A Brief History of Notary Publics

Notary publics are legal officers who are authorized to administer oaths, which allows them to perform a number of official acts according to the laws of the state in which the notaries operate. Notary New York City is allowed to authenticate certain types of documents, take affidavits and statuary declarations, and accept acknowledgement of legally binding conveyances such as deeds. These notaries must pass a rigorous examination before they are allowed to work in their field. The term “notary public” refers specifically to notaries who work with common law rather than with private civil law.

Notaries in Ancient Times

In ancient Rome, very few people apart from aristocrats knew how to read or write. Yet, these people still had need of written conveyances such as wills and contracts. A class of public officials known as “notari” was created to deal with this need. A notarius would prepare a document, which was then “signed” by the signatory, either using a signet ring on a wax seal or a crude symbol written by hand.

In renaissance Italy, notaries became the chief legal functionaries. In fact, in countries whose legal systems are derived from civil rather than from common law, notaries still play a far more important role today than they do in the United States. Such countries include many European and South American nations. Notaries accompanied Christopher Columbus on all of his voyages at the insistence of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

The rise of common law in England meant that notaries were part of the legal system there until the 14th century. At first, all notaries in England were actually foreign emissaries appointed by the Papal Legate.

Notaries in the United States

The first notary in the American Colonies was a man called Thomas Fugill in New Haven. He was appointed in 1639 but soon thereafter stripped of his office for falsifying documents.

President Calvin Coolidge’s father was a notary. When Coolidge was sworn in as President in 1923, he asked that his father be allowed to administer the oath of office. This was the only time in American history when a president was sworn in by a notary.…

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