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County Clerk

The office of county clerk dates from 1818, when it was titled clerk of the county commissioners' court. The commissioners' courts appointed the county clerks until 1837, when the office became elective, with a four-year term that was reduced to two years in 1845.1 In 1848, the office of county clerk became constitutional, with a four-year term.2

Originally, the clerk's duties were to keep the records of the commissioners' court, to deal with official county correspondence, and to receive the official bonds of the county officials. The Constitution of 1848 gave clerks the duties of ex officio recorders, but provided that the General Assembly could, by law, make the clerk of the circuit court ex officio recorder in lieu of the county clerk.3 In 1849, the General Assembly enacted legislation making circuit clerks ex officio county recorders.4 In 1963, the duties of ex officio county recorder were transferred to the county clerk.5

In 1849, clerks became clerks of the county board in township-organized counties. Their duties were to keep the minutes of the board, records of their appropriations, and orders for payment of county money.6 In 1874, the first index law required the county clerk to index his official bonds. At present, all papers in the offices of the clerk must be indexed for the public7

County clerks served as clerks of the county courts from 1848 to 1963. They were charged with keeping the court records, issuing all court papers, and keeping the court docket.8

County clerks have held significant responsibilities dealing with taxation. In 1825, clerks were required to keep the county assessment and tax lists on file for use by assessors and collectors, and in 1827, they were also required to keep records of all land tax forfeiture sales, to take payments for land redemptions, and to correct the state's assessment lists.9 In 1845, county clerks were made responsible for overseeing the county collectors, and were also required to compute each taxpayer's school tax.10 In 1853, the clerks became responsible for calculating the taxes of each taxpayer, for settling accounts with township collectors, and for making necessary corrections to the assessment books.11 Clerks were also charged with keeping indexes of forfeited lands and lands sold for taxes.12 From 1898 to 1923, county clerks were members of county assessment boards of review, in counties with population less than 125,000. The Revenue Act of 1939, still in effect, certified these duties.13

County clerks are supervisors of local and county elections. As early as 1819, they were given the duty of overseeing the vote count, certifying the winners, and abstracting the returns for the Illinois Secretary of State.14 Boards of election commissioners took over the vote counting in 1885, but the clerks continued to add to their list of responsibilities. In 1891, they began to receive nominations for positions on the ballot; in 1901 they began to keep lists of election precincts and districts; in 1903 they began to keep lists of voters who participated in an election; and in 1905 they began to oversee party primaries.15 In 1943, the clerks discontinued listing precincts and voters and receiving nominations. They became supervisors of voter registration, with overall responsibility for the vote count.16 In addition, county clerks have kept birth and death records since 1843 and stillbirth records since 1919.17 They have licensed marriages, profes sions, taverns and ferries; maintained the jury system; awarded animal bounties; bonded free blacks; and listed school lands sold, among other duties.18

Record Descriptions

1L. 1819, p. 175; L. 1837, p. 49; L. 1845, p. 28.
2Constitution of 1848, Article V, section 19.
3Constitution of 1848, Article V, section 19.
4L. 1849, p. 64.
5L. 1963, p. 2695.
6 L. 1849, p. 62.
7Rev. Stat. 1874, Chapter 35, section 10; Rev. Stat. 1979, Chapter 35, section 10.
8L. 1849, p. 62; L. 1871-72, pp. 325, 340.
9L. 1825, p. 173; Rev. L. 1827, p. 332.
10L. 1845, pp. 7, 72.
11L. 1853, pp. 20, 71, 19.
12L. 1898, p. 46.
13L. 1939, p. 886.
14L. 1819, p. 96.
154L.1885, p. 148; L. 1891, p. 109; L. 1901, p. 167; L. 1903, p. 175; L. 1905, p. 228.
16L. 1943, 2: 2, 16, 35, 216.
17L. 1843, p. 210; L. 1919, p. 558.
18Rev. L. 1827, p. 289; L. 1877, p. 209; L. 1899, pp. 272,280; L. 1819, p. 77; Rev. L. 1827, p. 221; L. 1873, p. 182; Rev. L. 1827, p. 250; Rev. L. 1879, p. 109; L. 1845, p. 57.