Scribes have existed since recorded history, but the notary's authentication tools were first invented in the Fertile Crescent where in Babylon the use of signatures and distinct signs in clay tablets was required. Egypt innovated the use of papyrus and the calame, added legalistic formalism to document preparation, and had specialized notary-scribes, called sesh n pero' "pharaoh's scribe" or sesh n po "scribe of the nome"—agoranomos in Ptolemaic times—who gave authenticity to instruments without the need for witnesses. In Ancient Israel there existed a similar institution of the notary-scribe known as the sofér. Greek city-states lacked uniformity, but, universally, public instruments, usually deeds and conveyances, were kept in official registers and drafted by scribal mnemone (or basiliki ipographi "king's scribes") who were tied to a certain district and whose written acts trumped oral testimony. These innovations would be combined and adopted under the Roman empire.The notary public article on Wikipedia makes a distinction between notary public and civil law notary:
A notary public (or notary or public notary) of the common law is a public officer constituted by law to serve the public in non-contentious matters usually concerned with estates, deeds, powers-of-attorney, and foreign and international business. A notary's main functions are to administer oaths and affirmations, take affidavits and statutory declarations, witness and authenticate the execution of certain classes of documents, take acknowledgments of deeds and other conveyances, protest notes and bills of exchange, provide notice of foreign drafts, prepare marine or ship's protests in cases of damage, provide exemplifications and notarial copies, and perform certain other official acts depending on the jurisdiction. Any such act is known as a notarization. The term notary public only refers to common-law notaries and should not be confused with civil-law notaries.
In genealogy I constantly use documents, like estates and deeds, which were created by people in some sort of official capacity to make those documents official. I think it will be interesting to play a small part in creating documents which might be used by future genealogists!
Since I'm in California I will go through the Secretary of State as that is the office which "may appoint and commission notaries public in such number as the Secretary of State deems necessary for the public convenience. Notaries public may act as such notaries in any part of this state" (Government Code 8200).
I also found this brief helpful discussion by Vicky LaCelle through a workshop from Fremont College on becoming a notary public in California.
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