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

Stamford Advocate - - Front Page - Acarella @stam­for­dad­vo­cate.com; 203-964-2296.

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.”

Tyler Size­more / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

Tyler Size­more / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

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