County Clerk Records Services
The office of County Clerk is one of the oldest offices in the United States. Duties of a county clerk vary widely, but in general, the smaller the population of a county, the more numerous the duties assigned to the clerk. This makes sense; in a county with a population of over a million residents, the task of keeping vital records (births, deaths, and marriages) would be very time-consuming all by itself.
The county clerk is an elected official in 24 states. In California and New York, counties have the choice of electing or appointing the clerk. In the remaining 24 states, it is an appointed position or is absent.
Although the types of documents issued and maintained by the county clerk can vary a great deal, the clerk’s main duty is record-keeper of the county. Most county clerks keep records of deeds and all documents related to the ownership of land in the county. The majority of county clerks also keep records of marriage licenses, maintain records of county resolutions and ordinances, and issue permits and other licenses.
In some counties, duties of the county clerk may include one or all of the following:
- Issuing and maintaining vital records along with probate (birth and death certificates)
- Handing Marriage and Divorce paperwork
- Accepting passport applications
- Conducting and overseeing elections
- Issuing notary public and business licenses
- Keeping minutes of the county board/commission/council
- Conducting wedding ceremonies
- Acting as clerk of court for the county probate judge and/or other county courts, and maintaining records of civil and criminal cases
Not all counties have the office of county clerk, and in many counties, some of the duties listed above are the responsibility of other elected or appointed county officials. For example, in some states, the position is called Clerk of Court. Some counties, especially with larger populations, have a separate Register of Deeds, who maintains all records related to land ownership. Some have a Recorder, whose responsibility is to safeguard all records of the county. In many places, vital records are maintained by the county or state health department.
Regardless of the title of the position, these officials are required by law to manage records in a way that makes them easy to search and, if not prohibited by law, available to the public. Some of the records entrusted to them may be over 300 years old. It is the duty of the official to preserve these records. This is done in various ways, by scanning the records and placing them on microfilm, microfiche, or in digital files kept electronically and usually available online.