey at New Stockholm, now Bridgeport, New Jersey, and Sveaborg, now Swedesboro, New Jersey.[6][7][8] Fort New Elfsborg (Nya Älfborg), now west of Salem, New Jersey was built by New Sweden in 1643 and garrisoned until 1651.[9][10][11]
  • 1654-1655: In 1654 New Sweden captured Fort Casimir (now New Castle, Delaware) from the Dutch without a fight and renamed it Fort Trinty (Trefaldighets).[12] In 1655 New Netherland returned with a large army and all of New Sweden in presend-day Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey submitted to Dutch rule.[13]
  • 1664: As part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War New Netherland including West Jersey was surrendered to the English.[14]
  • 1664-1738: New Jersey was part of New York. Some New Jersey probate records from this period are filed in New York City.
  • 1673-1674: A new war breaks out, and the Dutch send a large armada that retakes New Netherland for a few months. But as the war ends, the colony is ceeded to England for the last time.[15]
  • 1676:  The province was divided into the separate proprietorships East Jersey and West Jersey. The capital of East Jersey was Elizabeth and then Perth Amboy as of 1686. Since 1681, the capital of West Jersey was Burlington. Each proprietorship was governed by its own board of proprietors. Between 1672 and 1682, William Penn and other Quakers purchased both proprietorships.
  • 1683:  Four counties—Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, and Monmouth—were formed in East Jersey. The original West Jersey counties of Burlington and Salem were established as places where courts were held in 1681. A few townships in both provinces date from 1675, but none were formally created until 1693.
  • 1687-1693:  The line between East Jersey and West Jersey was agreed upon in 1687. It ran from Little Egg Harbor on the southeast coast to the most northerly point on the Delaware River lying within New Jersey.
  • 1702:  The Quaker proprietors surrendered control to the crown, and the two Jerseys were united to form a single royal colony. The two boards of proprietors retained land titles.
  • 1758:  (August) First Indian reservation was established by New Jersey Colonial Assembly.  This was the Edge Pillock Reservation in Burlington County, site of present day Indian Mills.  About 100 Indians chiefly Unami settled on the reservation.
  • 1769:  After long conflicts, the present border with New York was agreed upon. The line was confirmed by the King in Council in 1773 and in 1774.
  • 1776:  New Jersey declared itself an independent state. In 1787 New Jersey became the third state to ratify the Constitution.
  • 1790:  Trenton became the capital.
  • 1801: The last of the Delaware tibe moved to New Stockbridge near Lake Oneida, New York, later (1822) they moved to Green Bay Wisconsin.
  • 1804:  From this time on, children born as slaves in New Jersey became free upon reaching the age of 25 for males and 21 for females. Registers of slave births began to be kept.
  • 1844:  The property qualification for voting was removed.
  • 1846:  A law to abolish slavery made all children born to slaves free from birth, but those already in bondage became "apprentices" to their former masters for life. There was still some slavery until the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 U.S. men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. During World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Content in Histories[edit | edit source]

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of New Jersey.

The Family History Library has many county, town, and church histories. Hundreds of local histories are available in the Genealogy and Local History collection on microfiche like United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [16]

For an excellent bibliography of local histories for New Jersey, refer to:

  • Burr, Nelson R. A Narrative and Descriptive Bibliography of New Jersey. The New Jersey Historical Series. Volume 21 Princeton, New Jersey: Van Nostrand, 1964. (Not available at the Family History Library.)
  • Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. FHL book 973 H23bi; Worldcat.
  • Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. FHL book 973 A3ka; Worldcat.

County and Town Historians[edit | edit source]

Since 1979 some New Jersey counties and municipalities have had officially appointed historians.  The historians often are the only ones with some of the records for their areas. To find who the historian is for an area, check with the:

State Histories Useful to Genealogists[edit | edit source]

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of New Jersey are:

A useful set of volumes concerning New Jersey's history is:

Transcripts of many New Jersey public documents from the colonial and revolutionary period have been published in:

  • Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey. Newark, New Jersey: The Daily Journal Establishment, 1880-1949. Archives of the State of New Jersey, First Series, Second Series. 42 Volumes. This set contains will abstracts, patents, deeds, newspaper abstracts, and marriages. Most volumes are individually indexed. Online for most volumes; books 974.9 B49a; films beginning with 844833 item 3.
  • New Jersey Historical Society (Newark, New Jersey). Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey . Trenton, New Jersey : John L. Murphy Pub. Co., 1901-1917. Extracts from American newspapers v. 1 1776-1777 -- v. 2 1778 -- v. 3 1779 -- v. 4 Nov. 1, 1779-Sept. 30, 1780 -- v. 5 Obtober, 1780-July 1782. Family History Library FHL films 844833-52 and 438588 and list of books 974.9 B49a; some volumes are on fiche.)

