Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

December 31, 2005

Top Ten Registry Events of 2005

by @ 6:03 am. Filed under Registry Ops, Current Events

As 2005 draws to a close, it’s time for us to review this year’s Top Ten registry events:

10. The procedures at our recording counter were revised, putting more of the responsibility for pre-recording quality control of documents on the customer through the use of a document checklist.

9. Concerns about identity theft and the security of sensitive personal information led the Registers of Deeds Association to establish a prohibition on the recording of documents that contain social security numbers. Thus far, this limitation does not apply to state and federal tax liens and releases.

8. Google Earth, Google Maps and other GIS applications became commonplace and irreplaceable as parts of everyday life. They offered a glimpse of the type of mapping/data integration that will become a core mission for registries of deeds during the next few years.

7. We established a type of free advertising section called “Our Customers” on our website. Real estate professionals with websites can request a short description of their businesses and links to their websites from a designated portion of www.lowelldeeds.com.

6. The total number of recorded land documents processed this year was slightly less than 88,000, a slight decrease from 2004 but further evidence that a slowdown in the real estate market is upon us.

5. The Registers of Deeds Association published a major revision to the Deed Indexing Standards of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to become effective January 1, 2006.

4. Besides turning two years old, the LowellDeeds Blog received an entirely new appearance in December that provides more functionality and permits greater reader involvement.

3. In the National Lumber case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued a decision of great significance to registries of deeds. While the Court did, in fact, literally interpret the registry of deeds statute (chapter 36), the interpretation was greatly at odds with the established and accepted practice. Many of the consequences of this case will not become fully apparent until well into 2005.

2. The Middlesex North Registry has devised a method of presenting pre-computer Grantor Indexes to the public as PDF documents on a multi-volume set of CDs. During the first quarter of 2006, all Grantor Indexes back into the 19th Century will be available in this format.

1. Electronic Recording became a daily event during 2005 with nearly 1,000 documents recorded in this manner. There are many details that must still be resolved, but the technology has proven to be useful and reliable.

Happy New Year, everyone!

December 30, 2005

Nov Stats

by @ 8:51 am. Filed under Statistics

Yesterday the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported that sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts declined by 9.2%. In November of 2005 3,713 single-family homes sold as compared to 4,089 in November 2004. This decrease marks the second consecutive monthly decline. Prices continue to increase despite the decline in sales. The median price for a home in Massachusetts rose to $354,000 from $348,000. This is 1.7% higher than October and 2.3% higher than last November. In contrast Condo sales rose slightly in November but the median price slipped to $265,000. In 2004 single-family home sales broke all existing records, but 2005 saw homeowners put far more properties on the market. According to experts a slow job market, rising mortgage rates and high prices are the major factors affecting the Massachusetts’ market.

December 29, 2005

Researching History of Home

by @ 6:29 am. Filed under History, FAQs

I recent visitor to our website sent along this question:

I would like to get the history on my home. how would I do it. or could you help

Here’s my response:

Our records will tell you about the ownership history of your home and the land it sits upon. If you spent enough time on it, you could trace it all the way back to the 1600s. Our records are about the land, however, so there won’t be much about the history of the house such as when it was build and by whom.

To learn more about the ownership history of the house (commonly referred to as its “title”), you can use the records available on the “search land records” portion of our website (www.lowelldeeds.com) to go back to 1976 and perhaps as far back as 1950. Records older than that are not yet available online (although they should be by mid-2006), so you’d have to come here to the registry to look at our books.

The easiest way to start tracking the ownership history of your home is to look at the most recent deed for the property (which is probably the deed that made you the owner). Towards the end of the property description and right above the place where the seller signed the deed, is a paragraph commonly referred to as the “title reference.” That usually says something like “For Seller’s title, see deed of John Jones to Seller dated March 1, 1994 and recorded in the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds Book 12500, Page 120.” All documents at the registry are copied into numbered books. That book number, and the page within that book where the document is located, become the identifiers of the document. So in our example, you’d go to book 12500, open it to page 120 and find the deed that’s mentioned. If you find the “title reference” paragraph in that document, you will learn the book and page number of the previous deed of the property. You just repeat the process until you’ve reached the end point of your search.

