Keeping the records straight
In small towns, sometimes people working in public service can become like welcome fixtures in the community, local resources that are missed after they’re gone. One such person is sure to be Jeanne Comeau who has been
working at the Stanstead Registry Office for the last thirty-five years, except for a brief hiatus of a few years, and is retiring this Friday.
“After thirty-five years of helping everyone, not just genealogists, with the search for land records, wills and contracts, Jeanne Comeau will take her mandatory retirement next week. She has cheerfully brought out those huge volumes of register books and plot maps and plans for everyone who has called on her both in person and by phone. We will miss her,” wrote local Stanstead historian and genealogist, David Lepitre.
Jeanne began working at the Stanstead Registry Office, where all the documents related to land transactions for much of the territory of the Memphremagog MRC are registered, in 1976. While giving Claire Cournoyer a driving lesson in her first car, she was told about the job opening at the Registry Office and went for it. “I worked with Mrs. Cournoyer until she retired in 1987. The staff often changed but not the work. We wrote all the transactions in the old index, which dated back to around 1892, until the information was computerized in 2002,” explained Mrs. Comeau.
Before 2002, anyone looking for information related to land transactions: genealogists, notaries, surveyors, real estate brokers or family historians, went to the Registry Office where Jeanne would help them find what they were looking for in the huge volumes that lined the walls of the walk-in vault. “I knew all the notaries, all the land surveyors because we had all the land plans here, all the brokers who came to research deeds and check for servitudes. Sometimes people are disappointed with what they find out,” she commented.
“People don’t realize how much information is public, like how much a neighbour’s property sold for. Sometimes people just want to find out the history of their hundred year-old home,” she added.
Jeanne’s tasks at the Registry Office changed after the records were all computerized. “They came with a big truck on a Friday to pick up all the books; we had to seal up everything. It was all brought to Quebec, scanned over the weekend, and by Monday morning all the information, except for the land plans which were done a little later, was up on the internet,” said Jeanne.
From then on people could do their own research on the government’s new website: www. registrefoncier.gouv.qc.ca. “I didn’t have to handle the books so much, they were pretty heavy, and people didn’t come to the Registry Office so much anymore. I missed that contact with people a lot. I had to sit a lot more in front of the computer,” she admitted. “But there are still some people who don’t know how to do the research on the internet. I have five computers here that I use to show people how to do the research or sometimes I do it for them.”
Also under the roof of the Registry Office, since 2006, is a “Services Quebec” desk. “I took a month of training to learn all the Quebec government services. A Services Quebec outlet is like the ‘porte d’entrée’ to the government of Quebec, providing information about any Ministry or organization within the government. If we can’t give you the information you need, we’ll tell you where to find it,” said Mrs. Comeau.
Asked what she’ll miss most about her job, Jeanne answered that she would miss her co-workers, including her replacement, Carolyne Tellier, who she has been carefully training since September. “I have a lot of projects planned and I’d like to travel and do some volunteer work, maybe find a job of one or two days a week. I had a nice career and now it’s time to do something else.”
On behalf of the community, thanks Jeanne for over three decades of keeping the records straight!
Jeanne Comeau, seen here with one of the ancient registry books at the Registry Office, is retiring after almost thirty-five years of meticulous record keeping.