About

The objectives of the Pennsylvania State Associations of the Prothonotaries and Clerks of Courts are for the purpose of securing more uniformity and cooperation in the conduct of their offices and improving their service to the public. Read the bylaws.

History

The Clerk of the Court of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer has existed in Pennsylvania since the first organization of English government in colonial America. A change in the Pennsylvania Constitution consolidated all the various courts into the Court of Common Pleas with the clerk now being known as the Clerk of Courts.

Most duties performed by other row officers today were responsibilities that belonged to the early clerks. For example: duties such as recording judgments, executions and attachments, maintaining naturalization records are now performed by the prothonotary; recording of deeds and surveys of town plots, also commissions granted now belong to the recorder of deeds; and the entering of wills or administrations fall within the realm of the register of wills.

In addition to those records, many other types of records that are now obsolete were at one time preserved by the clerks. Some of the more interesting ones were:

  • Bolter and Baker Brandmarks (1724) a record of trademarks of bolters, bakers and flour millers containing the date of registry, copy of the mark and name of the owner.
  • Lists of Slave-Owners (1780-88 and after) names of all persons in the county who own slaves. Each list contained the owner's name and also the name, age, sex, and length of required servitude for each slave in his possession.
  • Peddler's Bonds (1830) the bonds which were annually posted by every hawker and peddler before the court would grant a license to him.
  • Transient Medical Practitioners (1877-1911) Anyone who opened a transient medical office within the county was obliged to secure a license from the Clerk of Courts after furnishing a diploma from a chartered medical school or a record of the places where he had practiced. (Early medicine men?)
  • Stallion Certificates (1893-1911) Certificates indicating the name and age of the stallion, date foaled, description and pedigree plus owner information.
  • Motor Vehicle Affidavits (1919-23) this included registration of second-hand autos sold or transferred within the various townships of the county containing names and addresses of the vendor and vendee.

The one enduring responsibility of the Clerk to this day has been custodian of the criminal court records from the early hand-written dockets to the evolution of the present-day technological records that are maintained.