Because the New Jersey colonial census records and the U.S. Federal census schedules of 1790 through 1820 for New Jersey were destroyed, early genealogy research there can be especially difficult. However, two invaluable collections of historical and genealogical records can help overcome this obstacle.
1. Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey
What: During the late 1800s, William Whitehead, Corresponding Secretary of the New Jersey Historical Society, amassed an enormous collection of historical documents relating to his state, and in 1880 he edited the first volume of Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey, which covered the years 1631-1687. Since then, 41 more volumes of documents have been produced by the society over the decades, each one covering a specific collection (like government documents or early wills), or time period, or geographical area of the state.
For example, there is, in this record set, an extract from the 14 August 1740 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. It tells us that on 11 August, James Grant, a 21-year-old Irish indentured servant belonging to John Coward of Upper Freehold, Pennsylvania, escaped from his master. The ad also describes Grant’s clothing, and offers a reward for the runaway. This brief article not only contains invaluable genealogical data, but also provides a fascinating window into the history of the English enslavement of the Irish in colonial New England. This is but one example of the many treasures found in this amazing collection. Best of all, it’s free!
How to Access: All volumes have been digitized and uploaded to the Internet twice. FamilySearch.org has medium-quality, black and white scans of each volume on its site via ExLibris-Rosetta.
Archive.org has also uploaded all the volumes in high-quality, full-color scans. Using digital versions can be a little time consuming, although conveniently accessible from home computers. The Family History Library also has hard copies of all volumes, which are much faster and easier to search. (Each volume has a comprehensive surname index for itself at the end.) The call number is 974.9 B49a Series 1, plus the appropriate volume number. Note that they are not on the shelf, but available by request at the library’s International Level.
2. Deats Genealogical Collection, 1600-1960
What: The second collection that is a real hidden gem is the Deats Genealogical Collection: 1600-1960. Beginning in the 1920s and continuing into the 1980s, a man named Hiram Deats gathered genealogical materials relating to New Jersey families. He was a secretary of the Hunterdon County Historical Society. His collection consists of some 28 microfilms of data in file folders, plus another six films of his notebooks, generally in alphabetical order. The file folders contain mostly correspondence Deats kept with descendants, fellow historians, genealogists, and town clerks all over New Jersey. Usually both incoming and outgoing letters are found.
How to Access: Found on microfilm at the Family History Library, organized by surname.
Keep an eye out for future Legacy Tree posts on the “best kept secrets” we have found to share with you!
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