Milwaukee County Register of Deeds uses document imaging to capture old property information with Fujitsu fi-5900C and fi-6240 scanners
Using Document Imaging to Capture Decades Old Property Information
The office of the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds oversees all of the real estate-related documents that affect titles to approximately 300,000 parcels of land located in Milwaukee County. In addition, the county register is responsible for maintaining formal records from corporation papers and military discharges to financing statements and certified copies of birth, death and marriage records. Managing these vital documents for individuals and businesses requires a document management solution capable of scaling across the entire organization and allows ready-access to, and protection for all of the documents within the county register's files.
Given the need for safe storage, and quick and remote access to land information, the office of the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds began using document imaging technology in 2000. Currently, the Register of Deeds uses two Fujitsu fi-5900C scanners to digitize important legal documents such as land titles and loan information before sending them back to borrowers and banks each day. The organization chose the Fujitsu production scanners because of the devices' ease of use and easy-to-replace consumables. Register office personnel scan approximately 2400 pages of documents each day on the Fujitsu scanners, and make those digitized documents readily available online. Interested parties such as loan officers can then search online public records or visit any computer terminal at the Register's office for this information, without having to look at physical microfilm images.
Recently, as the real estate market's demands on the County Register subsided, officials had the opportunity to reflect on the issue of older document management. The first stand-out project existed in the county's abstract card library of over approximately 1,000,000 cards of vital home information. The cards chronicle properties' chains of title, summarizing all transactions, effectively providing a legal history for the land. The cards also insure the validity of a property title, with the names and dates for property transactions, reference numbers to the deeds and the list of buyers and sellers of the property. The information recorded covers data from the original purchase of land from the U.S. government to the most recent sale. Title searches frequently reference the data in abstract cards prior to closing a home purchase, to examine its legal ownership histories and find out what claims, if any are on the property. While abstract cards created after 1988 have been digitized, those dating back to the 1930's were only available on type written paper cards, without backup copies or databases putting data at risk and forcing title searchers to visit the Register of Deed's offices to access information or to search through on-site microfilms.
John LaFave, Milwaukee county register of deeds, needed a solution to efficiently digitize and create backups of the entire pre-1988 abstract card library. It would have to be a solution that was both quick and required few staff resources, so that daily activities could continue unhindered.
Digitizing and Preserving Decades of Real Estate Data
To tackle the abstract card project, LaFave and his staff turned to Security MicroImaging (http://www.securitymicroimaging.com), an award-winning enterprise content management solution provider with headquarters in Milwaukee, WI, Chicago, IL, and St. Louis, MO. Security MicroImaging was chosen for the task, due to its prior success in identifying the Fujitsu fi-5900C scanners for the office's daily document imaging needs. Additionally, Security MicroImaging had proven to be an extremely responsive partner, providing quick and effective service and support.
"We knew that housing thousands of these cards – cards dating back to the 1930's - without a backup was a great data risk. Rather than waiting for a worst case scenario, we decided to proactively solve the problem using today's technology," said John LaFave, Milwaukee County Register of Deeds. "The Fujitsu fi-6240 scanners were exactly what we needed. They're easy to use, fast and didn't require additional training or personnel to put them into action."
The first step in the abstract card project required digitizing hundreds of thousands of pages of information. To support the effort, Security MicroImaging again recommended Fujitsu devices, selecting two high performance fi-6240 auto document feeder (ADF) and flatbed, departmental scanners. The register quickly deployed the devices, scanning approximately 1,400 dusty and fragile stock card pages in one hour. The devices maintained the integrity of the cards, and were able to create clear digital images. While the fi-6240 scanners are only utilized a few days a week, their ease of use has helped employees operating them become document imaging experts.
Milwaukee County Register employees were especially impressed with the Fujitsu fi-6240 for its advanced paper protection technology, which ensures safe handling of even the oldest abstract cards. Users stack piles of up to 50 sheets of paper, or up to 3, 1.4mm hard cards in the ADF, confident that they will be digitized without causing damage to the original, irreplaceable abstract cards. The fi-6240 scanners can also scan at speeds of up to 60 pages per-minute, while simultaneously implementing auto-color recognition, auto-size detection, and auto de-skew correction technology to give the highest quality digital outputs. At only 11.8 x 22.9 x 9.0 in., the fi-6240 scanners are anything but bulky. As a result, the Milwaukee County Register was able to purchase and easily find room for two of the devices in its offices.
By using the Fujitsu document scanners to digitize paper-based abstract cards, the register's office was able to safeguard historical information and make it easily accessible to remote employees and interested professionals, through online databases. The electronic versions of the abstract cards have also saved title searchers valuable time, effectively relieving them from the task of driving to and from the register's office, and searching through filing cabinets. Previously, title searchers would physically pull and re-file abstract cards every time they looked into a home history for a purchase, lien or loan on the property, and now they are able to instantly access that data from the Milwaukee County Register's website or any onsite computer terminal, and even print copies for their own records. Perhaps most importantly, with the digital copies, the abstract cards now have an authentic backup should anything happen to the original documents.
"This project was one that I'd always wanted to take on, but never had the technology or personnel," said Carla Rice, Milwaukee County supervisor of Tax Listings, and overseer of the abstract card project. "Now that we've actually been able to do this, and are nearly 80% of the way through digitizing thousands of pages of decades old information, I feel like it's a legacy and a piece of history we've been able to successfully preserve."
Need for ready-access to and protection for all of the documents within the county register's files, including all real estate documents for 30,000 parcels of land, and certified copies of birth, death, and marriage certificates.
Digitize and make easily accessible 1,000,000 fragile property cards dating back to the 1930s which provide a legal history for the land to insure the validity of a properties' title.
The digitizing of property cards made the title search process simple to access for employees and interested professionals, by offering them two time-saving options: to search online public records or visit any computer terminal at the Register's Office.
The property cards now have an authentic backup should anything happen to the original documents.