Unfortunately, it’s not always quite so simple. Sometimes there’s no title reference in a deed, so you have to go to the Index and search for the property owner’s name. That will usually give you a book and page reference to follow. If ownership of property passes by will, however, there may not be any record of the ownership change at the registry of deeds. That would be at the registry of probate which is located in Cambridge.

Sorry to go on for so long, but the answer to your question is complicated. If you do decide to come to the registry, please visit our Customer Service office. The folks there will get you started on the right track.

Researching the history of a home - yours, a family member’s or just an interesting property - can be quite rewarding. As we add more of our older records to the website in the coming year, you will be able to perform this type of research over the Internet quite easily. But for now, a visit to the registry is a big part of this process.

December 28, 2005

Postage Rate Increase

by @ 10:29 am. Filed under Registry Ops

In case you missed it, the cost of first-class mail will rise from the current $0.37 for the first ounce to $0.39. Each additional ounce will cost another $0.24. This all becomes effective January 8, 2006. It becomes effective at this registry sooner than that, however. We require customers who want their documents returned to leave with us a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of those documents. Because we wait until after the document has been scanned, microfilmed, and the microfilm developed and checked, we normally mail back documents about six weeks after recording. Our plan is to accelerate this process and mail back as much of our inventory of already recorded documents as we can between now and January 8. For the rest, we’ll just have to add the additional postage ourselves. But, beginning January 3, 2006, we will require that self-addressed stamped envelopes left for the return of documents have the proper post January 8 postage. We won’t be checking for the proper postage, but we won’t be using envelopes that have insufficient postage, either.

“Last Day”… Myth??

by @ 9:57 am. Filed under Statistics

Traditionally, registry workers… “including myself”… have looked on the last business day of the calendar year as one of our busiest days. At one time we would move additional equipment and personnel to the recording counter in preparation…but, lately the “last day” has not lived up to the big expectation…Curiosity got the best of me… so I began to collect statistics looking at the volume of business on the “last day” for past twenty years…I wondered if the high expectation was just a “registry myth”. Below I have listed “the year”, “the average daily recordings in that year” and the number recorded on the last business day. Interestingly, there were four years when the “Last Day” didn’t even make the “Daily Average”…but in four other years “Last Day” totals doubled the Daily Average.

In 1985… Daily Average 224…Last Day 356
In 1986 …Daily Average 330… Last Day 875 (Tax change)
In 1987… Daily Average 292… Last Day 273
In 1988… Daily Average 232…Last Day 330
In 1989… Daily Average 206…Last Day 364
In 1990… Daily Average 207…Last Day 285
In 1991… Daily Average 208 …Last Day 433
In 1992… Daily Average 305…Last Day 428
In 1993… Daily Average 333 …Last Day 426
In 1994… Daily Average 285 …Last Day 408
In 1995… Daily Average 242 …Last Day 487
In 1996… Daily Average 269 …Last Day 527
In 1997… Daily Average 280… Last Day 413
In 1998… Daily Average 374… Last Day 392
In 1999… Daily Average 358… Last Day 275
In 2000… Daily Average 286…Last Day 490 (Y2K)
In 2001… Daily Average 388… Last Day 724
In 2002…Daily Average 463… Last Day 526
In 2003…Daily Average 587… Last Day 500 (Highest Daily Average in our history)
In 2004…Daily Average 384… Last Day 363

Well, legend has it we’ll be extremely busy this Friday, Dec 30…Let’s see what actually happens…
In 2005…Daily Average 360… Last Day ???? Watch for Tuesday’s Blog.

