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Why Notaries should always keep a journal

A person journaling with a smiley face

Updated 3-25-24. 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. Here's how:

Journals protect Notaries from false accusations

Customers sometimes claim a Notary performed a faulty notarization. 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. Here are some real-life examples:

  • 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 over to the county clerk in the county in which the Notary’s current oath of office is on file.

Illinois Notaries must maintain custody and control of their journals during the term of the Notary's commission, and store journals in a secure and locked location when not in use, and physical journals must be kept for a minimum of 5 years after the Notary's commission ends. If the Notary uses an electronic journal, the electronic journal must be retained in a computer or other electronic storage device that protects the journal and recording against unauthorized access by password or cryptographic process. An electronic journal must be retained for at least 7 years after the last electronic or remote notarial act chronicled in the journal. 

New York Notaries are required to keep a journal record of all their notarial acts. Each journal entry for a notarization must include the following information:

  1. The date, approximate time, and type of notarial acts performed
  2. The name and address of any individuals for whom a notarial act was performed
  3. The number and type of notarial services provided
  4. The type of credential used to identify the principal
  5. For electronic notarial acts, identification of the communication technology, certification authority, and verification providers used

The New York Notary must complete the journal entry contemporaneously with the performance of the notarial act — not before the notarial ceremony starts or after it concludes. If the Notary has registered to perform electronic notarizations (the term for remote notarizations in New York), the Notary must keep both a journal and make a video and audio recording of the electronic notarial act. Journals must be kept by the Notary for at least 10 years. For more information, please see the NNA’s page on New York’s 2023 administrative rules.

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 the Editorial Manager at the National Notary Association.

Related Articles:

What every Notary needs to know about journals

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Add your comment

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...

Wanda Y. Knight-Allen

28 Oct 2022

In Georgia, are commissioned notaries considered NSA once qualified, with Background check, E&O insurance, pass exam? But only with an Attorney?

National Notary Association

17 Nov 2022

Hello. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed a State Bar advisory opinion concluding that a real estate closing is the practice of law and requiring a Georgia attorney to be present or involved in real estate closings. Please see here for more information:

Karen Keith-Zamora

30 Jan 2023

What are the notary laws in Iowa concerning a journal?

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2023

Hello. Iowa does not require Notaries to keep a journal.

Luz Rose

30 Jan 2023

I am from CA. Q: Some lenders are very specific about how the borrower should sign even thou their legal signature is different. When they are signing my journal, should I ask them to sign the same way they sign the docs or I should ask them to use their legal signature?

National Notary Association

23 Mar 2023

The journal should be signed in the same manner that they signed the document.

Jerry Lucas

30 Jan 2023

Before the Pilgrims landed in 1620, there were royal notaries who accompanied the Conquistadors in North and Sooth America and kept written journals of the expeditions for the King of Spain. Before the American Revolution, colonial notaries kept journals, following the common law practices of England. The colonial notary journal records of William Aspinwall of Boston (1644-1651) include transactions of famous passengers from the Mayflower. As states were formed, they accepted the common law of England as the legal foundation (known as a reception statute) and added new laws (statutes) as time passed. If notary statutes do not mention a notary journal, the common law of England still applies. It is not extinct or repealed. If a statute has been written about keeping a notary journal, the modern statute supersedes the common law. Notaries are public officials, agents of the government. They are government record keepers. Notaries and scribes have kept records for centuries, since writing systems were invented. There are surviving clay tablets of notaries from ancient Sumeria, who used a reed stylus and cuneiform writing, that are 5,000 years old. The word notary means record keeper, one who takes notes, from the Latin word notarius.


02 Feb 2023

If I am working in Law office and signed a lot of affidavit of mailing during the day, for example 200 sheets, do I need still have notary journal?

National Notary Association

03 Feb 2023

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Tina roberts

08 Apr 2024

What are the notary laws in ohio concerning a journal?

National Notary Association

08 Apr 2024

Hello. Ohio Notaries are required to keep a journal for online notarizations only (ORC 147.65).

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