We’ve all heard the terms “notary” or “notary public” a million times. And it’s likely we’ve used the services of a notary public at least once or twice in our lives. We at Langley Notary Public help scores of customers each year with a variety of tasks.

But do most people really know what a Canadian notary public does and why? And how did they get that strange name?

History of the Notary Public

The origin of the notary can actually be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt and the scribes or “sesh” that were charged with the task of penning personal letters, official communications, tax records, and more, usually for the wealthy. Their job was viewed as very important and, hence, so were they.

But the origin of the word “notary” likely goes back to the Roman Empire and the 6th Century A.D.  It is believed that the first notary was a slave named Tiro, who used a shorthand system called “notae” to write down the speeches of orator Cicero. As other stenographers were needed and added, they became known as notarii. And because literacy was not widespread, these well-educated notarii were often called on to prepare wills, contracts, and other documents for a fee, much like today’s notaries.

The famous Knights Templar were even in the notary business. As the creators of modern banking, loans, and mortgages, this monastic military order had highly-educated notaries that handled all official documents and proclamations.

Later, notaries were introduced into England and other European Countries, likely around the 13th and 14th centuries. A few even accompanied Christopher Columbus on all of his voyages so that they could accurately document all the treasures he discovered as he ventured into the New World.

In Colonial America, notaries were appointed and charged with the task of keeping documents safe as well as authenticating official documents and recordkeeping. The job of the American notary hasn’t changed much over the years and nearly anyone can become a notary. Nearby in Canada, notaries did similar tasks but requirements to obtain notary licensure have always been more strict.

Today, in Canada, the way in which one becomes a notary varies with the provinces. Some provinces require that applicants possess a law degree while others only require a particular university course in order for one to become certified as a notary public.

Responsibilities of today’s notaries

In British Columbia, notaries like Lilian Cazacu of Langley Notary Public, are appointed for life by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. As a self-regulating profession, the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia is the regulatory body overseeing and setting standards to maintain public confidence, the society notes.

In Canada, unlike in many other countries, the notary is involved in real estate transactions. As such, they assist in handling home purchases and sales as well as business purchases and sales, mortgages and refinancing, title transfers, builder’s liens, and restrictive covenants. Notaries assist clients in understanding all the complexities of real estate deals and navigate them through potentially lengthy transactions that can certainly be confusing to the average person.

In addition, most notaries like Lilian and his staff assist with estate and personal planning. That means they are licensed to prepare last wills and testaments, advance directives, representation agreements, and powers of attorney for their clients. And they don’t do it in a cookie cutter way. At Langley Notary Public, they take time to get to know the needs of their customers and proceed accordingly. Notaries can even function as executors for wills, eliminating the need to choose a family member for this monumental task.

And just like in days of old, notaries take on the task of “notarizing” or authenticating particular documents such as passport applications, statutory declarations, proof of identity for travel, letters of invitation for foreign travel, and authorization of minor child travel. They can also authenticate international documents and attest to the authenticity of signatures and even administer oaths.

Bet you didn’t know just how much a notary can do and what it takes to become one! Notaries like Lilian Cazacu study hard to amass the knowledge they need to help clients with important tasks such as those outlined above and work hard each day to maintain the integrity of their office and the confidence of their customers.