New Jersey: Local History & Genealogy Resource Guide
Compiled by reference specialists at the Library of Congress, this guide identifies key print and online resources for pursuing family history, as well as state, county and municipal historical research, for the state of New Jersey.
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A J Aiséirithe, Reference Librarian, History and Genealogy Section
Created: August 1, 2023
Last Updated: August 17, 2023
The first people to live on the land now known as New Jersey were the Delaware Indians, starting at least 10,000 years ago. Their name means "original people" or "genuine people." They spoke an Algonquian dialect and are believed to have numbered between 8,000 and 20,000 when the Europeans arrived.
Around 1524, Giovanni de Verrazano became the first European to explore New Jersey.
When England acquired the colony from the Dutch in 1664, the King gave all of New York and New Jersey to his brother, the Duke of York.
Based on the joint rights then granted by the Duke of York to Sir George Carteret and John, Lord Berkeley, New Jersey became a proprietary colony with eastern and western divisions. East Jersey’s development was tied to New York, New England, and the former Dutch colony of New Netherland. The settlement of West Jersey on the Delaware River was initially a Quaker venture, and was associated with William Penn and others involved in the colonization of Pennsylvania. The successors to Carteret’s and Berkeley’s interests in New Jersey essentially evolved into the corporate East and West Jersey Proprietors, respectively. They were the first British landowners of New Jersey, and governed the provinces during the first four decades of British colonization. In 1702, after the proprietors in East and West Jersey had surrendered their governmental authority several times, Queen Anne established New Jersey as a unified royal colony. In 1776 New Jersey declared itself an independent state. and joined the Patriot cause in the Revolutionary War. The proprietors nevertheless retained their land rights. In 1998, the East Jersey Proprietors—reportedly New Jersey’s oldest corporation—dissolved and sold their rights to unappropriated land to the state’s Green Acres program. The West Jersey Proprietors continue as an active corporation based in Burlington, N.J., and retain legal ownership of their original records.
Today New Jersey is among the most diverse, industrialized, and densely populated States in the U.S.
This guide offers a selection of resources and strategies for New Jersey local history and genealogy research. These include the print and digital collections of the Library of Congress, as well as external repositories and web sites key to finding forebears in the Garden State.
About Local History & Genealogy Reference Services
The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.
Submit a question through our Ask a Librarian service, call us at (202) 707-3399, or visit us in person in Room LJ-100 (Main Reading Room) of the Thomas Jefferson building in Washington, D.C. Access online research tools and strategies by exploring the research guides created by our subject specialists.