Authority for Indexing Standards

by @ 8:37 am. Filed under Indexing

Someone asked the source of authority for the Registers of Deeds Association promulgating Indexing Standards. While there’s no express statutory grant of such authority, 950 CMR 120 clearly grants the Association the implied power to do so. It says:

The Massachusetts Registers and Assistant Registers of Deeds Association has published Deed Indexing Standards for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which govern the creation of indexes required by MGL c.36. Unless otherwise noted, all Indexes created by Massachusetts Registries of Deeds shall conform with these Deed Indexing Standards. These standards are subject to revision. Where a standard has been revised, the most current revision shall apply

And since the original Deed Indexing Standards were in existence at the time this regulation became effective, this regulation ratifies and confirms the existing standards.

December 27, 2005

Homestead Decision from Bankruptcy Court

by @ 10:58 am. Filed under Homestead

The December 26, 2005 edition of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has a front page story about a recent bankruptcy court decision that addressed the applicability of the homestead exemption to the proceeds from the sale of the protected house. “Judge: homestead exemption follows house-sale proceeds” involved a situation where a person filed for bankruptcy protection and then sold his homestead-protected house. The creditor argued that once the home was converted to cash, the homestead no longer applied (after all, it’s intended to protect the home, isn’t it?). The judge disagreed, saying (among other things) that the status of the property as exempt was fixed as of the date of the filing of the bankruptcy petition and a subsequent change in the nature of the property (i.e., from a house into cash) could not alter its exempt status. The attorney for the creditor indicated he will appeal this decision.

It is uncertain what application this case will have to non-bankruptcy situations. I doubt that a non-bankrupt debtor will be permitted to sell his homestead-protected home and then walk away with up to $500,000 in the proceeds at the expense of his creditors. Of course, logic and homestead law don’t exactly walk arm in arm, so we can’t be sure about that.

Massachusetts Residency Exam

by @ 6:32 am. Filed under Pop Culture

Back by popular demand, our Massachusetts Residency Examination. Take this test to determine if you may legitimately call yourself a resident of the Bay State:

You know you’re from Massachusetts if
1. You think crosswalks are for wimps
2. If someone is nice to you, you know they either want something or they’re from out of town
3. You call Coke and Pepsi “tonic”
4. You know that a yellow light means that at least five more people can get through and a red one means two more can
5. You could own a small town in Iowa for the cost of your house
6. There are 24 Dunkin Donuts shops within 15 minutes of your house
7. If you stay on the same road long enough it eventually has three different names
8. Someone has honked at you because you didn’t peel out the second the light turned green
9. You’ve honked at someone because they didn’t peel out the second the light turned green
10. You cringe every time you hear an actor imitate a “Boston accent” in a movie
11. At the ice cream shop, you call chocolate sprinkles “jimmies”
12. You miss the smell of burning leaves
13. You know how to pronounce Worcester, Haverhill and Leominster
14. You know what they sell at a “packie”
15. You’ve never been to “Cheers”
16. You’ve slammed on the brakes to deter a tailgater
17. You keep an ice scraper in your car all year round
18. You’ve pulled out of a side street and used your car to block traffic so you can make a left
19. You’ve bragged about saving money at The Christmas Tree Shop
20. You know what “regular coffee” is
21. You have been to Fenway Park
22. You use the words “wicked” and “good” in the same sentence
23. You know what a frappe is
24. St Patrick’s Day is your second favorite holiday
25. You always say “the Cape” never “Cape Cod”

December 26, 2005

State Holiday

by @ 4:00 am. Filed under Registry Ops

Just a reminder that the registry is closed today, as are all state and municipal offices. Massachusetts law states that when Christmas (and New Year) falls on a Sunday, the following Monday shall be treated as the holiday. We’ll be back to work on Tuesday morning. To those who are able to take a break today, enjoy your time off. For those who have work to do, everything on the computers at the registry is available on our website, www.lowelldeeds.com.

