July 30--Space is at a premium in north country county clerks' offices, where stories of the counties and their people can be traced through deeds, judgments, discharge papers, mortgages and naturalizations, to name a few of the many documents kept there.
"When you think about all the documents we have here, it affects every person at some point in your life," said Gizelle J. Meeks, the Jefferson County clerk.
The clerk's office is leading efforts by Jefferson County to go digital by converting its numerous records from paper to digital form, thanks to software purchased from Info Quick Solutions Inc., Liverpool.
The St. Lawrence County clerk's office knows only too well how paper takes up space. Using IQS, it started to digitize new documents in 2006.
"Right now, anything that goes on is digital," County Clerk Mary Lou Rupp said. "We don't save any paper anymore."
Documents that are mailed to the office or brought in are scanned and given back to customers.
The office started an e-recording service several months ago that allows customers to submit documents electronically, which speeds up the recording process.
Jefferson County is planning to offer e-filing for court records and e-recording for land records beginning Jan. 1.
Lewis County purchased a computerized indexing system in 2002 through IQS and upgraded it in 2008.
Using grant funding, most land records from the county's inception in 1805 also were digitized and added to the system in the mid-2000s.
"All of the deeds are on there," Deputy County Clerk Kathleen R. Bush said, noting that old mortgages and satisfactions were not included in the project.
All judgments since 2002 and court documents since 2008 are also accessible via computers in the clerk's office, Mrs. Bush said.
"That's a big advantage," Mrs. Rupp said. "It saves on mailing costs."
Mrs. Rupp said she is meeting in August with state archives representatives to see what grants might be available to digitize older records. The county still has documents in hundreds of books in its office.
Ms. Meeks said her office pays a monthly fee of $9,500 to Info Quick Solutions for the services it provides, including scanning, tagging and categorization of documents, as well as equipment maintenance.
Since the service went live June 1, subscribers can access documents online from their homes or offices. Access costs $100 for a 30-day subscription or $15 for 30 minutes. There is also a printing fee of 65 cents per image.
According to James W. Ranger, records coordinator and historian, the county's archives are 85 percent full with permanent records and rapidly running out of space. The process of going digital will not only make records more accessible but save the county space in its filing areas.
Much of the growth that has happened in Jefferson County in recent years is reflected in the number of documents filed away at the county clerk's office, according to Mr. Ranger and Ms. Meeks.
Counties throughout New York state and the country have begun moving to digital systems in recent years as a way to both save space and resources and make records more available to residents. County clerk records are used by attorneys' offices and businesses as well as by genealogy enthusiasts.
Additional information about the Jefferson County clerk's office, the types of documents it handles and the new digital records management system can be found at http://wdt.me/nuNM7o.
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