Reclaim The Records - New Jersey Geographical Birth IndexThese 1.76 million records are now online for free public use

The New Jersey Geographical Birth Index (1901-1929) and the New Jersey Delayed Birth Index (1901-1929) are both now online at the Internet Archive.

These records are currently only available in image format, as they were scanned from 94 reels of microfilm and have not yet had a text transcription project to turn their contents into a searchable database. However, the majority of both record sets were typed, and you should be able to use the Internet Archive’s built-in OCR capabilities to do a text-search of most of the images. Click the little magnifying glass on the far-left side of each item to do a “Search Inside.”

Introducing the New Jersey Geographic Birth Index, 1901-1929! It’s the first-ever online publication of a twentieth century birth index from the Garden State, except for that time a few years ago when we got the 1901-1903 birth index and put that up, too. But this time around, we got the geographic birth index, which means that it’s a list of births that have been separated by county of birth, and sometimes by a major city within the county, and it’s not just a purely alphabetical list.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Reclaim The Records - New Jersey Geographical Birth Index

Nice, right? (The “5” before the “Feb.” means 1925. A “6” means 1926, and so on.)

You might remember that we got a similar type of geographic birth index for New York City, 1880-1917 a while back, but that one was sometimes difficult to use because it was (poorly) handwritten on index cards. Luckily, New Jersey’s index is almost entirely typed! With a few extra names written in (neatly) here and there.

Based on published New Jersey vital statistics, we think this collection covers 1,762,288 births in New Jersey (give or take a few) from 1901-1929, which were typed into books, which were then photographed onto 92 microfilm reels. Each of the reels has a few hundred images. It’s 493 GB in total. 😳

We were originally tipped off about the existence of the geographic birth index microfilms by New Jersey genealogist Melissa Johnson. We were then able to get brand new copies made of the microfilms from the very nice archivists at the New Jersey State Archives, in Trenton. It was super-chill and unlike some of our adventures in other states, we didn’t even have to threaten any open records lawsuits at all! Imagine a world where all archivists are that great about data sharing…

And then our awesome friends at FamilySearch once again stepped up and donated the labor to scan all the films for us (thank yoooooou!). That means that the index images will likely show up on their website sometime in the very near future, and then undoubtedly at all the other genealogy websites we all like to use, as well. And presumably some or all of those organizations and companies will set up a proper indexing project for the images, too, to create a real text-searchable database.

But in the meantime, because the items in this index are almost all typed, you can already use the little magnifying glass on the left side of each of the items to do a “Search Inside” using OCR. So you don’t really have to wait for a transcription project, you can start using it right away, like this:

Screen capture of how to search inside New Jersey birth index data

How do I get an actual birth certificate copy?

Now you might be wondering what if I see a name and I want to get the actual birth certificate? this is just an index, how do I get the real underlying record, see the parents’ names, and all that good stuff?”

Good question! The good news is that for most years here, 1901-1920 (note, not 1929!), you can order a copy of the birth certificate directly from the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton. They take checks, money orders, and credit cards online, huzzah.

But then it gets tricky. For birth certificates for the years 1921-1923, you have to go in person to the Archives in Trenton. They do have the files there, but they’re still considered to be “property” of the New Jersey Department of Health, and so the people who work at the Archives aren’t allowed to give you a copy by mail or web order for those years. They’re only allowed to do in-person use. It’s weird. You can hire a genealogist to go to the Archives on your behalf, though.

Finally, for birth certificates from 1924 to the present, you need to order a copy from the Department of Health itself. If you’re not a direct family member, you can still get someone’s certification of live birth (rather than a certificate), which is still useful, but which has somewhat more limited information and can’t be used for legal or identification purposes.


But wait! There’s more! Also free!

This new collection also includes two other birth index microfilms, the New Jersey Delayed Birth Index, also for 1901-1929. This additional birth index is for people whose birth certificates were delayed and issued much later for one reason or another. Often they were from immigrant families who had their babies at home and didn’t register the births in a timely manner, or people who needed a birth certificate copy for entry into the Armed Forces during the Second World War, but couldn’t find their file. This delayed births index was sometimes printed on old dot matrix print-outs for some parts of the alphabet, but sometimes the index was handwritten. And they usually have the mother’s full maiden name on them, too, yay! Like this:

Screenshot of the New Jersey delayed birth index

And it’s all free, thanks to a genealogist who knew about the records, an archive who was helpful and allowed us to buy copies, a non-profit (FamilySearch) who did the tedious scanning work, and another non-profit (the Internet Archive) who let us upload and serve almost 500 GB of images to and from their servers.

But here’s the kicker. (And you knew this was coming, right?)

We’re a non-profit, too. And we need your help. We love finding really great genealogical records that ought to be online, and then making it happen. Sometimes we can strike a great deal and it all goes exceedingly well, as it did here. But sometimes we need to hire lawyers and sue to get our records back. We’re very good at it and have a great track record, including at least three recent lawsuit wins that we haven’t even publicly announced yet (omg!!!) but it’s also not inexpensive.

If you like seeing records like the New Jersey birth index go online for free, for everyone, forever, and you want to see us keep doing this kind of thing, and in more states nationwide, please consider making a donation to help fund our work. We really appreciate your support!

State or Vital Records Jurisdiction: New Jersey

Archive or Library: New Jersey State Archives

Law: New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA)

Record Type: Birth Records

Record Years: 1901-1929

Record Format: Index

Record Physical Format: Microfilm

Number of Records (Estimated): ~1,762,288 births (based on published New Jersey Department of Health vital statistics for 1901-1929)

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(We ask because some states' Freedom of Information laws only allow state residents to make a FOIL request.)

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