Freeholder Property Owners List, 1790

RECORD GROUP: Other County Records
SERIES: Freeholders Property Owners List, 1790
DATE: 1790
: 1 folder

“A list of all the Freeholders in the County of Monmouth taken from the Duplicates for the Year 1790”

The Monmouth County Freeholders List, 1790, is a handwritten list of 1,711 adult male resident land owners of Monmouth County, New Jersey. It is separated into six towns: Dover, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Stafford and Upper Freehold. The list was found in the late 1970s by Ellen Thorne Morris and Elaine De Met Anderson (See Asbury Park Press, May 12, 1980, “File Yields Earliest List of County Land Owners”). The list is entitled “A list of all the Freeholders in the County of Monmouth taken from the Duplicates for the Year 1790.” This series also includes 33 names on a list entitled “List of Travis (Traverse) Jury for October Term 1795” and 14 names on a list entitled “List of Grand Jury for October Term 1795” for a total of 1,758 names.

Today, the term “freeholder” is used as the title for the members of the governing Board of Chosen Freeholders in Monmouth County. However, in 1790, the term “freeholder” meant “property owner.” This document is a handwritten list of 1,711 adult male property owners in Monmouth County in 1790. At that time, Monmouth County included all of present-day Monmouth as well as most of Ocean County. Old Monmouth contained six townships: Dover, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Stafford, and Upper Freehold.

The Freeholders List was probably prepared by the County Sheriff to help summon jurors. He compiled it from duplicates of tax lists prepared by each township’s Assessor to facilitate collection of local, county, and state taxes. These six tax lists, two of which still exist at the New Jersey State Archives, were filed with the County Collector.

In 1985, Brookdale Community College published a facsimile with index for the 1790 Freeholders List.The following is from the preface and introduction by Elaine De Met Anderson and Ellen Thorne Morris:

“The 1790 Freeholders List was found [by Morris] during a search for lost New Jersey Federal Census records. . . . The pages were in such brittle condition that they could not be opened without destroying the document. . . . Donald Sinclair, then Director of Rutgers University Special Collections, verified that the document was the Freeholders List for Monmouth County for 1790. It was placed in a county office vault to prevent it from being accidentally opened and destroyed. Elsalyn Drucker [Palmisano], then Librarian of the Monmouth County Historical Association, contacted the New Jersey Historical Society for preservation advice. In 1980, the Library Director, Barbara Irwin, made arrangements for their Conservator, Janet Koch, to humidify the document, making it possible to safely unfold and read the old names. . . . The New Jersey Historical Society made a photocopy of the Freeholders List for public use and the original document was returned. . . .

“According to printed summaries of the 1790 Federal Census in Century of Population Growth, the total number of white males aged 16 and over in Monmouth County was 3,843 out of a total population of 16,918. Since the name roles [rolls?] of the 1790 Census for New Jersey have been lost or destroyed, this contemporary document provides a partial substitute for the Census names of male heads of families in Monmouth County.

“Not all land owners as identified by the Tax Duplicates were found on the Freeholders List. All women were excluded. Some male landowners also were excluded; some may not have been residents of the county. A few men on the Freeholders List were found on the Tax Duplicates as Single Men or Householders, owning no land. Two names, General David Forman and Lewis McKnight, were found on the Freeholders List as Middletown freeholders but not on the 1790 Tax Duplicate for the town. There may be at least one black landowner on the Freeholders List: Obadiah Cromel.”

After the Monmouth County Archives was established in Manalapan in 1987, the 1790 Freeholders List was placed there for storage. In 2009, the Archives received a Public Archives and Records Infrastructure Support (PARIS) grant for conservation treatment of ancient documents, including the 1790 Freeholders List. The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) of Philadelphia completed the work in 2011.

According to Morris, the list was originally on “separate sheets of paper, loosely sewn into a booklet.” After restoration, it now consists of 24 separate leaves with the names of the freeholders grouped by town. The leaves are stored in folders together with the conservation treatment report from CCAHA and the article from the Asbury Park Press.

Some family relationships are shown, such as son of Joseph; some occupations are included such as esquire, doctor, miller, and cooper. Some of the lettering is illegible; some of the surnames seem misspelled; and some abbreviations, such as dicl, are unknown.

Since the 1790 Federal Census for New Jersey is missing, this list is an invaluable tool for Monmouth County research.


Search tips for searching the Freeholder Lists on OPRS:
Searching by Surname:
The most accurate format to search for a person using the Surname field, is “Surname[space]Given name” as searching for “Conover John” will yield 6 results.
Do not use a comma, as searching for “Conover, John” will yield a false 0 results.
Do not use Given Name Surname format, as searching for “John Conover” will yield a false 1 result.

Searching by Town:
If you search for “Freehold” by Town, if the List Year is on –Select–, it will yield 62 results.
If the List Year is set to [blank] it will yield a false 0 results.
Lower case or upper case doesn’t matter, either yields the same result.

Researchers are required to use the published facsimile with index unless there is a legibility problem which necessitates consulting the original. A copy of the publication is in the Jane Clayton Reading Room at the Monmouth County Archives. The original list is stored in the vault at Monmouth County Archives in a manuscript box labeled “1790 Freeholders Lists.”

An index for the facsimile was compiled by Elaine DeMet Anderson and Ellen Thorne Morris. Their index was published by the Learning Resources Center, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, New Jersey, in 1985. Anderson and Morris’ “Monmouth County 1790 Freeholders List” index is available in printed booklet form in the Archives reading room on the reference book shelves. The index lists name, page, town and name spelling variations.

A searchable offline Access database index was completed on March 17, 2015, by George Joynson, Monmouth County Archives. This database shows surname and given name, town, family relationship if listed, occupation if listed, Brookdale pamphlet page number and digital scan page number.

The towns are arranged on the leaves mostly in the following order: Upper Freehold, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Dover and Stafford. The names on the lists from Middletown, Shrewsbury and Dover are arranged alphabetically by first name. The names on the lists from Freehold and Upper Freehold are arranged alphabetically by last name. The names on the list from Stafford are arranged only by the first letter of the surname. All the leaves were digitally scanned July 28, 2012.

This collection is open to researchers.

Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan, NJ 07726
Phone: 732-308-3771

The original list was transferred to the Monmouth County Archives by County Clerk Jane G. Clayton in 1985.

This finding aid was created by Gary Saretzky on March 19, 2012, and updated by George Joynson, March 23, 2015.