The word “Surrogate” means “one who takes the place of another”. The position has been a part of governing bodies dating all the way back to the days of the Bible and Roman Emperors. In our present day, the Surrogate is actually taking the place of the Governor.

In 1710, the Archbishop of London granted the Governor of the Royal Colony of New Jersey the authority to act as the Archbishop’s “Ordinary”, or Surrogate General. The Royal Governor subsequently delegated this authority to the Surrogate’s of the respective counties. This gave the Surrogates the ability to probate wills, issue marriage licenses, and perform those functions, which were at the time in the province of the church.

Since then, the New Jersey State Legislature has codified the powers and duties of the Surrogates. Each county has a Surrogate and they act as the judge of the Surrogate’s Court. They are elected to 5-year terms, as mandated by the New Jersey state constitution, by the people of the county in which they have jurisdiction. Aside from the appointment of a guardian for a minor who comes into an estate (often a settlement arising from an accident), or the supervision of an adoption, or a sanity hearing, it is increasingly common, after death, to visit the Surrogate’s Court for the appointment of someone to handle the estate of the deceased. It is because of the duties and responsibilities of the Surrogate, that the court they administer is almost certain to touch the lives of every person in the county at some time.

Surrogate Years Served
Nicki A. Burke 2006-Present
Geneva B. Wood 1986-2005
John J. Crawford 1981-1985
Geneva B. Wood 1980 appointment
Samuel McWilliams Jr. 1966-1979
Frank L. Pote Jr. 1961-1966
T.B. Reed Pancoast 1922-1961
Loren P. Plummer 1897-1922
Henry Coombs 1897 appointment
George R. Morrison 1877-1897
Samuel Allen 1872-1877
Samuel P. Carpenter 1867-1872
Richard Grier 1863-1867
William Plummer 1857-1863
Henry Sinnickson 1857 Appt.
Benjamin Smith 1854-1857
Smith Dorman 1853 appointment
Isaac Hackett 1843-1848
Joseph E. Brown 1838-1843
David Hurley 1833-1838
Morris Hancock 1823-1833
Daniel Garrison 1809-1823
Jacob Hufty 1808 appointment
Curtis Seagraves 1804-1808
Samuel Dick 1785-1796
John Hinchman 1723-1785