History of the Notary Seal

You may be generally aware of what’s involved with “notarizing” a document as part of a transaction, but do you really understand the reasons why a notary seal is required? The mandate of having paperwork executed with a notary service goes back many years, and the process is actually founded with a view to deterring fraud. Have a look back at the history of the notary seal, from early to modern times, to help you better understand why it continues to play a role in many transactions.

The Notary Seal from Ancient Times to the Middle Ages:

The earliest evidence of notary public were the scribes used in Egypt, dating back to 2750 BC. These chroniclers were entrusted with handling official communications, including letters, proclamations or tax documents which must go through their hands to be effective. There is also proof that Rome required a type of commission for a “notarius,” who would prepare written contracts, wills and other documents, literacy being not widespread.

In the Middle Ages, notary services can be traced back to the Order of the Knights Templar around 1099-1307 AD. This quasi-military group was entrusted with protecting Christians en route to the Holy Land, and became very powerful as a result. They established modern banking and loan processes, so the Knights became central as notaries for business transactions and official documents.

The Notary Seal in Common Law England:

The first indication of the role of notaries in England dates back to the 13th and 14th Centuries as the country’s form of common law developed separately from the Roman legal system. A notary public was typically a member of the clergy and would be appointed by a high-ranking church official, either the Papal Legate or Archbishop of Canterbury. However, over time, the requirement of being a clergy member became less important as cities and trading centers positioned notary service in high demand.

Notary Seal from Early America to Modern Times:

Because the U.S. draws its legal system from England – common law, i.e., the law of precedent – notary public professionals have been used in our country since colonial times. Only individuals of high moral character were appointed to certify documents, verify the identification of individuals and keep official papers safe. These early notaries contributed much to the U.S. becoming a business and trading center, as they were very trusted, neutral individuals that could ensure that a transaction was open and honest.

Today, it’s still necessary to obtain a notary seal on certain documents, including those involving real estate, wills or estate planning documents, powers of attorney and other papers as defined by state law.

This overview of the notary seal throughout the ages is helpful in explaining why notarization is necessary when it comes to certain documents and transactions. Our ancestors fear of fraud prompted them to found a process that would reduce the potential for misconduct in executing some types of paperwork. Keep this in mind when you’re looking to retain the services of a notary public or signing agent for your needs.


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