Thursday, August 29, 2013

Some Registry of Deeds history

At yesterday's meeting of the Massachusetts Registries of Deeds Modernization and Efficiency Commission meeting held in Springfield, Mary Olberding, the Register of Deeds of the Hampshire Registry of Deeds, gave the following testimony during the public hearing phase of the meeting.  Her remarks include important historical background on registries in Massachusetts.  She agreed to allow me to post them here:

Thank you to Legislators, my fellow Registers, Mr. Maresco and all members of the Commission who are generously giving their time to serve the Commonwealth. Thank you for traveling to Western Massachusetts for this public hearing.And thank you to my colleague, Register Ashe for hosting us.

I welcome the opportunity for review of the Registries of Deeds by this Commission and the Legislature, for I believe this exercise will demonstrate that the Registries are completely dedicated to continuous improvement in the areas of efficiency, technology and management.

Before there was even a United States, they were recorded documents in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And before we elected our first President of the United States, we elected Registers of Deeds.
Each Registry district has unique characteristics; the types of property, the geography, the topography. The formation of their boundaries is based on a history that predates the formation of all of the counties in the Commonwealth.
The Registries of Deeds, as they exist today, were established under the First Modern Recording Act of 1640. For most of the Colonial period, the Clerks of the County Courts maintained the public record but in 1715, a law was enacted calling for the election of Registers; to represent the people of their district; so there would be an elected representative of the people, accountable to them, who would know the land and know the landowners. This is as true today as it was then.
The Legislature, the Courts and the Registries have partnered for centuries to protect property and the rights of ownership.
Each Registry operates independently, but they coordinate efforts and share best practices through meetings of the Registers Association.
There is no statutory requirement to record an instrument to transfer title. The Registry’s purpose is to provide an accurate, reliable recording of all documents related to property, and, make them available for immediate public notice thus protecting from possible future claims on that property. This service is delivered by a well-trained staff with the latest technology that makes it possible.  
The land record management system is the cornerstone of the orderly transfer of property in the Commonwealth. Maintaining that system is the job of the Registers of Deeds.
And they do so with great efficiency.
Efficiency is delivering a service in the manner that the customer wants it. That delivery of service is different depending on the Registry.  How, then, would you measure efficiency of the Registries?  The volume of business at each Registry is subject to the economic forces that govern the real-estate industry.  
It is not possible for any Register to exert any influence over these forces; no marketing strategy will increase recordings, no investment will increase earnings.
A measure of our success is not the number of documents recorded, or a ratio of documents per capita.  It is not possible to measure efficiency based on statistics of use, because use is driven by the market economy. No uniform standard or statistic can measure our efficiency.
Rather, it is the users who decide if the Registers deliver their service efficiently; with a balance of speed and accuracy.
The Registers, as elected officials, have modernized as necessary throughout the history of the Commonwealth. When you think that deeds and documents have been recorded for over three hundred years, it is easy to see the evolution of technology used from the early days when documents were transcribed and attested, to documents retyped, then microfilmed and now scanned and digitized.
Electronic recording is the next phase of delivering efficient customer service. It is another example of the ways Registries are responsive to the needs of our users. The efficiency of e-recording is the customers. E-recording, like service provided at the counter, requires an element of human judgment by the staff to ensure documents are recordable. And, with e-recording comes the additional responsibilities for the staff to train and enlist new users.
For over three centuries, the job of the Registry remains the same: to record documents, verify they meet the Deed Indexing Standards and ensure the orderly transfer of property within our district.
The true measure of efficiency for the Registers doing this job, as with any elected official,  is whether or not the taxpayers and users of the Registry are getting the service they need.

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