Historical Facts of New Jersey Counties

New Jersey County records differ vastly from county to county in either quality not to mention quantity. Some have been very carefully preserved while some have been substantially mistreated and uncared for. Some New Jersey records have simply vanished. For genealogists carrying out research in New Jersey there is no valuable replace to have an on-site research of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.

New Jersey counties together contain 566 municipalities, or administrative entities composed of clearly defined territory; 250 boroughs, 52 cities, 15 towns, 245 townships, and 4 villages. New Jersey State Government is located in Trenton.

Each county is governed by a Board of Freeholders, whose records should not be overlooked. Other useful county records may be located in the courthouses or at the New Jersey State Archives, including Justice of the Peace Dockets; tavern, peddler’s, and shopkeeper’s licenses; road books; and slave births and manumissions.

New Jersey Counties

There are 21 counties in the state of New Jersey. Each one has its own records relating to court cases, estates, land transfers, and other important events. A Board of Freeholders governs each county, with each board keeping its own useful records. The New Jersey State Archives and individual courthouses may also hold useful information. That information could include, but is not limited to, Justice of the Peace Dockets, Tavern Licenses, Peddlers’ Licenses, Shopkeepers’ Licenses, Road Books or Slave Births.

Certain counties have their own county archives or county record centers. Older records are transferred to those locations for research and preservation purposes. The counties that currently have those sorts of facilities are Bergen, Cape May, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Salem, Somerset and Sussex.

However, researchers should still contact county clerks, first, since many of them have retained original records.

The state archives holds some select ancient town books, but many records are still held by the cities, townships, and boroughs. The Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, the New Jersey Historical Society and other genealogical and historical societies also house many old town records. Those records may include listings of elected officials and indigents, as well as notices of stray animals and other information.

A state legislative act in 1979 created a system of local historians. It is the job of those historians to “promote and preserve the history of the municipalities.” However, their coverage is not universal across the state. The New Jersey Historical Commission’s website provides a list of those historians.

Most municipal records are still in the townships, boroughs, and cities, but some are at the state archives and the New Jersey Historical Society. These list earmarks (although some are also found in county records), indigents, elected officials, stray animals, and so forth. Choose from the counties below to view the county information.

The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a New Jersey county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Atlantic 1837 Gloucester County Mays Landing
Bergen 1683 One of four original counties created in East Jersey Hackensack
Burlington 1694 One of two original counties created in West Jersey Mount Holly Township
Camden 1844 Gloucester County Camden
Cape May 1692 Burlington County Cape May Court House
Cumberland 1748 Salem County Bridgeton
Essex 1683 One of four original counties created in East Jersey Newark
Gloucester 1686 Burlington County Woodbury
Hudson 1840 Bergen County Jersey City
Hunterdon 1714 Burlington County Flemington
Mercer 1838 Burlington, Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Somerset Counties Trenton
Middlesex 1683 One of four original counties created in East Jersey New Brunswick
Monmouth 1683 One of four original counties created in East Jersey Freehold Borough
Morris 1739 Hunterdon County Morristown
Ocean 1850 Monmouth County Toms River
Passaic 1837 Bergen County and Essex County Paterson
Salem 1694 One of two original counties created in West Jersey Salem
Somerset 1688 Middlesex County Somerville
Sussex 1753 Morris County Newton
Union 1857 Essex County Elizabeth
Warren 1824 Sussex County Belvidere


Interactive Map of New Jersey Counties Formation

(New Jersey maps made with the use AniMap Plus 3.0 & with the Permission of the Goldbug Company)

New Jersey Extinct Counties

New Jersey has no counties that are Extinct.

New Jersey Counties with Burned Courthouses

The damage to New Jersey courthouses drastically has a affect on family historians in every way. Not only are a lot of these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the archives they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they’re destroyed permanently. Although they happen to have been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn too. The most sad aspect of this is the reason that almost all of our courthouses are destroyed from arsonist. Although, don’t assume all records were lost. Many New Jersey counties have suffered a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Gloucester County Courthouse – The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1786
  • Somerset County Courthouse – In 1779 the courthouse, then at Millstone, was burned.