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The first churches established in New Jersey were the Dutch Reformed, Congregational (Puritan), Society of Friends (Quaker), and Lutheran. Church membership waned in the early 1700s, but revivals rekindled interest around 1740. By 1775 the largest denominations in New Jersey were the Presbyterian, Society of Friends, Dutch Reformed, Baptist, and Anglican (Episcopal) churches.
In the mid-1800s, the Methodist church was the largest, followed by the Presbyterian, Baptist, Reformed, Friends, and Episcopal churches. The Roman Catholic Church has been the predominant faith since the beginning of the twentieth century, followed by the Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal faiths.
Locating Church Records
Except for the Dutch Reformed and Lutheran churches in northern New Jersey, few of the earliest church records have survived. The Family History Library has some important collections of church records described below under the denominational headings.
For help in finding church records not at the Family History Library, see New Jersey Historical Manuscripts: A Guide to Collections in the State (described in New Jersey Archives and Libraries). Other helpful guides to church records include the following:
- Nelson, William. Church Records in New Jersey, Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 2:4 (March 1904)This is very helpful for determining all denominations that existed prior to 1800. FHL Collection
- Guide to Vital Statistics Records in New Jersey. Two Volumes. Newark, New Jersey: New Jersey Historical Records Survey, 1941. Volume 2 contains the names and addresses of churches located in New Jersey in 1940. FHL Collection.
- Historical Records Survey. Directory of Churches in New Jersey. 21 Volumes. Newark, New Jersey: Historical Records Survey, 1940-1941. There is a volume for each county; the Family History Library has volumes for Atlantic through Hunterdon, and Monmouth counties. FHL Collection
The Family History Library has nine volumes of church record inventories for the Baha'i, Baptist, Seventh-Day Baptist, Congregational Christian, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, Salvation Army, and Unitarian churches. Each volume is cataloged separately but they have similar titles. Find these volumes in the Family History Library Catalog Author/Title Search under the title Inventory of the Church Archives of New Jersey.
Some denominations have their records in central repositories. You can write to the following addresses to learn where their records are located:
American Baptist Historical Society
3001 Mercer University Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30341
Telephone: (678) 547-6680
Commission on History, Reformed Church in America
New Brunswick Theological Seminary
Gardner A. Sage Library
21 Seminary Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Telephone: (732) 247-5341
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of many of the Dutch Reformed church records at this archive. The records are described in:
- Gasero, Russell L., Editor. Guide to Local Church Records in the Archives of the Reformed Church in America and to Genealogical Resources in the Gardner Sage Library, New Brunswick Theological Seminary. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Historical Society of the Reformed Church in America, 1979. FHL Collectiondoes not circulate to Family History Centers.
The Holland Society of New York Library
20 West 44th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 758-1675
Year Book of The Holland Society of New York, 1912. New York, New York: The Society, 1912, available in the FHL Collection lists the transcripts of New Jersey Dutch Reformed and Lutheran records at the Holland Society Library. It also lists those that were published as of 1912. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of many of these transcripts.
Diocesan House of the Episcopal Church
808 W. State Street
Trenton, NJ 08618-5326
Telephone: (609) 394-5281
Most synagogue records have not been centralized, so you must write to the local congregation. Addresses are listed in:
- Lightman, Sidney, ed. The Jewish Travel Guide 1990. London, England:'Jewish Chronicle Publications, 1990. Synagogue and cemetery records for some congregations in Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties are at:
Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey
1050 George St, Box 1-L
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Telephone: (732) 249-4894
United Methodist Church
Commission on Archives and History
Northern New Jersey Conference
Drew University Library
36 Madison Avenue
P.O. Box 127
Madison, NJ 07940
Telephone: (201) 822-2787
United Methodist Archives Center
Commission on Archives and History
Southern New Jersey Conference
The Meckler Library
112 W. Delaware Avenue
Pennington, NJ 08534
Phone: (609) 737-1838
Presbyterian Historical Society and Department of History
United Presbyterian Church in the USA
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Telephone: (215) 627-1852
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of most of the records from this archive.
Diocese of Camden
631 Market Street
Camden, NJ 08102
Phone: (856) 756-7900.
The diocese includes the counties of: Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem.
Diocese of Metuchen
P.O. Box 191
Metuchen, NJ 08840-0191
Phone: (732) 562-1990
146 Metlars Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854
The diocese includes the counties of: Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Warren.
Archdiocese of Newark
171 Clifton Avenue
Newark, NJ 07104-0500
The Archdiocese includes the counties of: Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson
777 Valley Road
New Jersey 07013
Phone: (973) 777-8818
The diocese includes the counties of: Morris, Passaic and Sussex.
Diocese of Trenton
701 Lawrenceville Road
Trenton, NJ 08648
Phone: (609) 406-7400
The diocese includes the counties of: Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean.
The marriages of some New Jersey Catholics from 1758 to 1800 were published in:
- American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia Records. Volumes 1-4, 8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: American Catholic Historical Society, 1886-1889, 1893. (Not at the Family History Library.)
Additional records for this time period are in:
- Dirnberger, Janet Drumm. New Jersey Catholic Baptismal Records from 1759-1781. Seabrook, Texas: Brambles, 1981. This book is available in the FHL Collection. However, it does not circulate to Family History Centers.
Most Catholic records have not been gathered into central repositories. You must determine the town where your ancestors lived and the parish they most likely attended and then write to that parish. Addresses of parishes and diocesan chancery offices are listed in:
- The Official Catholic Directory. Chicago, Illinois: Hoffman Bros., annual. A copy is located in the FHL Collection. To locate a copy nearest your location check at WorldCat.
When a parish closes, the records are sent to the diocesan archives or a nearby parish. If the diocese does not have an archive, the chancellor usually knows where the records are currently located.
- Flynn, Joseph Michael. The Catholic Church in New Jersey. Morristown, New Jersey: 1904. (Family History Library book 974.9 K2f; film 1036051 item 1.) Has short histories of individual parishes. For more information about records, write to:
Seton Hall University
South Orange Avenue
South Orange, NJ 07079
Phone: (201) 762-7052
The archives has records for the Archdiocese of Newark, which includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union counties. All sacramental registers, 1832 through 1914, and cemetery records in the archdiocese have been microfilmed. They are available at the Family History Library and at the university archives. A small fee is charged for mail inquiries, and records can be searched by appointment. Christenings through 1885 and marriages through 1895 for most of these parishes are indexed in the International Genealogical Index.
Society of Friends
The Friends Historical Library
Swarthmore, PA 19801
Telephone: (610) 328-8496
Fax: (610) 328-7329
This library collects microfilm copies of all records of New Jersey meetings.
The Quaker Collection
Haverford College Library
Haverford, PA 19041
Telephone: (610) 896-1161
Fax: (610) 896-1102
This library collects West Jersey Orthodox records.
Haviland Records Room
15 Rutherford Place
New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 673-6866
This library collects records of East Jersey meetings that have been part of the New York Yearly Meeting.
The records formerly at the Friends Records Department in Philadelphia are now at Haverford College. These records are on microfilm at the Family History Library, as are most of the records at the Haviland Records Room and a large collection of the records at Swarthmore College.
The Family History Library also has microfilm copies of the John Pickens Dornan and Gilbert Cope collections and abstracts from most New Jersey monthly meetings, compiled by William Wade Hinshaw, John Cox, and John P. Dornan.
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