Trace your ancestors in Newark, NJ, with this genealogy guide to the city.
3 Newark—New Jersey’s largest city and the seat of Essex County—has a long history as a vibrant industrial hub that attracted our ancestors through the centuries. While many have departed the Gateway City for points farther west, genealogical riches remain. Treasure-filled records document residents from the earliest Puritan settlers to 20th-century immigrants—and we’ll help you find them.
Puritans from Connecticut founded Newark in 1666, initially calling it the New Plantation of New Ark. Newark received township status in 1693 and a royal charter in 1713. The New Jersey legislature incorporated Newark as a township in 1798 and a city April 11, 1836.
During the first 100 years, Puritans maintained a tight grip on Newark society. The theocracy ended only in the 1740s when Episcopalian missionaries arrived. Newark was a prime manufacturing location during the Industrial Revolution. Its shipping business and the 1835 arrival of railroads spurred a diverse industrial base, attracting immigrants from New York. Companies in Newark gave us patent leather, celluloid, billiard balls and dentures.
In the mid-19th century, Newark became home to a burgeoning insurance industry; Prudential Financial is still headquartered here. As the city’s economy grew, so did its population—peaking at more than 450,000 in 1948—and its national prominence. But typical of many East Coast cities, Newark’s fortunes declined after World War II with decreased industry and middle class migration to the suburbs. Racial tensions culminated in July 1967 riots.
Despite a population now half of its peak, Newark remains vibrant, with an active business community, cultural attractions and universities. Today’s Newark is living up to its modern nickname: The Renaissance City.
Access records of Newark ancestors through several repositories. The Newark Public Library, home to the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center <www.npl.org/pages/collections/njic.html>, holds books, newspapers, documents and pictures for New Jersey, Essex County and Newark. The New Jersey Historical Society (NJHS), based in Newark, has an online Genealogists’ Guide <www.jerseyhistory.org/genealogy.html> outlining its resources, including more than 1,200 family files from NJHS patrons. Find a name index to these files at <www.jerseyhistory.org/arch_browse-family.html>; information about research requests is at <www.jerseyhistory.org/lib_
The New Jersey State Library in Trenton holds 18,000 genealogy titles and family histories <slic.njstatelib.org/Collections_and_Services/Genealogy/index.php>. The state archives <www.nj.gov/state/archives> has online databases and resources.
n Vital Records: New Jersey vital records begin in 1848. Certified birth certificates for immediate family and grandparents are available from the city Department of Child & Family Well-Being <www.ci.newark.nj.us/
It may be easier to access vital records on the state level. The person named in the record must be deceased. Order records from May 1848 to May 1878 by mail from the state archives (see <www.nj.gov/state/archives/reference.html> for a fee list). Request records starting in June 1878 from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services <nj.gov/health/vital/gen.shtml> (about $25). You can order birth records older than 80 years, marriage records older than 50 years and death records older than 40 years.
FamilySearch.org has some New Jersey marriage records and an index. Also check the Family History Library’s (FHL) <www.familysearch.org> various microfilmed vital records for Newark and Essex County (rent the film through your local FamilySearch Center).
n Censuses: Though New Jersey was counted in every US census, its records are missing from 1790 through 1820. Censuses from 1830 through 1940 are on subscription sites Ancestry.com <ancestry.com> and Archives.com <archives.com>; several also are on the free FamilySearch.org.
New Jersey conducted a state census every 10 years from 1855 through 1915. Records are at the state archives and the Newark Public Library. The 1885 census is on FamilySearch.org and the 1895 one is on Ancestry.com.
n Church records: First, try to find out your ancestors’ denomination . Most of northern New Jersey was Dutch, but remember that the Puritans established Newark. For information on early Newark churches, see New Jersey Churchscape <www.njchurchscape.com>.
