History of Notary Public

notary publicThe office of Notary Public is as important today as it was in ancient Rome. Over centuries the duties remain much the same although the methods differ. The title Notary comes from the Latin word “notarius”, a notarial officer. These early notaries began as “scribae” or scribes, who copied documents with painstaking accuracy. Scribes were the human equivalent of the copy machine so their reputation was built on producing reliable copies.

The Roman Senate had some long winded speakers and churned out piles of records for their public proceedings (sounds like our Congress!) so the best Scribes were promoted to “Notarius”. In this position, the text was taken in a crude form of shorthand and later transcribed by the Notarius. To validate this as the official public record, a “notae” was imprinted on the document. This was is the first version of today’s Notary Seal.

Even in the Roman Empire, Notaries held a position of trust within the legal system. The same is true for a Notary Public

The Notary Public Today

in the 21st Century. The tools of the trade for today’s Notary incorporate digital media yet one element remains sacred, the seal. Depending on state rules, a Notary Public uses the raised print, embossed seal or the stamped seal to imprint name, commission number and expiration date of the commission on a document. The signature of the Notary means the same as it did in ancient times, that the document is authentic. A notarized document is recognized for real estate transactions, mortgage deeds, affirming power of attorney and other legal documents.

Where once the Roman Road system opened the world for travel, the Internet linked the world with the speed of a mouse click. Once again, the functions of the Notary Public adapted to the times and to the online environment. Electronic systems and software make it possible to notarize and validate signatures at a distance. That’s quite a change from the long standing procedure where a signor appears in person so the Notary Public actually sees the signature placed on a document.

Notary Public Software

To maintain the security and trust of the process, notary software systems provide alternative means of identification with a scanner for fingerprints. The Notary Public can archive both the electronic signature and fingerprint scan in the notary journal as proof of the signor’s identity. Acceptance of the e-notarization process is gradually increasing in the United States. In 2006, the National Notary Association began working with the Special Commission on General Affairs and Policy of the HCCH in The Hague, Netherlands to develop an internationally recognized digital process for Apostilles called the E-APP.

The work of the Notary Public as a trusted public official is adaptable to changing methods of business and record keeping. With post-911 fears and the rise of identify theft, validating signatures takes on a new role in the fight against terrorism and white collar crime. A Notary Public is to be linked to a tradition of trust and reliability that easily moves into the electronic age.