Freeholder Minute Books, 1788-2008

RECORD GROUP: Board of Chosen Freeholders
SERIES: Freeholder Minute Books
DATES: 1788-2008
VOLUME: 400+ volumes


Freeholder Minute book

Minute Books are permanent and detailed records of the deliberations and resolutions of the Freeholder’s official meetings. Archives has Freeholder Minute Books from 1788-2015.
The first indication of the organization of town freeholders (property owners) into a county-level governing body appears in the 1710 Act of the General Assembly entitled, “An Act for Building and Repairing Gaols and Courthouses within this Province.”   This early act primarily enabled the freeholders and three justices of the peace to raise the necessary monies, through taxes, for the building and maintenance of the county’s gaols and courthouses.  The act also clearly defined the need for an organized county body to establish annual budgets to cover the costs of all county business including the “killing of wolves, maintaining the poor, and building and repairing the pounds and bridges.”  The freeholders and justices were directed to appoint county assessors and collectors for the purpose of assessing and collecting the necessary taxes to cover these costs.  According to the law, two freeholders from each town were to be elected at town meetings to be held each year on the first Monday in March to serve as county representatives.  As a group, “chosen’ freeholders and justices of the peace remained responsible for the administration of the county’s business until 1798.

Boards of Chosen Freeholders were established throughout the State of New Jersey on February 13, 1798, by an act of the Council and General Assembly.  The Act, entitled, “An Act to Incorporate the Chosen Freeholders in the respective counties in this State,” stated that the Board of Chosen Freeholders, in each county, was to be “a body politic and corporate in law. . . .”   The first meeting of the new board was on May 9, 1798.

Each County Board consisted of two freeholders from each town or township, elected by the residents at the Annual Town Meetings held every March.  At that time, the five towns in Monmouth were Shrewsbury, Freehold, Upper Freehold, Middletown, and Dover, the last becoming part of Ocean County when Monmouth County was divided in 1850.  According to the Act of 1798, the Board had the power to “acquire, purchase, receive, have and hold any lands, tenements, hereditaments, goods and chattels, in trust to and for the use of the said counties…”  Each Board was given the authority to enact by-laws, ordinances and regulations necessary to govern its respective county.  Its jurisdiction included the purchase and maintenance of poor houses, gaols (jails), court houses, and the laying out and maintenance of the county’s roads and bridges.

The Clerk of the Board, who was elected by the Board members, kept the minutes of all meetings and recorded the minutes in books specifically for that purpose.  The Board also elected the County Collector, who reported directly to the Board and accounted for all monies received and disbursed.

For almost 200 years, the Board of Chosen Freeholders has followed the same guidelines and procedures established by the Act of 1798.  The only significant change was made in the early 1900s, with regard to election procedures and the number of freeholders.  Rather than two freeholders, elected annually from each town, five individuals are now elected at the General Elections held in November.   These five elected officials, who serve three-year terms, represent the county at large.

The duties and the jurisdiction of the Board of Chosen Freeholders have not changed over the two centuries and includes administration of county business, special services, public works and engineering (roads and bridges), human services, health and transportation, and the financial administration of justice.

The record series begins with copies of transcriptions of Volume 1 (1788-1829) compiled in 1941 by transcribers and typists working for the Federal Writers Project for the Historical Records Survey of the Works Project Administration (WPA). The transcript from May 1788 to May 1789 is available in handwritten form only.  The transcriber, Gertrude M. Cowan, wrote very legibly. The remainder of the transcript is a typescript beginning with page 11.  The transcripts from 1806 to 1829 are abstracts only. Volume 4 (1859-1871) is also only available as abstracts completed during the Historical Records survey. The original WPA transcripts are located at the State Archives in Trenton and copies were made available to the Monmouth County Archives.

The books reflect the duties, authority and jurisdiction given to the County Boards through the Act of 1798.  Locating a specific motion or resolution passed by the Freeholders in early minute books can be a slow process. But, beginning in 1896, notations were added in the left margins indicating the subject of each motion, resolution or committee report.

Please refer to the Container List for the dates available. Some years are all in one volume, while other years have four volumes. Some dates are missing entirely.

These books are open to researchers.
Freeholder Minute Books are available on microfilm. Recent books that have not yet been microfilmed are available in original form. Minute Books from March 9, 2006, forward are available at OPRS as Freeholder Meeting Minutes.
Freeholder Minute Books are arranged chronologically.
Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan NJ 07726
Tel. (732) 308-3771
09/01/1987, many volumes, 1911-1983, County Clerk Jane G. Clayton
11/02/1987, 6 volumes, 1871-1911, County Clerk Jane G. Clayton
04/11/1989, 41 volumes, 1917-1985, County Clerk Jane G. Clayton
12/06/1993, 11 volumes, 1886-1888, County Clerk Jane G. Clayton
05/21/1996, 3 volumes, 1996-2002, Connie Slocum, #1996-02
08/09/2004, 24 volumes, 1997-2000, Pamela Chappell, #2004-02
01/11/2005, 18 volumes, 2001-2003, Pam Chappell, #2005-01
02/19/2010, 6 volumes, 2007, Pamela Chappell, #2010-02
04/05/2010, 9 volumes, 2008, Pamela Chappell, #2010-07
01/19/2012, 27 volumes, 2009-2010, Pamela Chappell, #2012-01
06/02/2016, 30 volumes, 2011-2014, Clerk of the Board Marion Masnick, #2016-16
03/16/2017, 12 volumes, 2015, Clerk of the Board Marion Masnick, #2015-05
The Minute Books 1830-1992 were microfilmed as accessioned. A finding aid was created July 15, 1999; updated March 10, 2008, updated April 12, 2010, updated May 4, 2017, by George Joynson. An Access database for the minute books for the years 1789-1829, was created March 19, 1997, containing 874 records. An updated database was created by Brian Gannon, and the finding aid updated by Mary Hussey in 2021.
This Shelf List shows the books in the collections, and lists the dates and boxes each book is in. Be aware that not all dates are covered, as some volumes are missing.