For Catholics, Seton Hall University’s Walsh Library has the Archdiocese of Newark Collection <www.shu.edu/
academics/libraries/archives/newark-archdiocese.cfm>, which includes parish registers (1832-1914), histories, census data, oral histories and sacramental records. The Newark Public Library’s vital records collection includes some early church records. For Quakers, see William Wade Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy.
n City Directories: The state library has city directories for Newark. See the links at <sites.google.com/site/onlinedirectorysite/Home/usa/nj/essex> to find online versions. Subscription site Fold3 <fold3.com> has almost all Newark directories from 1861 to 1923.
n Maps: New Jersey universities are your best resources for old local maps. Rutgers links to many digitized maps at <mapmaker.rutgers.edu/ESSEX_COUNTY/EssexCounty.html>. Princeton has late-1800s and early-1900s Sanborn fire insurance maps for Newark at <library.princeton.edu/
n Naturalizations: Date determines the location of naturalization papers. For Newark naturalizations prior to 1914, check the Essex County Hall of Records (part of the court system) and FHL microfilm. Naturalizations from 1914 to 1930 could be at the Hall of Records or the US District Court for New Jersey. You can order citizenship papers for 1906 and later online from the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the Citizenship and Immigration Service) <www.uscis.gov/genealogy>.
n Probate Files: New Jersey probate courts are called surrogate’s or orphan’s courts. The Essex County Surrogate’s Office <www.essex-countynj.org/index.php?section=dir/dir&search=Office%20of%20Surrogate>, located at the Hall of Records, keeps wills and probate files. In addition, the Superior Court Records Management Center has wills, administrations, inventories and guardianships sent to Trenton since 1901. See the state archives’ holdings of microfilmed Essex County court records at <www.nj.gov/state/darm/cessurro.html>; the FHL has some copies.
n Property: The New Jersey state archives has pre-1785 land records; after this, check the Hall of Records. The state archives’ Proprietary Warrants and Surveys 1670-1727 database <www.nj.gov/state/archives/search
databases.html> indexes records of the proprietors of the East and West New Jersey provinces. The FHL has more than 5,000 microfilms of New Jersey land records.
n Cemeteries: Start with the list of Essex County cemeteries at Find-A-Grave <www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=csr&CScnty=1913>. Old Newark also has an extensive listing <newarkcemeteries.com/mainindex.php>.
n Newspapers: The Newark Public Library has a large collection of local papers, and the state archives has microfilmed Newark newspapers. Subscription site GenealogyBank <genealogybank.com> has a few local publications.
n NJ GenWeb: Essex County
n Newarkology <www.newarkhistory.com>
n New Jersey Genealogy: Newark
n Old Newark Web Group <oldnewarkwebgroup.com>
n The Enduring Community: The Jews of Newark
and MetroWest by William B. Helmreich
n How Newark Became Newark: The Rise, Fall,
and Rebirth of an American City by Brad R. Tuttle
(Rutgers University Press)
n Newark (Then and Now) by William Francis
n Newark’s Little Italy: The Vanished First Ward
by Michael Immerso (Rutgers University Press)
archives & organizations
n Essex County Hall of Records
465 Martin Luther King Blvd, Room 405,
Newark, NJ 07102, <www.essexregister.com>
n Essex County Surrogate’s Office
465 Martin Luther King Blvd, Room 206,
Newark, NJ 07102, (973) 621-4900,
n Genealogical Society of New Jersey
Box 1476, Trenton, NJ 08607, <www.gsnj.org>
n New Jersey Department of Health
and Senior Services
Vital Statistics Registration, Box 370, Trenton, NJ 08625, (609) 292-4087, <nj.gov/health/vital/gen.shtml>
n New Jersey Historical Society
52 Park Place, Newark, NJ 07102, (973) 596-8500,
n New Jersey State Archives
225 W. State St. Level 2, Box 307, Trenton,
NJ 08625, (609) 292-6260,
n New Jersey State Library
185 W. State St., Box 520, Trenton,
NJ 08625, (609) 278-2640, <www.njstatelib.org>
n Newark Public Library
Main Library, 5 Washington St., Newark, NJ 07102,
(973) 733-7775, <www.npl.org>
n Settled: 1666
Oct. 31, 1693 (township); April 11, 1836 (city)
n Nicknames: Brick City, Gateway City, Renaissance City
n State: New Jersey
n County: Essex
n County seat: Newark
n area: 26.11 square miles
n Primary historical
ethnic groups: African-American, German, Irish, Jewish
n Primary historical industries: Financial services, insurance, jewelry manufacturing, leather manufacturing, shipping, transportation
n Famous residents: Jason Alexander, Aaron Burr, Stephen Crane, Connie Francis, Whitney Houston, Ed Koch, Queen Latifah, Jerry Lewis, Shaquille O’Neal, Eva Marie Saint, Paul Simon, Frankie Valli
Records at a Glance