New Jersey Birth Certificates, 1878-1923/1942/1948/Current

A New Era for the Bureau of Vital Statistics (NJDOH)

In June 1878, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) instituted the use of a standardized form to report births – the birth certificate. This change came after thirty years’ use of a tabular formatted register page called the REGISTER OF Births that local registrars or town clerks submitted annually to the Trenton at the conclusion of each reporting period (May 1st — May 1st). This collection can be accessed at a local FamilySearch Center or via the Ancestry collection — New Jersey, U.S., Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1711-1878.


While state law required certificates be filed at the local or municipal level, the collection of certificates researchers utilize today for genealogical research are considered a state-level record. These new style records introduced the collection of new biographical data for the reported birth.

The preprinted form included ten lines which had space to record the name of child, color (race), date and place of birth; then for the parents, names, age, occupation and birthplaces. The last section asked for the Number of Previous Children (born to the mother) and How Many of them Living as well as the name and address of the medical attendant with the date of certificate filing. It is important to understand that prior to 1900, the compliance to ensure a complete birth registration was not perfect and you may find incomplete certificates.

The arrangement continued the use of the off-calendar reporting period and moved from the May beginning to the utilization of the state’s fiscal year period of July 1 to June 30. Each certificate was grouped by County, and possibly city/town in date order annually, then numbered with the first initial of the surname and the sequential number from the Index-Register compilation. Meaning L-77 is a certificate for a ‘L’ surname and on line 77 within a specific locality. That means you may find more than one certificate number L-77. Location is key for this time period. We’ll talk about finding your records in the Index section. Read on!


The certificate style changed and so did the way the Bureau of Vital Statistics (NJDOH) kept the records in order. Beginning in 1901, certificates were assigned a number as the form was received by the office for each calendar year. This lasted until 1903.


Again, the certificate style changed and so did the way the Bureau of Vital Statistics (NJDOH) kept the records in order. Are you sensing a theme, yet? For some unknown reason, the arrangement for the certificates was changed and were now filed by year, then alphabetically by the surname and given name of the child. Remember to check the beginning of the surname run as unnamed children and those with Baby Boy/Girl are found there. And for the longest time, researchers were unaware of indexes for this timeframe. Check out the Index section for more detail! Also, if you have a phonetically challenging surname, be sure to be creative in your searches!

Who Owns the Records and What are the Regulations?

Under an agreement between the New Jersey State Archives and the New Jersey Department of Health, vital records 100 years or older transfer administrative ownership from the NJDOH to the State Archives. This means that researchers don’t have to deal with the health department for records 1922 and earlier, and can be obtained through in-person research ($0.50/page or free digital photography) and via the online ordering system (a.k.a. mail reference service) for a $10 fee. For 1923 births, certificates can only be copied in-person using the available microfilm for $0.50/printed page or free digital photography which is much cheaper than the $25 certificate fee for NJDOH.


As with the previous years (1904-23), the certificates continue to be arranged alphabetically for each calendar year. This filing system remains in place until 1948. In 1949, New Jersey re-instituted the annual certificate number assignment for each certificate as it is received by the office.

Access: The original records are ‘owned’ by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and require a mail-in request form submission. These Department of Health certificates are subject to restrictions which are outlined on their website: If the record is less than 80 years old anyone requesting a copy must fulfill stringent requirements including proof of identification and/or legal interest in the individual person’s record.

Index, another Index, and more Indexes

1) Typescript Index – Index of Births in New Jersey (1 June 1878 – 30 June 1890 and 1 July 1890 – 31 December 1900)

As you can see from the title, the index covers the period of 1878-1900. It is split into two series—June 1878 to June 1890 and July 1890 to December 1900. Within this index, you will find surnames and their variations grouped together and alternate spelling have a cross-reference to the main surname. The details within the index list the surname, first name or initials of the child along with the first initial of the father, date of birth, volume number, place code and the certificate number.

Access: New Jersey State Archives, Trenton.

Resource Sheet: New Jersey County Place Codes (1878-1900)

2) Index Register to Births (Fiscal year: 1 July -30 June 1878-1900)

Even though this index is listed second on the list, it actually is the first version of indexing of the 1878-1900 birth certificates. So yes, we can consider this a first-generation derivative source. The Index Registers are widely used via FamilySearch and often researchers are unaware of the underlying birth certificates which are the source material for the collection. The register-style pages contain the filing location (municipality/county); date (month/year); name of the child; color (race); male or female; father’s name, age and occupation; mother’s maiden name and age; number of children born and living; and birthplaces of parents.

Access: FamilySearch collection—New Jersey Births and Christenings, 1660-1980 (index viewable to all; images within FamilySearch Center).

Example: Typescript index, Index-Register and birth certificate, 1894.

3) Annual Indexes to Births for 1901, 1902 and 1903

For the 1901-1903 births, which are filed by certificate number, there are separate, yearly indexes for each of the three years. Names are indexed statewide by surname. Variant spellings are not consolidated or cross-referenced. Thus, you need to search Smith, Smithe and Smythe separately for these years. The indexes provide the surname, given name of the child and the certificate number. The 1901 and 1902 indexes also note the parents’ names or initials.

Access: Digital copies on the Internet Archive/Reclaim the Records and the FamilySearch collection—New Jersey, Reclaim the Records, New Jersey Birth Index, 1901-1903.

4) Geographic Birth Index, 1901-29

A surprising discovery in the past decade has been the geographic birth indexes covering 1901 through 1929. These typescript indexes are separated by county and larger cities/towns have their own subsection within the county.

Access: Digital copies on the Internet Archive/Reclaim the Records and the FamilySearch collection—New Jersey, Reclaim the Records, Geographic Birth Index, 1901-1929.

Quick Reference Chart for New Jersey Birth Certificates (1878-1943)

  • 1878-1900: Certificates introduced [1 June 1878- 31 Dec 1900] and researchers can utilize the typescript index (1878-1890 and 1890-1900) to locate certificate filing number. Access: N.J. State Archives, Trenton.
  • 1901-03: Certificates were assigned a certificate number as received by the Bureau of Vital Statistics and then arranged by year. Access: N.J. State Archives, Trenton.
  • 1904-23: A new style certificate was introduced, and the collection is arranged alphabetically for each year. Access: N.J. State Archives, Trenton.
  • 1924-1942: While there is no in-person access for researchers, this time period is open for requesting genealogical copies from the NJDOH. The arrangement of the certificates remains the same as the previous period, alphabetically by surname for each year. Access: N.J. Department of Health, Trenton.
  • Post-1942: Restricted to close family members. Access: N.J. Department of Health, Trenton.
  • 1949 & present: Certificates were assigned a certificate number as received by the Bureau of Vital Statistics and then arranged by year. Access: N.J. Department of Health, Trenton.

Next Up… Delayed Birth Certificates

In the next blog post, we’ll take a look at the delayed filings commonly called delayed birth certificates for pre-1901 and 1901 & later.

Happy Searching!


PS: Did you count how many ways state-level birth records are arranged? If you counted five, you got it correct! It’s no wonder that a certain genealogist called doing research in New Jersey a quagmire!!

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