Overseer of the past STAMFORD — Posted between the paper snowflakes decorating the windows of the City and Town Clerk’s Office are thought bubbles that begin with the same four words. “Did you know that …?” They are designed to enlighten citizens about
liens, home sales, mortgage transfers, property maps, and other land records.
“People come in to find out where their property lines are, because they’re putting up a fence or an addition to their house, or they are having a problem with a neighbor,” Pesiri said. “About 85 percent of the houses in Stamford have plot maps. We have them here. A lot of people don’t realize the information we have.”
Graham deals with marriage licenses, veterans’ discharges, birth and adoption records, lawsuits against the city, trade names for businesses — even beekeeper’s licenses.
“We handle about 10 of those a year,” Graham said.
The office should be hearing a lot more from dog owners, she said.
“The number of dog license registrations has gone down, but there probably are more dogs than ever, since there are more apartments — most are dog-friendly — and more people,” Graham said. “People may not know they have to register their dog with the city. They don’t find out until they come in contact with Animal Control.”
The fee is $8 for dogs that are spayed or neutered, and $19 for those that are not, she said.
Consider another thought bubble: Did you know that, in the 1800s, the dog license fee was considered a tax? If not paid, the tax collector could destroy the dog.
Ruijter said her office collects about $9 million in revenue a year in taxes and fees, but a significant percentage goes to the state.
The collection of historical data, on the other hand, is priceless — as are some of the requests.
“A few months ago, I got a well-written request from England asking if I could find the death certificate of a slave who was kept and sold by the person who was the Stamford town clerk at the time,” Ruijter said. “We couldn’t find it. But it makes you wonder whether that information, and all kinds of information like it, is stored here.”
There are more records in a Springdale municipal building, which Ruijter would like to move. They may contain maps older than the 15,000 that are in the clerk’s office. Those date to about 1870.
Jeannie Loughlin, who’s worked in the clerk’s office for 20 years, is amazed at how often real estate attorneys, title searchers and surveyors use a book of 1879 maps spread on a table in the downstairs vault. One of the maps reveals that the Strawberry Hill site of Stamford High School was then home to an institution called Betts Academy.
“Surveyors have to have accurate figures, and they can’t always read the numbers on the maps that are online,” Loughlin said. “So they come here to see the original.”
All the office’s records are compiled in books — 12,048 of them so far, Loughlin said.
The earliest are bound volumes, heavy and worn, the edges softened and darkened with use, the entries written in faded ink. The newest are computer printouts held in copypaper sized plastic containers that snap open and shut.
“This place is fascinating,” said Stamford real estate attorney George Xylas, who visited the staff during Thursday’s open house. “Some of the books are so old. I can’t believe they let you touch them.”
Clerk Jeannie Laughlan, left, shows a book of town maps from 1938 to Stamford’s Paul and Aga Senecal during Thursday’s open house at the City and Town Clerk’s Office in Stamford. The office held an open house to explain its services and display Stamford’s historical documents and maps from the archives.
Stamford resident Yuri Feygin browses historic town documents dating back hundreds of years during the open house at the City and Town Clerk’s Office in Stamford on Thursday. The City and Town Clerk’s Office held an open house to explain its services and display Stamford’s historical documents and maps from the archives.
Folks look at historic town photographs during the open house at the City and Town Clerk’s Office in Stamford on Thursday.