New Jersey Vital Records: What? How? Where?

Yes, unfortunately, obtaining vital records can be a challenge in New Jersey if you don’t know where to start your search.  On March 3, 1848 New Jersey passed “An ACT relating to the registry and returns of births, marriages, and deaths, in the state of New Jersey” which required town clerks to annually submit a certified copy of births, marriages and deaths that occurred in their jurisdictions.  This law created a wonderful set of records, we as genealogists, use to solidify our family branches, twigs and roots.

These annual returns were compiled and created 39 volumes entitled, “Register of Births, Marriages, and Deaths” which are bound in alphabetical order by county, then town name for the period of June 1st 1848 through May 31st 1878.

But guess what, it gets better…

The New Jersey State Legislature further broadened the vital registration law on April 5, 1878 which gave local clerks instructions to create a “certificate” for each vital event — birth, marriage and death.  This law went into effect on June 1st 1878.

For genealogists today, accessing this veritable gold mine of records can be frustrating.  To help sort out the  “What…How…Where”, I’ve compiled a “cheat-sheet” that provides where the record groups are available for fellow researchers.

First, it is important to note… Full plain copies can be made in-person at the NJ State Archives for $0.50/page from the on-site microfilm holdings .  Also, all requests processed through the NJ Dept of Health (NJDOH) are either CERTIFIED (can be used for ID purposes) or Vital Registration (VR) CERTIFICATIONS (not for IDs; genealogy requests).

NOTE:   For NJDOH requests, please note the genealogy access information section below.

For In-Person Searches at the NJ State Archives:

  • Birth (registers & certificates): 1848 – 1923
  • Death (registers & certificates): 1848 – 1955
  • Marriages (registers & certificates): 1848 – 1940
  • Marriages (County Clerk’s Register of Minister Returns): formation of county through mid-1870s

By Mail via the NJ State Archives:

  • Birth (registers & certificates): 1848 – 1912
  • Death (registers & certificates): 1848 – 1912
  • Marriages (registers & certificates): 1848 – 1912

NJSA Mail Request Instructions:

NJSA Online Databases:

FamilySearch:  New Jersey Databases:


By Mail via the NJ Dept of Health:

  • Birth (certificates): 1913 – present
  • Death (certificates): 1913 – present
  • Marriages (certificates): 1913 – present

Access for Genealogy Purposes from NJDOH:
** You must provide a form of ID with your genealogical non-cert request; relationship is not necessary! **

  • Birth (certificates): NONE (80 year restriction for genealogical non-cert copy)
  • Death (certificates): 1913 – 1973 (40 year restriction; SSN & cause of death is obscured for genealogical non-cert copy)
  • Marriages (certificates): 1913 – 1963 (50 year restriction for genealogical non-cert copy)

NOTE: You only need to prove relationship for CERTIFIED, raised seal copies, *not* the VR CERTIFICATIONS that are issued for genealogy requests.

I know, this is clear as mud, right?

15 thoughts on “New Jersey Vital Records: What? How? Where?

    • Actually, the Dept of Health and NJ State Archives (NJSA) aren’t such a pain. The pain is learning the evolution of the NJ vital registration records are where they are available and how to access them. Currently, the NJSA can complete mail-in search requests for b/m/d registration 1848-1878 and b/m/d certificates 1878-1913. See the complete list of mail reference services & fees:

      • But they’re a little lazy. I sent for a birth request which listed at least 3 alternate spellings of the father’s name. they only checked the name I put for the daughter. Maybe that was my mistake for not including the alternate names in the box for the daughter, but still when you’ve got 3 names to check, all beginning with the same 2 letters, with a month and a year, how hard can it be?

    • For the years 1848-1900, the indexes on FamilySearch are very helpful. Also, the 1901-03 Birth Index is available online. As for 1904 and forward, the certificates are arranged (filed) alphabetically for each year. The NJSA will conduct searches for 1848-1917 by mail requests. 1917-1923 can be searched in-person at the Archives. 1924 and later are available from the NJDOH or the town’s Health Department.

  1. Hi – I have no idea if you’ll see this, but could you tell me if the name of the “medical attendant” on a Return of Birth for New Jersey was certifying that they were there at the time of birth – or could it be anyone? I’m trying to determine if it is a primary, secondary or indeterminable source. thank you!

    • Alexa, the medical attendant is attesting to the birth, in almost all cases, as the person there at the time of the delivery. So yes, the person signing your certificate would have been there.

      • Hello,

        Thank you very much for your response. I know sometimes we can make assumptions about the informant in these cases, and certainly some information contained is secondary anyway, but it’s very helpful to verify. Thank you!


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