New Jersey is among the oldest states in the country and its shores were among the earliest to be settled by colonists. However, despite its long history, New Jersey death records are not always very well kept and many vital records from before the 19th century have either been destroyed or lost over time. While the vital records of New Jersey leave a lot to be desired, there are still quite a few resources available if you are looking to complete your family tree and you have at least one ancestor who passed through the Garden State. Below we will look at four of the most useful records for finding the deaths of ancestors in New Jersey.
Office of Vital Statistics
The New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics maintains a statewide database of deaths registered in the state from 1912 to the present. That means that if you are looking for a recent death or a death that occurred in the state during the 20th century then chances are you will want to check with the Office of Vital Statistics. You can request a copy of a death certificate online, although there is a fee for this service. Copies are generally mailed within three to four weeks depending on the nature and size of the request. You can also visit the Vital Records Office of your local county, although this will generally take longer than making an online request.
New Jersey State Archives
The New Jersey State Archives is responsible for maintaining official death records from before 1912. The State Archives conveniently has an online database that allows you to search for and request copies of death certificates. The bad news, however, is that the online database is incomplete and may require a fee. For deaths that occurred between 1878 and 1895 the database is free to use (although you will still need to pay a fee to obtain a copy of a death certificate). Another database exists if you want to request death records from 1848 to 1916, but this service will require a fee.
If the state government resources aren't very helpful, then you may want to try one of the many genealogical research websites that are available online. Sites such as Ancestry.com compile a vast amount of information that is often not available through government resources. The records included on these sites may include immigration records, wills and last testaments, census data, burial records, church records, newspaper death notices, and more. Many of these sites offer limited services for free, although a paid subscription will often open up access to more useful resources. Although you won't be able to get an official copy of a death certificate through them, these sites are especially useful if you are looking for records that are particularly old, such as from the early 19th century and even before.
Whether you are looking for a New Jersey death record from colonial times or just from a few years ago, there are various options available online and in person. However, with records scattered across a number of different databases, it is wise if you don't limit your search to just one resource. Instead, by using a variety of databases you will have a much better chance of finding the record that you are actually after.