In 1998, East Jersey’s proprietors sold their vestigial land rights to the State and disbanded. Their vast archive, housed for over three centuries in the East Jersey capital of Perth Amboy, was transported across the Province Line to the New Jersey State Archives (NJSA) in Trenton. Then in 2005, State Archivist Joseph R. Klett negotiated the terms of a long-term deposit of the West Jersey Proprietors’ record holdings, held in the ancient West Jersey capital of Burlington, with the State.
Since the acquisition/curation of the proprietary records, NJSA has been unpacking boxes of records dating back to the 1600s. The State has invested over $250,000 to date in projects to process, conserve, and index its holdings of early land papers (which now amount to over 80,000 colonial and proprietary records). Yet there is still much to be done.
As New Jerseyans are fiercely proud of their heritage, it is not surprising that this year a diverse set of user groups came together to facilitate and expedite the needed work. NJSA outlined the “New Jersey Early Land Records Project” consisting of eight interrelated subprojects designed to reach the goal of ready access to all of the early real-property documents. They include: archival processing of West Jersey Proprietors’ records; data entry from multiple collections to expand the State’s existing “Early Land Records” online database; conservation; and digitization.