December 23, 2005

Ho, Ho, Hooo

by @ 8:29 am. Filed under Pop Culture

I came across a “Naughty/Nice” Christmas quiz on the Internet this morning…me being me (as Manny would say)… I was wondering if I had been “Naughty or Nice” so I decided to take it.

1.How clean is your bedroom?…
“It’s spotless, but my wife cleans it. Does that count?”

2.Do you do all your chores on time?…
“Well…she does those too”.
“I don’t like the way this is going!”

3.How do you act while you are getting a haircut?…
“Very agitated…I hate to watch someone with a full head of hair tampering with my few strands.”

4.Do you fight with your sister?…
“Only when she’s wrong”.

5.Do you finish all your supper?…
“Unfortunately, Yes…If you saw me you wouldn’t even be asking that question.”

6.Do you go to bed when you are told?…
“Are you crazy?…I am in bed way before that…hey, I’m 54 now.”

7.Do you always tell the truth?…
“Always?…In college philosophy class they taught me that there is absolutely no such thing as “Absolutes”.

8.What are you leaving Santa for a snack on Christmas Eve?…
“Shrimp and Lobster…I hear he’s on the low carb diet.”

I don’t think I did too good…
What about the iPod I wanted?…“No, No, Nooooo”

Here’s to a Happy, Healthy Holiday.

Blog Turns 2

by @ 6:56 am. Filed under Website

This is the second anniversary of the LowellDeeds blog. It was back on December 23, 2003 that we made our first post. At first, I was writing something once each day, seven days per week. That was soon cutback to writing on days the registry was open and soon Assistant Register of Deeds became a co-author, alternating days. For most of the two years, we used Blogger, a free, easy to use service that I would strongly recommend. Wanting more flexibility with the blog, we recently brought in someone with superb web (and blog) design credentials who’s helped us create this new look. So the blog will continue. We hope you enjoy some of its new features such as the photo gallery and the categories. Perhaps the one part of the blog that has not lived up to our expectations is the apparent hesitancy of readers to post comments. Many of you make comments directly to us and, while we enjoy hearing them, if all the readers could read your comments and our responses to those comments, the blog would become much more vibrant. So please, help us out.

December 22, 2005

New Indexing Standards Online

by @ 7:08 pm. Filed under Indexing

The Deed Indexing Standards for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2006 version, are now available on the registry website, www.lowelldeeds.com. They’re in PDF format, so as long as you have Adobe Reader you can view and print them on your own computer. Please grab a copy, review them, then visit our Statewide Indexing Forum (see link in upper left corner of blog) and contribute your comments.

December 21, 2005


by @ 9:49 am. Filed under Archived, Registry Ops

Here’s a brief update of some of the registry’s ongoing projects:

Southern Middlesex Records
There has been a lot of interest in the digitalization of the 1630-1855 Southern Middlesex Records… Here’s where we are … four films have been given to a company called PaperTrac to be analyzed (one Grantee, one Grantor, one Billerica and one Lowell). Usually we do this type of project in-house, but these records pose a unique problem. Many years ago the microfilm was made from old handwritten books that had faded badly. Over the past five years, technology has advanced greatly in the area of digitizing film. Company’s specializing in this work have the ability to “enhance bad images” far beyond the registry’s capability. We hope to have a report from PaperTrac before the New Year.

“Grantor Index Imaging”…this project is going great.
We have completed 1941-1950 and are in the process of burning CDs for distribution (sorry they won’t be available as stocking stuffers as I had hoped).
In the 1926-1940 index we discovered that part of the letter “L” was missing. This will be corrected by the end of the week. By Tuesday we will be burning these CDs also.
We have finished cropping the 1916-1925 index but they have not been quality checked yet.
1901-1915 is completely cropped and ready to be quality checked also.
And finally we have begun the 1881-1900 index.

Recorded Land Images
We are about 50% done filling the gaps in our “image database”. This is a very labor-intensive project. We have discovered the easiest way to do this is by disassembling the book…scanning the pages and then re-assembling. It takes longer to work with the book than to actual scan. We considered using a copy machine but this is actually more difficult.

