Finding Love in Title: A Registry Romance

February 13, 2014

After spending a summer doing real estate research following her second year at Boston University Law School, Ruth Dillingham became hooked on the registry of deeds. She loved working with the historic records. Discovering who had owned what and when fascinated her.

After graduating, Dillingham looked for a job in real estate in the Boston area. She soon started working for a conveyancing law firm in downtown Boston in 1979. The majority of Dillingham’s time was spent pulling dusty deed books, chaining back titles and creating title abstracts in the registry of deeds at the Suffolk County Courthouse.

“I quickly learned the unspoken rules and etiquette of the registry,” said Dillingham, who is special counsel for First American Title Insurance Co. “Certain people arrived every day and always sat on certain stools at the oak, high-topped counters. No one else could sit there—even if the regular wasn’t there.”

The regulars were characters, according to Dillingham. inside jokes, games of liar’s poker with $1 bills and shared lunches made up the fabric of the registry.

“Many of the title examiners had obviously been doing this for decades and it was quickly obvious that the grand marshal of the entire group was the kindly gent named Bernie at the next table over from where I sat that summer,” she added.

As the summer moved on, Dillingham noticed she was “clearly the youngest person in the room on a daily basis.” The next youngest was someone a little older, had obvious expertise and “was good looking.”

Dillingham learned that Bernie had been encouraging the gentleman to curtail his bachelor ways. One day after talking with Dillingham, Bernie gave Robert Curran the following ultimatum: “Either ask that cute girl from Connecticut out for a cup of coffee or there will be no more referrals of title work.”

“The good looking guy took the hint and did ask me out for the cup of coffee, and a few lunches as well,” Dillingham said. “Long story short, by fall we were dating. By the next summer we were an ‘item.’ In two years we were married and quickly had a son and daughter. And this past December we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. Thanks, Bernie.”

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or