History of the County Clerk

The County Clerk in the State of New Jersey is one of three County Constitutional Officers, along with the Sheriff and Surrogate. The County Clerk, elected to a five-year term, is responsible for the administration of a broad range of services including the filing and recording of all documents affecting real estate ownership/transfer, the processing of U.S. passport applications, assisting individuals who wish to become a Notary Public, the issuance of Identification Cards, the filing of Business Trade Names, and the supervision of elections.

The role of the County Clerk evolved from medieval times, when few could read and write. “Clericus” or “clerks” maintained records of transfer or real estate and other functions. They enjoyed the protection of the church and “benefit of clergy,” which prohibited the courts from gaining jurisdiction over them and provided exemption from punishments for crimes.

For 500 years, through the 16th century, the transfer of property occurred by documents written and held by the clerks. And because these clerks could read and write, they became “clerks to the courts” in England and then in the American colonies.

After the Revolutionary War, the State of New Jersey codified the basic concept that recording was necessary to protect purchasers of property. The “Conveyancing Act of 1799,” required property transfers to be “recorded” in a “register” or be “void and of no effect.”  These laws required that these tasks be performed by the “clerks of the inferior courts of common pleas and quarter sessions” who were “appointed by the council and assembly and commissioned by the governor” (New Jersey Constitution of 1776, Article XII). The maintenance of those records was perceived as a supplemental “judicial” function under the Constitution, since the clerk of the county served first as clerk to the court and then as clerk to the citizens.

The New Jersey Constitution of 1844 removed the clerks from the control of the executive and judiciary and had their powers conferred upon them by the voters. They were made constitutional officers, and served for fixed terms.

Since 1844, the Clerks, as expert constitutional officers, perform what is now a statutory function in recording documents of title, as well as other significant responsibilities regarding elections and record keeping.

Monmouth County Clerks – (1784 to present)

County Clerk Dates
Kenneth Anderson, Jr. 1784
Jonathan Rhea 1784 – 1793
Joseph Scudder 1797 – 1807
Joseph Phillips 1807
Caleb Lloyd 1812 – 1817
Joseph Phillips 1817 – 1819
William TenEyck 1820 – 1829
Daniel H. Ellis 1831 – 1840
Samuel Mairs 1841 – 1845
Daniel Christopher 1846 – 1855
John Patterson 1856 – 1857
John W. Bartleson 1858
Holmes W. Murphy 1858 – 1867
Thomas V. Arrowsmith 1868 – 1882
Joseph C. Arrowsmith 1882
James H. Patterson 1883 – 1889
C. Ewing Patterson 1889
John T. Haight 1890 – 1892
Theodore Aumack 1893 – 1898
Joseph McDermott 1898 – 1938
George M. Roberts 1938
Raymond L. Wyckoff 1938 – 1939
J. Russell Woolley 1939 – 1969
Howard Height 1939
Benjamin H. Danskin 1970 – 1974
John R. Fiorino 1975 – 1979
Jane G. Clayton 1980 – 1996
M. Claire French 1997 – 2015
Christine Giordano Hanlon 2015 – Present