Good Deeds: State of the Registry by William P. O’Donnell, Norfolk County Register of Deeds

Any report on the state of the Norfolk Registry of Deeds has to recognize the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact us in 2021.  While many sectors of our economy were still negatively affected by the pandemic, the Norfolk County real estate economy in 2021 remained not only viable but was one of the strongest in a decade.

            I am pleased to report the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds continued to remain open and operational for the recording of land documents every work day throughout this continuing pandemic.  Registry personnel continued to work at risk to themselves in order that over 195,000 documents were recorded in calendar year 2021.  The use of electronic recording for our institutional users such as banks, law firms and title companies increased dramatically.

            In addition to electronic recording users have the option to come in to the Registry building at 649 High Street in Dedham to conduct business and seek service.  Users also have the option to submit documents via regular mail, federal express or by placing documents in our drop box located outside our main entrance for those are not comfortable entering the building.

            I am particularly proud of our Registry staff who continued to work diligently throughout these difficult times.  In February our employees were recognized as “Every Day Heroes” by D’Angelos Grilled Sandwiches.  This recognition program honors groups of individuals who stand out in their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Deena McKinley, CMO of Papa Gino’s and D’Angelos Grilled Sandwiches stated “There are heroes in many forms across all New England communities and we want to do our part to celebrate the people in our towns who are making a difference.”  Well no state of the Registry would be right without tipping my hat to recognize the work of the Registry employees and to thank D’Angelos for giving the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and its employees this recognition.

            The true unsung heroes for 2021 were members of the Registry of Deeds Information Technology Department.  The behind the scenes efforts and professionalism of the Registry Chief Information Officer and IT Technology/Network Administrator made certain that the Registry employees could socially distance from one another and perform their jobs, work remotely and use the Disaster Recovery office to get work done.  The technology overseen by the Registry of Deeds Information Technology Department ensures that each and every real estate document received by the Norfolk Registry of Deeds was safe, secure and accessible to all members of the public.  In addition to supporting the internal work and staff of the Registry our IT Department acted as a lifeline to members of the real estate bar and real estate community as well as members of the general public whose reliance on technology has never been greater or more essential.

            This state of the Registry will also be used to thank those who have supported Registry of Deeds operations and services by expressing their concerns to county decision makers that the Norfolk Registry of Deeds needs to continue to keep its on-site direct report Registry IT Technology Department.  Technology drives so much of what goes on at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds. I would not be doing my job if I did not fight to keep the on-site direct report Registry CIO and the staff that makes up the Registry Information Technology Department.  The solid foundation of technology at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds will crumble without a permanent on site Registry CIO and without a Registry Information Technology Department that works for and with Registry staff and Registry stakeholders including the general public.  This issue has not been resolved in 2021.  I along with many of you find it unimaginable in this day and age of technology as well as cybersecurity risks and ransomware that this issue has not been resolved.  As we close the year and look forward to this new year let’s hope and work to make sure that such an unsound public policy decision to not have an on-site in-house permanent Registry CIO and a Registry Information Technology Department does not get implemented.

            In calendar year 2021 the Norfolk Registry of Deeds collected over 82 million dollars in fees and revenues by keeping the Registry of Deeds open through modernization initiatives that use technology.  These collected recording fees were forwarded to the state and county helping to pay for important public initiatives including education, health care, social services programming and public safety expenses.  Significant monies get collected at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds for the Community Preservation Act program that makes its way back to Norfolk County communities.  You may not recognize what the Registry of Deeds does and that is understandable.  However, for most of us the biggest asset we have is our home.  All of us should care about what takes place at the Registry of Deeds because it concerns our home and the real estate records at the Registry of Deeds are used to authenticate the ownership title to your home.  

            This state of the Registry for 2021 will not be soon duplicated – I hope.  There is still a COVID-19 pandemic, workers are concerned about their health and that of their families and there has been a distracting public policy fight over Information Technology that needlessly takes away from running the Registry of Deeds.  Let us hope things will get better.  I prefer to live hopefully and focus on the positive.  I want to thank the Dedham Fire Department and all the first responders who one early Saturday morning this past year discovered a fire at the Registry of Deeds building.  The professionalism of the Dedham Fire Department was on display as they knocked the fire down and all that they and the Massachusetts Fire Marshall’s office did after the fire.  My thanks to all first responders everywhere for what you do everyday especially with the difficulties the pandemic has brought on.  In thanking the first responders that morning I could tell each of them felt they were “just doing their job.”  For the Dedham firefighters it may just be doing their jobs but the effect of what they prevented is so much more.  By putting out that fire  these first responders saved the beautiful Registry of Deeds building but also kept what takes place in that building and the ripple effects to our economy of what take place in that building intact.  THANK YOU DEDHAM FIRE DEPARTMENT.

To you and yours a healthy, prosperous and safe new year. 



The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is closed Today, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.