County government records
Scope and Content
The records of county government are arranged alphabetically by county. Within each county, four possible subseries may be found: Commissioners, Jail, Temporary Home, and Treasurer.
Commissioner records may contain bills and receipts, correspondence, minutes, personnel records, and reports. Records of particular interest are: municipal building cornerstone contents, 1892-94 from Middlesex County; records related to county wards placed in foster care, 1941-55, and the temporary home sale, 1955-60, from New Haven County; and bonds and applications for liquor licenses, 1881-95, from Tolland County.
Jail records include account books, bills and recepits, day books, journals, ledger books, prisoner board records, commitments and discharges, returns, and sheriff's logs.
Temporary Home records include admissions and discharges, bills and recepits, records of children, and records of visitors.
Treasurer records include bills and receipts, bonds, and cancelled checks.
The records of the County Courts are part of Record Group 003 and are not included here.
- Creation: 1792-1961
Language of Materials
The records are in English.
Restrictions on Access
Some of the County Government records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.
See the Rules and Procedures for Researchers Using Archival Records and Secured Collections policy.
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
County government began in Connecticut in 1666 with the creation of four counties: Fairfield, Hartford, New Haven, and New London for the purpose of operating courts and jails. Eventually four additional counties were formed: Windham (1726), Litchfield (1751), Middlesex (1785), and Tolland (1785). Due to the importance of town government in Connecticut, however, the counties never acquired the significance that they did in other parts of the nation.
Originally, two commissioners and their assistant handled all court matters, including maintenance of the courthouse and jail. Changes to the county courts began shortly after their formation and in 1838 legal matters were separated from business operations. Under this change, only one of the three county officials was appointed judge of the county count instead of all three, as in the past. The other two officials were given the responsibility of managing the county affairs and property. A complete separation of the county's judicial and administrative activities was made in 1841, and all three county officials, now called commissioners and appointed by the General Assembly, devoted their full time to county matters.
Administration of the jails was turned over to the sheriff in 1799, an office that antedated the establishment of the counties. Originally the General Court appointed marshals, but after the formation of the first four counties, each county court appointed its own marshal, beginning in 1687. The title was changed to sheriff in 1724 and appointment was transferred to the governor, and later to the General Assembly after the adoption of the 1818 Constitution. A constitutional amendment in 1886 made the office elective. Still, the commissioners were required to supervise management of the jail, audit its accounts, control some of the expenditures, and prescribe general regulations.
The office of Treasurer was established in 1703 to keep an account of all fines and penalties issued by the county courts. Eventually the treasurer was appointed by the commissioners and kept accounts of the county's receipts and expenditures. The commissioners also appointed a sealer of weights and measures, who had broad inspecting duties, a clerk, courthouse employees, and approved the sheriff's appointment of deputy jailers.
The powers of the counties changed over the years. When the first four counties were formed in 1666, they were permitted to issue licenses for the sale of wines and liquors. In 1838, town authorities were authorized to nominate persons as tavern keepers, although the actual granting of licenses was made by the county courts. The county commissioners received the power to issue liquor licenses in 1854. In 1872, the procedure for handling licenses changed again and the county commissioners were given sole responsibility for granting the licenses. The counties also acquired two welfare functions. In 1883, counties began to operate temporary homes for neglected and uncared-for children. Prior to this, these children were kept in town almshouses, placed with pauper families, or placed in institutions. In 1919 the counties began to administer the Widow's Aid program financed by the state to provide financial assistance to widows with dependant children under sixteen.
A number of factors contributed to the demise of county government. New state agencies took over functions performed by the counties. After the repeal of Prohibition, the state's Liquor Control Commission began to grant liquor licenses, and in 1941 the state's Aid to Dependent Children program replaced the Widows' Aid program. The trend to place children in foster homes, coupled with changes in welfare laws in 1953 and disturbances in various county temporary homes paved the way for the closing of the homes in 1955. At that time all children under county care were placed under state jurisdiction. The operation of the jails, the last remaining major function of county government, came under criticism for the age of the structures, treatment of prisoners, and administration. Calls for reforms led to the abolition of county government effective October 1, 1960.
Source: County Government in Connecticut, Its History and Demise, (Storrs, Conn: Institute of Public Service, Extended and Continuing Education, University of Connecticut, 1966), especially chapters 5 - 8.
53.5 cubic feet
Commissioner, Jail, Termporary Home, and Treasurer records from the eight Connecticut counties.
Series 1. Fairfield County (1942-1960) includes records of the Commissioners and the Temporary Home.
Series 2. Hartford County (1792-1959) includes records of the Commissioners, the Jail, and the Temporary Home.
Series 3. Litchfield County (1895-1960) includes records of the Jail.
Series 4. Middlesex County (1790-1960) includes records of the Commissioners and the the Jail.
Series 5. New Haven County (1892-1961) includes records of the Commissioners and the Temporary Home.
Series 6. New London County (1841-1960) includes records of the Commissioners and the Jail.
Series 7. Tolland County (1795-1939) includes records of the Commissioners and the Treasurer.
Series 8. Windham County (1874-1955) includes records of the Commissioners, the Jail, the Temporary Home, and the Treasurer.
After the abolition of county government effective October 1, 1960, various units of state and town government took over many of the functions performed at the county level. The Budget Division of the Department of Finance and Control liquidated any records not taken over by successor agencies and turned many records over to the State Library in 1961. Unfortunately, a large quantity of material was approved for destruction. A list of materials destroyed at that time is available in the Archives office.
Under administrative and professional practices at that time, the State Library catalogued much of the materials and placed them in the manuscript collection. Materials received by the State Archives after 1961 became part of Record Group 061.
Genre / Form
- Fairfield County (Conn.)
- Hartford County (Conn.)
- Litchfield County (Conn.)
- Middlsex County (Conn.)
- New Haven County (Conn.)
- New London County (Conn.)
- Tolland County (Conn.)
- Windham County (Conn.)
- Children--Institutional care--Connecticut--Fairfield County
- Children--Institutional care--Connecticut--New Haven County
- Children--Institutional care--Connecticut--Windham County
- County government--Connecticut
- Jails--Connecticut--Hartford County
- Jails--Connecticut--Litchfield County
- Jails--Connecticut--Middlesex County
- Jails--Connecticut--New London County
- Jails--Connecticut--Windham County
- County Government, Records of
- Inventory of Records
- Finding aid prepared by Paul E. Baran.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
Part of the Connecticut State Library Repository