We are still waiting for the new public copy machines to be delivered(the contract was awarded in early November)…it has been five weeks…this is about when we start getting a little impatient.

Probate Computers
We have solved the Probate computer problem…you may remember it was “going to sleep” when not used and required a password…to, well, “wake up”. We swapped our internal computer with the public and everything is working fine now.

And, finally…I am done with my holiday shopping.

December 20, 2005

Copies of Land Court Certificates

by @ 1:09 pm. Filed under FAQs

Here’s an email I recieved earlier today from our website link:

“Can Land Court Certificates be viewed online? I have been encountering an message indicate the image is not available and to check back later. Also, how do I go about obtaining copies of certain Land Court Certificates and what is the associated cost?”

Unfortunately, Land Court Certificates are not online right now. Certificates from 36001 onward are available for viewing on our public access computers here at the registry. As for obtaining copies of a certificate by mail, our Registered Land Section charges $1 per page. The best thing to do is to call 978/322-9000 and ask for the Registered Land Section and get specific instructions for the certificate you want copies.

Fully Functional, At Last

by @ 1:03 pm. Filed under Website

This was a big day for the LowellDeeds blog. Much of the functionality we sought is now operational. If you click on one of the “categories” such as “electronic recording,” all of the posts on that topic will appear. (So far, we’ve only categorized posts from the last two months, but now that this feature is working we will do this for all past entries). We also have a photo gallery that allows you to view pictures of and about the registry of deeds. Most importantly, the “comment” feature is fully functional. So please, make use of it. I know we have many readers because people are always saying “I enjoyed the blog entry about . . .” As much as we enjoy that type of feedback, the blog will work best when it’s a dialogue and not just a monologue. We want to hear from you.

December 19, 2005

Bah Humbug

by @ 10:43 am. Filed under Archived, Pop Culture

Today is the 162nd anniversary of the publication of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (1843). The popularity of this story is most evidenced by its numerous interpretations. It has been adapted to theatre, film, radio and television (and I am sure shortly there will be a Podcast). Today’s anniversary made me reflect on the many versions I have seen: Scrooged starring Bill Murray; An American Christmas Carol starring Henry Winkler (Fonzi); Scrooge- a musical starring Albert Finney; A Christmas Carol: The Musical starring Kelsey Grammer; A Christmas Carol starring George C Scott…but despite all of these there are many versions I haven’t seen… and some of these…well…I am not sure I want to see:

“Ghostbusters in London”- In this version Dan Ackroyd and the rest of the ghostbusters accidental capture the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future on the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Sales are down and mall owners are furious. The ghostbusters have to find a way to release the good ghosts while keeping the bad.

Back to Christmas Future- Scrooge, played by Michael J Fox travels into the future. He finds the ghost of Christmas Future is now the ghost of Christmas Present and the ghost of Christmas Present has become the Past…And the original Past is the also the Past…well, it is a little confusing but…it’s funny.

“A David Copperfield Christmas Carol”- The astounding magician makes Jacob Marley(Scrooge’s partner) disappear before he gets a chance to visit the miser on Christmas Eve. Without his partner’s visit Scrooge is ultimately sent to the fires of eternal damnation (which Copperfield shoots directly from his own mouth).

“It Ain’t me Babe”- In this version Scrooge is the next door neighbor to superstar Cher…in this humor version the three ghosts visit the wrong house(Cher’s) and end up becoming back-up singers for the pop star.

“GoodCarolers”- In this gangster version of the story Ray Liotta plays Scrooge. In a twist on the original, the story starts with only one ghost, Christmas Present, played by Robert Deniro…Of course, Christmas Present can’t “do the job alone”…The most quotable line in the story comes from Joe Pesce who plays Tiny Tim …”don’t worry” he tells the ghost of Christmas Present… “I’m a ghost maker”…BANG!, BANG!…”there’s past and there’s future”.