United States History[edit | edit source]

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history. FHL book 973 H2alm; Worldcat.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. (FHL book 973 H2ad; Worldcat A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information. FHL book 973 H2v). Limited view at Google Books.Worldcat.
  • Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w; Worldcat. The full text is available at Google Books

To find more books and articles about New Jersey's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "New Jersey history." FamilySearch Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Websites[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Amandus Johnson, "Detailed Map of New Sweden 1638-1655" in Amandus Johnson's book The Swedes on the Delaware 1638-1664 (Philadelphia: Swedish Colonial Society, 1915), 392.
  2. "Location of Fort Nassau" in Gloucester County, New Jersey History and Genealogy, (accessed 8 November 2008).
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Bergen, New Netherland" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia], (accessed 12 December 2008).
  4. Johnson, Detailed Map.
  5. Arthur H. Buffington, "New England and the Western Fur Trade, 1629-1675" Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts 18 (1917): 168 digitized by Google, 2007. "Regardless of the rights of the Dutch and the Swedes, two large tracts of land were purchased in southern New Jersey, and another tract on the future site of Philadelphia. The colony of New Haven extended its jurisdiction over this territory and lent the Company its full support. A settlement was made the same year [1641] at Varkens Kill (Salem, New Jersey), but as it was below the Dutch and Swedish posts and therefore unfavorably situated for the fur trade, a trading post was erected the next year near the mouth of the Schuylkill and above the rival posts. So seriously did this new post interfere with trade that the Dutch, probably with the aid of the Swedes, destroyed the fort and took away the settlers to Manhattan. The settlement at Varkens Kill was not disturbed, but it amounted to little. Some of the settlers perished of disease, some straggled back to New Haven, and a few stayed on, submitting themselves to Swedish rule."
  6. Wikipedia contributors, "New Sweden" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, (accessed 7 November 2008).
  7. Swedes and Finns settled on the New Jersey side of the Delaware river as early as 1642 at Raccoon Creek. The first Swedish Lutheran minister to arrive in 1643, John Campanius, apparently described the luxurious growth of tobacco by Swedes between Raccoon Creek and Mantua Creek (Bridgeport) as mentioned in "Early History" in Gloucester County History and Genealogy at (accessed 10 November 2008).
  8. Trinity Episcopal 'Old Swedes' Church 1703-2007, (accessed 10 November 2008)."Three years later [1641], Peter Hollander Ridder, the second governor of New Sweden, as the settlement in the Delaware Valley was called, purchased from the Indians the entire eastern side of the Delaware River from Raccoon Creek to Cape May. The first settlement by the Swedes was here on the banks of the Raccoon Creek in 1642, originally named Raccoon and later Swedesboro."
  9. Johnson, Detailed Map.
  10. Munroe, 24. “When ordered to build a fort so situated as to enable the Swedes to control all shipping on the Delaware, Printz constructed Fort Elfsborg on the Jersey shore, south of Salem Creek.”
  11. Kartskiss öfver Nya Sverige 1638-55 (Efter Amandus Johnson)” a map image in the article “Nya Sverige” in Nordisk familjebok. Uggleupplagan. 20. Norrsken - Paprocki (Stockholm: Nordisk familjeboks förlags, 1914; digitized by Projekt Runeberg, 2002), 153-54.
  12. Wikipedia, "New Sweden".
  13. Wikipedia, "New Sweden".
  14. Wikipedia contributors, "New Netherland" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, (accessed 13 December 2008).
  15. Wikipedia, "New Netherland".
  16. Marion J. Kaminkow's United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress (Family History Library book 973 A3ka).