Finding Public Records in Connecticut

To those of you from out-of-state looking for a county recorder's office where you can search for public records, Connecticut will present some confusion at first. Actually, though, the organization of CT filing offices and courts is fairly simple.

The main thing to remember is that there's no county government in Connecticut (with the limited exception of the county sheriffs, who still provide guard and prisoner transport services in the courthouses, and other public safety services). County government was abolished in the 1970s in favor of local rule. So, there are no county courts and no county recording offices. Geographically, however, the eight counties of Fairfield, Litchfield, New Haven, New London, Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland and Windham are still acknowledged.

As a result, the civil and family courts (Superior Courts) were re-organized into Judicial Districts, which roughly follow the old county boundaries (Fairfield and New Haven Counties being the main exceptions). Criminal courts, small claims courts, and traffic courts were re-organized within Geographical Areas, and these courts are generally found in the principal cities and towns. See the complete directory listing for these courts on the Court PC "Resources" page.

The Superior Courts are the courts of general jurisdiction (for civil matters with more than $5,000 in dispute, foreclosures, divorces, etc.), and they maintain all records on court cases filed in or transferred between those locations. Superior Courts also are the place to go to register foreign judgments. If you're looking for an index of judgments, however, be advised that court clerks generally do not maintain such an index, as they do in many counties elsewhere. You must search for these in the local town or city records, as any judgments affecting an interest in real property would be recorded on the local land records where your subject owns property.

Instead of having centralized county land records offices or county registrars of deeds, Connecticut deed and mortgage records are filed at the local level, and each city or town (169 in all) maintains its own land records in the office of the town or city clerk. A complete listing of town government offices and officers (with addresses, phone numbers and hours) can be found at the CT Secretary of State's Register & Manual, Section VII.

Aside from the extra legwork involved for public records researchers, the main problem arising from this administrative framework is identifying those localities that are actually incorporated towns with local records offices. Many so-called "towns" are actually not incorporated but are part of another town or city*. For example, Huntington, CT has a town center, a fire station and its own postal station. It looks like a town in its own right, but it is actually part of Shelton, and all property records for Huntington residents will be found in Shelton. Similarly, the Town of Greenwich has several localities (Byram, Cos Cob, Glenville, Mianus, Riverside, etc.), each of which appears to be a separate little town with schools, business districts, community centers. post offices, etc., but which are actually all part of the Town of Greenwich.

Connecticut's probate system complicates matters a bit further, as most towns and all cities (133 probate districts, for those who are counting) had their own probate courts. Recent legislation re-drew the state's probate court structure, creating 54 probate courts in seven districts. This step was taken to conserve resources, and to help centralize and standardize data collection and administration. For a complete updated listing as of January 2011, check the Probate court link on the Court PC "Resources" page. To locate a will in Connecticut, you'll need to know the town where the decedent resided at the time of death.

If you're looking for a public record and aren't sure which location to check, contact Court PC at the addresses or numbers given on the "Contact" page. Additional CT public records may be located through various sources listed on the "Resources" page of this website.

* - The Secretary of State's Register & Manual used to have an excellent directory which listed each CT post office and the incorporated town in which it was found, but it has apparently been omitted it from the latest issue. It's been replaced with a simple list of all CT post offices with their zip codes.

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