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The United States Research Outline "Emigration and Immigration" section lists several important sources for finding information about immigrants. These nationwide sources include many references to people who settled in New Jersey. The Tracing Immigrant Origins Research Outline introduces the principles, search strategies, and additional record types you can use to identify an immigrant ancestor's original hometown.
Dutch, Swedes, and Finns. The northeastern part of New Jersey was the first to be settled because of its close proximity to New Amsterdam (New York City). Bergen (now Jersey City), on the west bank of the Hudson River, was the first permanent Dutch settlement in 1660. After the English conquest in 1664, the Dutch continued to spread into Bergen County and the Raritan Valley and then into Somerset and northern Monmouth in the 1680s and 1690s. Many of these settlers came from Kings County, New York. For more details about the Dutch influence in the area see the "Court Records" and "Probate Records" sections of the New York Research Outline, and:
- Epperson, Gwenn F. New Netherland Roots. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. (FHL book 974.7 D27e.) Discusses and quotes examples from passenger lists, early government records, marriage registers, church records, and court records of New Netherland. Also discusses early Dutch, German, Belgian, French, and Scandinavian sources.
The first Swedish and Finnish settlers came to the site of modern Wilmington, Delaware, on the Delaware River in 1638. The growth of New Sweden was very slow. Raccoon (now Swedesboro) and other Swedish villages were not settled until the 1670s. See the Delaware Research Outline for more information. By the 1690s, about 900 Swedes and Finns had crossed the river to settle in Cape May, Gloucester, and Salem counties, West Jersey.
English in East Jersey. In about 1665, the East Jersey proprietors began to attract settlers from Long Island and New England by offering liberal freedoms and choice land. Before the proprietors granted any land, however, Governor Richard Nicolls of New York granted two large patents in East Jersey to settlers from New England and New York:
Kill Van Kull Patent (1664). This area between the Raritan and Passaic rivers was granted to a group of English Puritans who, in turn, sold the southern part of this tract to other New Englanders in 1666. This grant led to the following settlements:
- Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), settled in 1665, and Milford (now Newark), settled in 1666 by Puritans from Jamaica, Long Island (who were previously of Stamford, Milford, New Haven, and Guilford, Connecticut).
- Woodbridge'',settled in 1666 by Puritans from Boston, Newbury, and other northeast seacoast towns.
- Piscataway'',settled in December 1669 by families from the Piscataqua River area in New Hampshire and others from Cape Cod.
Navesink or Monmouth Patent (1665). This grant, from Sandy Hook to the Raritan River, was to a group from Gravesend, Long Island, and Quakers and Baptists from Rhode Island. They and other settlers from Massachusetts soon after founded Middletown and Shrewsbury.
English in West Jersey. A group of English Quakers (Friends) led by John Fenwick began settling the east bank of the Delaware River at Salem in 1675. In 1677 Quakers from London and Hull, Yorkshire, settled New Beverly (now Burlington). In about 1681, Quakers from Ireland settled on Newton Creek, south of Burlington. There were at least 1,400 Quakers in West Jersey by this time.
Cape May, along New Jersey's southern coast, was settled in 1690 by New Englanders (many of Mayflower descent) from Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Hartford. For information about these families, see:
- Howe, Paul Sturtevant. Mayflower Pilgrim Descendants in Cape May County, New Jersey— 1620-1920 . . . 1921, reprint ed. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1977. (FHL book 974.998 D2h; film 928297 item 1; fiche 6046063.)
Scots. The proprietors of East Jersey actively solicited Scottish settlers. From the 1680s to 1750, many Presbyterian Lowlanders from eastern Scotland came to East Jersey, particularly to the present counties of Monmouth, Middlesex, Somerset, and Mercer. Hundreds left Scotland between 1683 and 1685 to settle New Perth at Amboy Point (now Perth Amboy), Plainfield, Freehold, and wilderness areas of the Watchung Mountains. Immigration from Scotland declined after 1690, but the Scots continued to spread west through central New Jersey, eventually reaching the Delaware Valley.
A second Lowlands migration, to Monmouth County, began in 1715 and continued through the 1720s, with settlers coming primarily to Middlesex, Essex, Somerset, Hunterdon, and northern Burlington counties. A third migration in about 1750 affected mostly Morris, Hunterdon, Sussex, and Salem counties.
Ulster Scots. Immigrants from Ulster started coming in 1710, but most arrived after 1725. Most entered at Philadelphia and settled in East Jersey, following much the same pattern of settlement as the first Scottish immigrants. Many later moved into Warren and Sussex counties in northwestern New Jersey. By midcentury, 20 percent of the people of central New Jersey were either Scots or Ulster Scots.
French Huguenots. Between 1677 and the early 1700s, Dutch-speaking French Huguenots from Harlem and Staten Island, New York, settled at Schraalenburgh (now Bergenfield) in the Hackensack Valley of Bergen County. Other Huguenots settled in Monmouth County.