“Scroogesky and Cratchit”- This version is based on the popular TV show/movie Starsky and Hutch. The dim witted Cratchit is played by Ben Stiller. Catchit and the drawling Scrooge are chased around by three bumbling ghosts who can’t catch them.

but… this year I think I will settle for the 1999 version starring Patrick Stewart. It is saved on my DVR. I can’t wait to see it.

December 16, 2005

Some Bugs in the Blog

by @ 10:48 am. Filed under Website

We’re still working on the functionality of the blog. Right now, the links for comments and categories yield the standard “this page expired” web page. Please bear with us and submit any comments you may have by email.

In the meantime, I’m working my way through our two years of prior writings, assigning each to one or more categories. Once they’ve all been categorized and once that feautre is working, I’m sure you will find it very helpful.

CLICK HERE to send your comments by email.

Wireless Access

by @ 10:45 am. Filed under Website, Registry Ops, Technology

Wireless Internet access at the registry of deeds might be coming soon. A customer who’s often here already flips open his laptop and logs on through someone else’s wireless network (I’m not sure whose) and does his title research on our website rather than our in-registry public access computers. What’s the point of doing that, you might ask? Cost and convenience are two things that come to mind. With the in-registry system, the only way you can obtain a document image is to print it at a cost of $1 per page, a fee set by statute. And that just gives you a piece of paper which is such a 20th Century-style way of holding information. From your home Internet connection, you can not only view that same document, but you can save it as an electronic image on your computer and, if you need to, print it on your own printer at no charge other than the cost of your paper and toner. By bringing your laptop to the registry and using wireless Internet access, you can have the benefits of the Internet with all of the registry’s information (not just the stuff that’s already on the computer) right at your fingertips. We’re exploring various services that could provide us with wireless service for a minimum fee. What we envision would be entirely separate from our network so it would not pose a security risk. The only other concern is whether we should restrict access to certain categories of Internet sites that might not be appropriate for viewing in a public building. I generally find censorship to be repulsive, but I’m also a realist.

December 15, 2005

Old Document Images

by @ 12:39 pm. Filed under Registry Ops, History

Tony’s blog entry from a few days ago about our plans to scan our 1639-1855 records drew this emailed comment:

I am a new reader of the Lowell Deeds Blog and I’m hooked!
I look forward to Tony’s updates about gaining on-line access to
the town records of 1630 to 1855.

As an amateur genealogist and historian always looking for dates, names,
maps and other bits of information about Lowell, the area towns and local
residents, I relish the opportunity to be at home but still able to continue
my research.

Of course, I’ll be searching the Blog Archive for past articles.
Your current articles on population statistics and other census data are
useful and interesting as well. Do I need to learn a blog vocabulary?

To the pros Dick and Tony - keep on blogging. I thank you for giving us access.

Standards & SSNs

by @ 12:30 pm. Filed under Indexing

Here’s an email I received from another registry with a question about Indexing Standard 2-1 which states that registries will not accept documents that contain social security numbers.

We have a question regarding Page 4, Secion 2. Social Security Numbers: Paragraph 2-1 DOCUMENT PRESENTED FOR RECORDING: Are death certificates supposed to be included with documents accepted with a SS # (copy then made, SS # whited out and scanned and copy made leaving SS# and saved in file)?

Here’s my response:

I think you’re correct. Indexing Standard 2-1 says that no document containing a social security number shall be accepted for recording. State or federal tax liens are identified as exceptions to this rule. After we adopted this rule (June 2005), someone pointed out that city and town clerks are required to collect the social security numbers of decedants (along with a variety of other information). The forms used by some clerks for death certificates do include social security numbers. Since the law requires the clerk to collect that information (although it doesn’t require the clerk to put it in the death certificate), I think we should accept death certificates that contain SSNs but once we have taken possession of them, we should make an unaltered non-public copy and then white out the SSN on the original and scan that for our public records.

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