Estates from 1967 to 1992 to be available on Surrogate’s Records Room computers
FREEHOLD, NJ – The conversion and indexing of over 80,000 microfiche estate records to a digitized format is under way in the Monmouth County Surrogate’s Office, announced Surrogate Rosemarie D. Peters. When the conversion is completed, the records, extending from 1967 to 1992, will be imported into the existing imaging software system and will be available on computers in the Surrogate’s Records Room in the County Hall of Records, Main Street, Freehold.
The project is an enhancement to the current proprietary Surrogate system software maintained by County Business Systems, Inc., Pennington, NJ. The $55,000 cost of the project, to be performed by County Business Systems, will be paid out of the Surrogate’s dedicated trust fund. The fund, which is supported by statutory check-off fees, is intended to be used for upgrading and modernization of the Surrogate’s services. Estimated completion time for the project is May, 2017.
“Each fiche contains up to 60 images of the documents contained in an estate file,” said Peters. “This means that once the project is completed, millions of images will be instantly accessible for viewing on the computers in our Records Room that previously required several steps, including identifying and locating the fiche and then viewing and printing it on a microfiche reader.”
Peters said this is the latest phase in a multiyear effort to computerize the Surrogate’s records, which cover estates and guardianships dating back to the late 1700s. “As an avid amateur genealogist, I really appreciate the need to preserve and protect historical records and to make them more accessible to researchers,” she said.
The first step in the project involved the digitization of the Russell Index, which lists Surrogate’s Court matters dating from the late 1700s to 1991. Once the 6,117 pages of the multivolume Russell were digitized, each of the over 162,000 cases listed in it was manually entered by name and docket number into the index in the Surrogate’s imaging software. That information was then connected to the image of the page on which that entry appears. “This saves the need for a researcher to look up this information in the heavy, leather-bound original volumes containing the Russell Index,” the Surrogate added.
The second step in the digitization was to make the index of estates dating from 1991 to the present available for online search. “In this age of online access to so much information, this allows the public to research part of the Surrogate’s probate index without the need to submit a written or telephone request,” said Peters. Once a name is found in the index, a request form to learn more about specific documents in the file can be printed, filled out and mailed to the Surrogate’s Office with a search fee. The index is updated every 24 hours.
Records available for viewing in the Surrogate’s Records Room in the Hall of Records include those involving estates, such as wills, inventories, and accountings; pre-1940 adoption records; and Orphan’s Court minutes.