Here is an interesting article we noticed in the local paper regarding the availability of on-line access to Surrogate Records:

“Where there’s a Will there’s a Way” is an often quoted statement in the Sussex County Surrogate Court; and with good reason. The Surrogate Court, by state statute, is the official branch of government having jurisdiction over estates of deceased Sussex County residents. To probate a will is to make official the directives outlined in that will. In New Jersey, once the surrogate signs the judgment, the named executor officially has full power to administrate the estate as per the terms of the will. Likewise, the same applies with an administrator, affidavit of next of kin or spouse, trustee, and guardian of minors.

The authority of the surrogate traces back to the Archbishop of London and beyond the Archbishop into Roman emperors and the Bible. The word “surrogate” means “one who speaks for another.” The surrogate in each county is actually taking the place of the governor, who in 1710 received from the Archbishop of London the authority as the Archbishop’s “Ordinary” or Surrogate-General. That power, eventually distributed by the governor, then the governor of the Crown Colony of New Jersey, and subsequently the governor of the State of New Jersey, to his surrogates, was recognized by subsequent New Jersey Legislatures in statutes which codified the powers and duties of the surrogates, and by the constitutions which fixed their terms. The surrogate is elected for a term of five years, by the people of that county.

The surrogate also serves as deputy clerk of Superior Court and processes adoptions, contested estate matters, and guardianships for adults and minors. The surrogate holds and monitors approximately $9 million in monies for minors’ accounts.

Surrogate Nancy Fitzgibbons explains the role of being a surrogate as “serving the family, virtually from life to end of life”.

The surrogate records are maintained from the early 1800s. The surrogate court vault contains the current and previously indexed records of documents on microfiche, microfilm and computer scanning. These records prove to be an aid in genealogy and title research.

To simplify public research of indexed records, an index online has been established: 1. Access (Sussex County website) 2. Click Surrogate (Sussex County Surrogate site) 3. Click Surrogate Index Search (follow directions). It is as easy as one, two, three!

The surrogate administers an office that is certain to touch the lives of every person in the county at some time, whether for the appointment of a guardian for a minor, or an adoption, or a hearing to determine incapacity of an individual, or the common practice of appointing someone to handle the estate after the death of a loved one. The goal of the Surrogate Court is to be helpful, but remember, nothing can replace the sound advice of an attorney when one has to deal with the more difficult areas of settling an estate.

Appointments are recommended so that information can be gathered and legal documents may be prepared in advance of your appearance in Surrogate Court.

Clients are requested to contact the court by phone: 973-579-0920; by fax: 973-579-0909; email The Surrogate Court is located in the historic Sussex County Court House at 3 High St., Suite 1, Newton, N.J. 07860, and has reserved parking in the rear of the building. Court hours are Monday thru Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Special arrangements can be made for anyone requiring assistance as part of the Surrogate’s Outreach Program.


The Sussex County Surrogate Court is a member of the Sussex County Council of Service Agencies.