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Recorded Documents History

In the early years of the United States, the growing need for some guarantee of property rights in real property led to the establishment of the office of county recorder. Such a process was established by the early sessions of the United States Congress in the Northwest Ordinance of 1795, which established in every county an office to be called the recorder’s office for the purpose of recording deeds and mortgages. Ohio, being a territory created by the Northwest Ordinance, followed step and, by statute on January 20, 1802, established the first real property recording laws for the future state.

In 1803, the first Ohio general assembly of the new State of Ohio enacted a statute entitled “an act providing for the recording of deeds, mortgages, and other conveyances of land, by which the office of the county recorder was established and duties were defined. The initial duties of the recorder were “to procure proper books and record therein all deeds, mortgages, leaseholds, and conveyances of land and tenements lying within the county; to endorse on each instrument the time of filing for record; to record in regular succession according to priority of receipt; and to number the page of the book where recorded. (1 O.L. 136).

Although the recorder necessarily kept certain records in the early days of the office, the language of the original statutes was vague and unclear. The first territorial statute that established the office merely stated that “the recorder shall provide parchment or good large books of royal or other paper, well bound and covered; wherein he shall record in a fair and legible hand all deeds and conveyances. He was further permitted to charge the sum of nine cents per one hundred (100) words recorded for his services. As the years passed, the legislature’s instructions became more precise, specific types of recording books were required by statute, and more exact methods of recording were provided for. Today, in continuing the original custom of setting the recorder’s fees by statute, the current amounts of fees that the recorder must charge for the services performed by his office are specifically provided for by the Ohio Revised Code. (ORC 317, et al.)

Over the years, additional responsibilities were also added by statute. The recording of powers of attorney, chattel mortgages, veteran’s discharges and gravesites, registered land, health care powers of attorney and living wills, and general partnership filings were among some of the many additions.

Over the years, the method of selecting the recorder, as well as the term of office, has changed frequently. Prior to 1829, the recorder was appointed for a seven (7) year term by the judges of the court of common pleas. In 1829, the position became an elective office for a three (3) year term. The length of the term of office remained the same until the Ohio Constitution was amended in 1905. At that time, existing law was changed to provide for election of recorders in even-numbered years for two year terms, later amended to four.