Genealogy & Geography

Why does geography need to be a key factor when planning genealogy research?

Because local boundaries change over the years (some quite a lot) and knowing where to look during a specific time period can make all the difference to avoid spinning your wheels in the wrong spot and missing the target.

Originally a Dutch settlement on the eastern coast of New Jersey, once known as Radford’s Ferry, South Amboy was also one of the earliest colonial townships within the Province of New Jersey when the state was divided into east and west sections (1674 through 1702). Located just below Perth Amboy, the capital of East Jersey, it became known as the South Ward of Perth Amboy until 1798 when it would be incorporated as South Amboy Township, one of the largest at 18 miles long and six miles wide.

Over the years, sections would split off to create smaller townships with Monroe Township splitting off in 1838, Madison Township in 1869 (later renamed Old Bridge) and Sayreville Township the last to leave in 1876 (later becoming Sayreville Borough). By 1888, with approximately a mile and half of land left, South Amboy became a Borough and a lastly a City in 1908.

Monroe Township would additionally break down into to Cranbury Township (1872), the Borough of Jamesburg (1887) and East Brunswick Township (1860) which would then split off into Boroughs of South River, Milltown, Spotswood and Helmetta.

So, searching for South Amboy ancestors may take you for a wild ride across town borders, timelines and both sides of the American Revolution where British and American officers hoisted a glass at The Old Rattoone House, including the turncoat Benedict Arnold as he deceptively passed messages to the enemy. Know your timelines and know your geography 😊


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