Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Registry of Deeds Operations in 1912

I recently came across this article from the Lowell Sun of December 16, 1912. It describes the operation of the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds. 

The Registry of Deeds and How the Deeds Are Handled and Protected After Being Received by Register Wm. C. Purtell

Few except those who have occasion to go to the registry of deeds in the local court house in Gorham street realize the many important changes that have been made in that office and the manner in which the work has been systematized during the past three years by Register William C. Purtell. Mr. Purtell has inaugurated many improvements that are greatly appreciated by those who frequent the office and the record hall. Careful study of the working methods of the office, the search for improved ways of simplifying the work of filing and recording deeds has enabled Mr. Purcell to make this registry the best in New England.

One of the features of the many changes is the refurbishing of the record hall and how for the first time in the history of the county, the records are encased in fireproof steel cases with sliding curtains which are closed and locked every afternoon prior to the closing of the office.

To start with, the large bracket lights along the side walls which were practically of no use and but of little ornament have been removed, giving much more room along the walls, the unsightly and clumsy hulking? Receptacles for the records have been discarded, the new steel cases have been placed against the walls of the record hall, thus leaving the center of the room open for tables, desks, and chairs for the work of conveyancing.

There are about a dozen of these fireproof cases in the hall containing about 1500 roller shelves for the larger books. The cases for the index books are at the Gorham street end of the record hall. Plain tables are located in the center of the room. The index books of the present year are kept on a turntable between the record hall and the registry office so that they can be consulted without leaving the hall. Records of attachments are kept on turntables connecting the record hall with a room on the other side of the corridor where they may be perused by employees of the registry office or by those using the record hall.

The previous system of keeping records was such that there was little room for books for the next wo years. Under the new system there is plenty of room for the next 25 years and there is no danger of the records being destroyed by fire.

The happy events afford better protection to the records, better service for those doing business there, better lighting and ventilation and ample room for all the records that will accumulate for a quarter of a century.

The working of the office of the registry of deeds is so systematized at the present time that it is almost impossible for an error to get into the records for the record of the deed passed through so many channels and is examined by so many experienced clerks that if one clerk happened to make an error it would be quickly detected by another clerk.

Within 24 hours after a deed is brought into the registry office it is indexed, the indexing records being a very important part of the work of the office. The instrument is then written, after which it goes through the hands of comparers, taken back to the office and paged, then it is abstracted for the purpose of building the yearly index and again compared, receiving the very closest examination by experienced clerks.

Every name is classified in such a manner that a person looking for a record can find it very readily. Considerable difficulty is encountered by the clerks in the proper indexing of names of persons who have different ways of spelling their names. For instance, the name Nichols is spelled in 27 different ways on the record books. It is spelled Nichols, Nickles, Nickels, Nicklles, etc. and in such cases the clerk has to index each name in such a manner that there will be no confusion. The foreign names are also very confusing, for some of these people are apt to change the spelling of their names after being here for a few years.

Business at the registry of deeds has increased very rapidly in recent years. Prior to the establishment of the office in this city all of the records in the county were kept at the registry of deeds in Cambridge and up to about 15 years ago it was necessary to go to Cambridge to look up titles of properties in the southern district, but 15 years ago copies were made of all of the records in that district and installed in the registry in this city so that at the present time a person can look up every record dating back as for as 1639.

The enormity of business done during the recent years may be realized when I is taken into consideration that during the past three years 57 books, each containing 600 pages, have been compiled while from the hear 1855 to 1909 there were but 442 books of records, an average of about eight a year, which now the average is about 19 a year. There will be 30,000 entries in the 1912 index, work on which will be started immediately following the end of the present month.

Register Purtell by virtue of his office is also assistant recorder of the land court which court was inaugurated in 1898. The land registration has also increased very materially during recent years.
Mr. Purcell is to be congratulated for the manner in which the work is being carried on at the registry of deeds office at the present time, the systematizing and indexing of the records which made this possible being brought about by his careful study of the business and his untiring efforts to bring the local registry up to the high standard it has attained.

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