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Why Notaries Should Always Keep A Journal

New-Notary-Journal-resized.jpgUpdated 1-10-22. New Notaries often ask why they need to keep a journal. The answer is that a Notary can be sued over a notarization years after it takes place, but well-kept journal records will protect you if that happens. This is especially important during COVID-19, when Notaries and signers are dealing with many unusual and challenging situations, and recording details of unusual circumstances may provide crucial evidence if one of your notarizations is challenged. Here's how:

Journals Protect Notaries From False Accusations

Notaries have shared stories about  customers complaining to them about faulty notarizations. Checking the journal records can confirm that the Notary did the job properly, or help reveal if someone tampered with the document or is trying to commit fraud:

  • One Notary checked her journal records and discovered the alleged faulty notarizations never happened in the first place.
  • Another asked to see a copy of the document in question after finding no entry in her journal for the notarial act the customer described. When she received the document, she saw the signatures were completely different from the original ones she notarized and refused to correct the notarization.
  • A Florida Notary was contacted by a borrower about a set of loan documents notarized more than a decade earlier. This Notary still had her journals from that time, even though Florida does not have a journal requirement. Her journal entries showed that she performed the notarizations properly. Evidently, however, another Notary was asked to re-perform the notarizations on the loan documents, and they may have been fraudulently notarized.

How Long Should Notaries Keep Their Journals?

Most states do not require traditional pen-and-paper Notaries to maintain journals, though some states such as Florida still recommend that Notaries keep a journal voluntarily. (Florida Notaries authorized to perform remote online notarizations in Florida are required to keep a secure electronic journal of their online notarizations.) In states that do require a journal, the law varies from state to state.

In California, Notaries are required to keep their journals for as long as they remain Notaries. Once they stop being a Notary, they must turn their journals in to the county clerk in the county in which the Notary’s current oath of office is on file.

In Texas, Notaries must keep a physical journal either for the entire term of the commission in which the last recorded notarization was performed or for three years following the date of the last recorded notarization, whichever is longer. When they stop being a Notary, their physical journals must be turned in to the county clerk of the county in which they reside. Texas Notaries who perform online electronic notarizations must retain the electronic record of an online notarization in a safe and secure manner for five years following the date of notarization.  

In the absence of a state law or regulation on archiving and depositing journals, Article VII-B-3 of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility recommends storing and safeguarding journals for at least 10 years from the date of the last entry completed in the journal.

These are the minimum standards. Professional standards of practice suggest that Notaries handling real estate and mortgage signings keep their journals longer, since many mortgage loans have a lifespan of more than 10 years.

The reason is simple: If you are asked about a notarization you performed many years ago, the chances of being able to recall the details from memory alone are slim to nonexistent. In fact, failing to complete a journal entry has caused serious legal problems for some Notaries.

The information in a properly recorded journal entry provides evidence showing whether a Notary acted properly and protects the Notary against lawsuits.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.




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David Nixon

11 Jun 2018

Why does this mask appear over the article????? Call me, as I have asked this many times and it still keeps happening.

National Notary Association

11 Jun 2018

Hello Mr. Nixon. We're sorry you are having difficulty viewing an article. If you can please email us at with the following information: The type of device and browser you are using, the article you are having trouble with, a description or screenshot of the issue and your contact information, we will have one of our staff contact you to try and help resolve the issue.


11 Jun 2018

I always thought that as a Notary I am serving the public by witnessing their signature AND creating a legal recording of that witnessing in my Journal. It is what the public is hiring me to do. That includes maintaining the record of the act in perpetuity. So keeping the records- my Journal isn’t to protect me necessarily- rather doing the duty I am appointed to do.


06 May 2019

I have always kept a journal since I became an NNA member, in 2013. I am on my 6th journal now and I always keep it locked up. I do NOT use any ditto marks. As long as I ask the signers if it is ok for me to fill in the rest of the cells for further notorizations at the signing after I copy their identification information after the signing, I fill in the rest of the cells at my leisure, in my home office. I also ask for a rh thumbprint for all security instruments (though it is only mandatory now in Cook Co, IL and I have done any notarizations in Cook Co. They can decline. When they are willing, I remind them that this becomes another piece of evidence of their ownership of the property for which they are signing. I also give a verbal oath for jurats: “Do you solemnly swear under the penalty of perjury that the information in this document is true and correct to the best of your knowledge, so help you God?” Can't prevent all fraud, but you can gauge "possible" fraud if you get resistance. You know, we DO NOT have to agree to witness and notarize ANY documents for just A N Y B O D Y. I have reused 2 signing jobs, so far, when it just didn't "smell right." Just fyi, if you haven't considered this.

Robert W. Patterson

01 Jun 2020

#1 reason for keeping a journal, some day, you are going to be the last person to see somebody alive and the authorities may have a few questions for you. Happened to me about 10 years ago.

Elaine Hopkins

09 Jun 2020

I emailed my renewal application last week and want to confirm receipt and processing.

National Notary Association

10 Jun 2020

Hello. Please contact our Customer Care team directly at 1-800-876-6827 and they should be able to assist you.

18 Jan 2021

Need to renew my notary

National Notary Association

19 Jan 2021

Hello. If you would like to renew through the NNA, you can start here:

18 Jan 2021

In Hawaii, it is mandatory that you turn in your journals to the state Attorney General's office upon renewal or resigning of your commission.. Failure to do so results in a mandatory $500 fine per journal.


19 Jan 2021

Hawaii just just passed Act 54, effective as of January 1, 2021 which requires all notaries to retain their journals for a period of 10 years. Journals may be called in for review from time to time, HRS 456-16.

Dihanna Flores

05 Mar 2021

How do I find out how to do the electronic notarizing? I have been trying to figure out the WHOLE process without violating any laws. As a legal assistant in Texas, with COVID etc., it's almost necessary to be able to have parties sign electronically. Are people zooming and watching people sign documents? How does it work?

National Notary Association

05 Mar 2021

Hello. This chart describes the differences between pen-and-paper, electronic signatures and remote online notarization: For information on remote online notarization in Texas, please see here:


17 Jan 2022

In California can the notary use a pdf instead of an actual journal and just print the pages and have signatures.

National Notary Association

22 Mar 2022

A California Notary can keep an electronic journal. However, the law requiring that the journal must be surrendered to the county recorder’s office when the Notary retires or quits being a Notary still applies. This means that the journal must be surrendered as a book that is permanently bound on paper and in sequential order.

C Gary Bowers

29 Mar 2022

I have arthritic hands and wrists and the large heavy journal is difficult to manage. Is there a more compact or single journal available. I have removed pages from the book however that doesn't professional! HELP...

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