The History of Notaries Public: From Ancient Rome to Modern America

The role of a notary public may seem like a modern invention, but the concept of a trusted witness to authenticate documents and transactions can be traced back thousands of years. In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating history of notaries public, from their origins in ancient Rome to their vital role in present-day America.

Ancient Rome: The Birth of the Notary Profession

The notary profession has its roots in the Roman Empire, where the need for an impartial witness to document and authenticate transactions became evident. Roman notaries, known as “scribae” or “tabelliones,” were skilled scribes who recorded public proceedings, transcribed speeches, and drew up legal documents.

As the empire expanded and commerce flourished, the demand for a trusted individual to verify transactions and ensure that documents were genuine increased. Tabelliones became invaluable in the administration of the empire, acting as a safeguard against forgery and fraud.

The Middle Ages: The Evolution of the Notary’s Role

During the Middle Ages, the notary profession continued to evolve. As the Catholic Church played an increasingly significant role in European society, the Pope appointed notaries, known as “notarius” or “notaires,” to serve the Church and handle ecclesiastical documents. The Church’s influence led to the establishment of strict regulations and standards for notaries, including the requirement for formal education and training.

By the 12th and 13th centuries, the role of notaries had extended beyond the Church, and they became vital to the growing trade between cities and nations. Notaries were responsible for recording commercial contracts, bills of exchange, and other essential documents, helping to foster trust and commerce throughout Europe.

The New World: Notaries in Colonial America

The notary profession arrived in the New World with European settlers, as their expertise in drafting and authenticating documents was crucial for the administration of the colonies. In 1639, the first notary public in America, Thomas Fugill, was appointed in the Connecticut Colony.

Notaries played a significant role in the early development of America, recording land grants, wills, and other legal documents that shaped the colonies’ growth. As America gained its independence, the notary profession continued to be recognized and regulated under the newly formed government.

Modern America: The Notary Public Today

Today, notaries public are an essential part of American society, serving as impartial witnesses to authenticate documents and transactions across various sectors. Each state has its own rules and regulations governing the appointment, duties, and powers of notaries public.

Notaries in modern America are involved in various tasks, such as verifying the identity of signers, ensuring that documents are signed willingly and without coercion, and affixing their seal and signature to confirm the notarization. Advances in technology have also given rise to Remote Online Notarization (RON), allowing notaries to authenticate documents remotely via secure video conferencing.


The history of notaries public is a testament to the enduring need for impartial witnesses to validate documents and transactions throughout human society. From ancient Rome to modern America, notaries have evolved and adapted to the changing needs of their communities, ensuring the integrity of countless transactions and legal agreements. As the world continues to change and technology advances, the notary profession will undoubtedly continue to adapt and play a vital role in our society.

If you require a professional notary service that embraces both the historical foundations and modern advancements in notarization, Signature Signings is here to help. Our team of experienced notaries is dedicated to providing accurate and efficient notary services, whether in-person or through Remote Online Notarization (RON). Trust us to be your reliable partner in navigating the world of notarization with confidence.

Schedule an appointment with one of our skilled notaries at Signature Signings today! Contact Us or give us a call at 1-866-SIG-SIGN (744-7446) to get started. Together, we’ll ensure that your documents are authenticated with the highest level of professionalism and accuracy.

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