Some historical facts about the origins of Notaries

The position of Notary Public and “scribes” of similar roles dates back to Roman times and beyond to ancient Sumeria (3,300 years ago) when written records began.  Initially the position developed in the city states of  Italy and then went throughout Europe.  Now notaries in various forms with differing status and functions exist around the world but in common is that notaries are afforded a high level of trust in them and the documents they authenticate.

The word “notarius” referred to a writer of a new form of shorthand created  in the last century of the Roman Republic.  Later the title “notarius” was applied to registrars attached to high government officials.

The more recent English history commenced when the Pope authorized the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint Notaries in 1279.  Most notaries were clergy.  In 1533 the power of the Pope to appoint notaries was terminated and the King was invested with that power.  That power was devolved to the Archbishop of Canterbury and in turn the power to appoint was devolved to the Master of the Faculties.  A Court of Faculties was created under the Archbishop of Canterbury by the British government.

The following appears on the website of “The Notaries Society” in England & Wales discussing some of the history of notaries in that jurisdiction  “Until 1533 notaries were appointed on papal authority by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Following the break from Rome, appointments continued to be made by the Archbishop of Canterbury – but on the authority of the Crown. The Archbishop’s jurisdiction was, and is, exercised through one of the oldest of the English courts – the Court of Faculties, now physically located at the Precinct adjoining Westminster Abbey in London. The Court is presided over by the Master of the Faculties who is the most senior ecclesiastical judge and commonly also a judge of the Supreme Court. Since 1801 the appointment and regulation of notaries has been underpinned by statutes enacted by Parliament.”

Notaries in Queensland continue to be appointed under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Master of Faculties as are notaries in New Zealand.  Notaries are appointed under state legislation in every other state in Australia.