The West Jersey Society Records in TS 12, covering 1675 to 1921, relate to tracts of land in West and East Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Englandand elsewhere, divided up as shares of the company. The records contain many names in the original correspondence, minute books, registers of shares, original deeds, and papers about claims.
The West New Jersey Society was a company formed about 1691 for the development of the ‘Hereditary Government of West Jersey in America’. Tracts of land in West and East New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New England and elsewhere were divided into 1,600 parts, forming the shares of the adventurers. These on death fell to the heirs, executors or administrators of the deceased.
The affairs of the society failed to prosper and by the turn of the seventeenth century its development work had practically ended, although it remained possessed of its lands and property. These were gradually disposed of and by 1819 the whole of the society’s effects had been realised. Thereafter, its duties consisted of dividing its assets among its shareholders.
In 1914 only twenty-eight and one third shares remained unclaimed, and in November of that year a Statement of Claim (Hovell and others v Attorney General 1914 H No 2476) was filed by three persons representing the society, in which they stated their readiness to deal with the funds constituting the remaining shares, if still unclaimed, as bona vacantia belonging to the Crown. These funds were transferred to the Crown, by an order in Chancery of March 1923.
Although the records throw little light upon the society’s trading activities during the early years of its existence, they provide much information concerning its holdings of land in New Jersey. Details concerning the management and disposal of these can be obtained from the society’s correspondence with its agents in America as well as from its minute and letter books, accounts, deeds, plans, etc.
The records, and particularly the accounts and share registers, also illustrate the gradual distribution of the society’s assets among those persons with a claim on its shares.
A significant gap is the absence of a minute book for the period between 1703 and 1728. However, it is suggested in the Society’s official history that this might be because little business of note was transacted during that time.
- The UK Treasury Solicitor’s Department (cumpstonresearch.wordpress.com)