Germans. The first German Palatines to settle in Bergen County arrived in New York in 1710. Between 1714 and 1750, German Lutherans followed the Raritan River through Monmouth and Somerset counties into northeastern Hunterdon County. A few of the Germans who later arrived at Philadelphia in the 1720s and 1730s crossed over to New Jersey. Those that did went to southern Hunterdon, Morris, and Sussex counties. For information about early German families, see:
- Chambers, Theodore Frelinghuysen. The Early Germans of New Jersey: Their History, Churches, and Genealogies. 1895, reprint ed. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1982. (FHL book 974.9 F2gc; film 16514.)
Other books with information on German families in New Jersey are:
- Jones, Henry Z., Jr. More Palatine Families: Some Immigrants to the Middle Colonies 1717-1776 and their European Origins. Universal City, California: H. Z. Jones, Jr., 1991 (FHL book 973 W2jo.) The first section is entitled, The Palatine Families of New York & New Jersey.
- Jones, Henry Z., Jr.The Palatine Families of New York: A Study of the German Immigrants who arrived in Colonial New York in 1710. Universal City, California: H.Z. Jones, Jr., 1985 (FHL book 974.7 D2j, vols. 1-2.) Many of the families who first settled in New York later migrated to New Jersey.
Nineteenth Century Immigration. Beginning in the 1840s, immigration to New Jersey increased dramatically. About 80 percent of these new arrivals were from Germany and the British Isles. They supplied the needed manpower for the state's growing industries. Paterson was the major industrial center by 1850.
The Irish were the largest foreign-born group in the two decades before the Civil War. The Germans were the largest group from 1870 to 1900. The English, Scots, and Welsh also came in significant numbers until about 1890. By 1870 Newark was the largest city, followed by Jersey City. Since 1870 there has been heavy immigration to urban centers, including Newark, Hoboken, Jersey City, Paterson, Passaic, Trenton, and Camden.
Twentieth Century Immigration. Blacks are now the largest minority group in New Jersey. They were first brought into New Jersey during colonial times by the Dutch. The black population of New Jersey was proportionally larger than that of any other northern state. Many southern blacks, who first came as migratory workers between 1870 and 1910, stayed to work in the cities, causing the black population to nearly triple. Migration to the cities continued between the two world wars. The surge which came during and following the second world war did not abate until the 1960s.
After the turn of the century, immigration to New Jersey was predominantly from central and southeastern Europe, particularly Italy. New Jersey also attracted large numbers of Poles, Russian Jews, Greeks, Czechs (Bohemians), Finns, Armenians, Hungarians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. Beginning in the 1950s, Cubans and Puerto Ricans have come to the large cities. Hispanics have comprised New Jersey's largest immigrant group since World War II.
For more information about ethnic groups see:
- Cohen, David Steven. New Jersey Ethnic History: A Bibliography. Trenton, New Jersey: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1986. (FHL book 974.9 A1 no. 99.)
- Cunningham, Barbara, ed. The New Jersey Ethnic Experience. Union City, New Jersey: William H. Wise & Co., 1977. (Not available at the Family History Library.)
- Wacker, Peter O. Land and People: A Cultural Geography of Preindustrial New Jersey: Origins and Settlement Patterns. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1975. (FHL book 974.9 H2wa.)
The major ports of entry into New Jersey have been New York and Philadelphia. During colonial times, immigrants also arrived at the ports of Perth Amboy, Salem, and Burlington.
Colonial Lists. While passenger lists for most colonial immigrants do not exist, an index to these various early immigration list sources is:
- Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 11 vols. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981- 1990. (FHL book Ref 973 W32p; some supplements are on microfilm.)
For a comprehensive list of about 140,000 immigrants to America from Britain, see:
- Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776 and Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 [Novato, California]: Brøderbund Software, 1996. (FHL compact disc no. 9 pt. 350). Not available at Family History Centers. Lists numerous New Jersey immigrants. May show British hometown, emigration date, ship, destination, and text of the document abstract.
Federal Immigration Lists. The National Archives, the National Archives — Northeast, and the Family History Library have microfilm copies of:
- Passenger lists (1820-1942). The National Archives—Northeast Region (New York City, NY) has the lists through 1957. The Family History Library has the following lists:
- Lists: 1820-1897
- Lists: 1897-1924
Indexes (1820-46 and 1897-1943). The Family History Library has the indexes only through 1943:
- Index: 1820-1846
- Index: 1897-1902
- Index: 1902-1943
Passenger lists (1800-1921). The Family History Library has the lists to 1921:
- Lists: 1800-1882
- Lists: 1883-1921
Indexes (1800-1948). Indexes for 1800-1948 are available at the Family History Library:
- Index: 1800-1906
- Index: 1883-1948
- Cape May, 1828 (FHL film 830231)
- Little Egg Harbor, 1831 (FHL film 830234)
- Newark, 1836 (FHL film 830235)
- Perth Amboy, 1820, 1829-1832 (FHL film 830238)
Additional information on U.S. immigration sources is in the United States Research Outline.