Sunday, September 5, 2010

Researching in Morris County, New Jersey

On Friday I did some research in Morris County, New Jersey on the Cook family.  So far, my tree for these Cooks reaches back to the couple Stephen Cook and Eliza Vandroof, both born around 1800.  I am hoping to find more children of this couple and to find out how they relate to the other Cooks of Morris County for this time period.

I visited the Morris County Courthouse, Surrogate's Office.  I was allowed to search the computer and retrieve the microfiche myself, which I think is great.  (If you aren't too computer savvy, or can't read the little microfiche labels, you may not find this conducive.)  I was told that the computer index starts around 1804.  The index is available online here, which is fantastic.  If you search for Stephen Cook, you will find the entry for his probate case in 1845.  This search will not turn up the will of his son, Stephen B. Cook, in 1843, unless you type in the B.  You can also just search for a last name and wade through the results, which is a more thorough way of searching.

These two men were not the Stephen Cook that I was looking for.  That's okay.  The wills provide me with names and relations, which I need to distinguish these Stephen Cooks from the Stephen Cook that I am looking for.


Will of Stephen Cook, probated in Morris County, 18 March 1845, Book F, page 42

The computer index is not necessarily accurate for the records of the 1800s.  The original index is at the beginning of the microfiche set for the older libers, or books.  The nominal fee for photocopies decreases after twenty copies, so you are encouraged to gather as much info as you can.  At least that was my interpretation.

Next I headed over to the Morris County Library in Whippany to explore their genealogical resources.  They have files on some families.  The Tuttle/Tuthill file contained dozens of hand-typed notes about the history of the Tuttle family, painstakingly assembled by someone before the computer age.  They are worth a look.  I don't know if they have been preserved elsewhere, but I hope so.

It's great to just be able to look around and see what you can find.  I came across a microfilm of Morris County Marriages.  This is a collection of marriages starting around 1795, or Book A, with a hand-written index.

Here is the marriage of Stephen Cook to Eliza Vandroof:


Morris County Marriages, Book B, page 83

Difficult to read and no parents listed, but this is what you need to find and copy for your records when researching.  You can find this marriage listed at pilot.familysearch.org.  That's nice, but it's not a reliable source.  The info on this website looks clean cut, all typed and everything, but without additional legwork on your part, the info is not worth much.  Who typed it?  From what?  Each time info crosses hands, it can be modified.  Don't rely on non-original records for your research.


pilot.familysearch.org search results for Eliza Vandroof