Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Jersey Probate Records Online

Family Search has just offered New Jersey probate records- over 3 million images.  Dates range from the late 1600s through the 1900s.  I am going to be very busy!  The records on this site are free and are the digitized versions of the microfilm rolls that you can order through a FamilySearch Center.  Types of records include wills, accountings, and guardianships.  To use the probate records, you need to use the indexes on the film as created by the Surrogate's Court.  The site is actively indexing its holdings and you can volunteer to help index.

You may discover dates of death from these records along with heirs at law (if no will/will rejected) or the people/family to whome the testator devised the estate.  Guardianship proceedings are also informative because all minor children should be named.  The surviving parent did not automatically receive custody of the children, hence the guardianship records.

The records are organized by county.  Keep in mind two things when you search for probate records.  First, boundaries of counties changed over the years and new counties were carved from existing counties.  If you know the name of the town (which also may have changed) where your family lived, you should be able to identify which county to search within a range of years.

The map on the right represents the 21 modern counties of New Jersey.  [Credit]
The map on the right is from circa 1826.  [Rutgers Special Collection]
The second point to keep in mind when searching for probate records is that the will or estate did not necessarily have to be probated in the county where the deceased lived.  The proceedings may be in a neighboring county or in the county where the real property (land/houses) was located.  This could result in probate proceedings in more than one county or even state, so read the records carefully for references to other proceedings.

Page from the Surrogate's Docket Index of Essex County, New Jersey
You may have to play around with the numbers until you find the corresponding documents.

Docket #17226 turned out to be a guardianship proceeding for the minor children of Charlotte Uhl,
awarding her guardianship of her own children after her husband died.

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