The office of Deeds and Mortgages was founded to undertake the transfer of ownership of real estate.
For a long time in the 16th century, the transfer of property was done by documents handwritten and stored by clerks. In 1683, a law was created that required all deeds to be recorded in a public registry or they were voided.
The maintenance of those records was considered supplemental to the clerk’s job, which was to attend to the courts before attending to its citizens. The constitution of 1844 read that “Clerks and surrogates of counties shall be elected by the people of their respective counties for a five-year term.” The clerks maintained all the powers that they previously had, but now they were considered constitutional powers not just law.
The Register of Deeds and Mortgages got its name from a NJSA 40:39-2, which allowed for the county to separate the clerk from the register if it had a population of over 185,000. The counties of Essex and Hudson have that separation to this day.
The office, with its long historical role, performs a statutory function recording all title documents and maintains the integrity of all property transactions, preserving and protecting the records of the 22 municipalities throughout Essex County.
With more than 27 employees, serving a population of almost 800,000 residents, the Essex County Register of Deeds and Mortgages Office is one of the largest and busiest offices in the state of New Jersey.