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How to record credible witnesses in your California Notary journal

California allows Notaries to identify the signer through one or two credible identifying witnesses under certain situations. A credible witness is an individual who personally knows the signer and can vouch for the signer’s identity to the Notary.

If you use credible witnesses to identify a signer, what information do you need to write down about the witnesses in your journal? Here’s what California Notaries need to know about recording credible witness information in a journal entry.

California requirements for credible identifying witnesses

When may a credible witness identify the signer of a document? According to Government Code 1185(b)(1)(A), a credible witness may be used when a signer does not possess an identification document listed in the statute and it would be difficult or impossible to obtain one. In addition, a credible witness may be used when the witness is not named nor financially interested in the document.

A credible witness must know the signer well enough to swear or affirm five facts to the Notary:

1. The signer is named in the document.

2. The credible witness personally knows the signer.

3. The signer doesn’t possess a qualifying identification document.

4. The signer’s circumstances make it difficult or impossible to obtain a qualifying identification document.

5. The credible witness is not named in nor financially interested in the document.

One credible witness may be used to identify the signer if the witness personally knows the Notary and the signer. Two witnesses who do not personally know the Notary may be used as well.

Just like signers, a credible witness cannot be identified based on the Notary’s personal knowledge. Every credible witness — even those who know the Notary personally — must present a written form of ID listed in California Code 1185(b)(3) or (4) to the Notary.


How to record credible witness information in a California Notary journal

California Notaries are required by Government Code 8206(a)(2)(E) to record the following information in the journal entry for a single credible witness:

1. The signature of the credible witness or the type of identification presented by the witness.

2. If identification is presented, the type of ID, the serial or identifying number on the ID and the ID issuance or expiration date.

The Secretary of State urges as a best practice that both the signature and identification information be obtained in the journal entry for a single credible witness.

For two credible witnesses, the following information must be recorded in the journal:

1. The signature of each credible witness.

2. The type of written identification presented for each credible witness.

3. The serial or identifying number on each credible witness’ written identification.

4. The issuance or expiration date on each credible witness’ written identification.

If you need additional room to enter information about multiple witnesses, you can also use the “Additional Information” section of your journal entry.

See the sample credible witness information for a California journal entry in the photo above as a guide.

David Thun is an Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

The California Notary Primer is the perfect resource when it comes to performing your Notary duties according to law. Buy yours today.

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Craig Fromme

08 Oct 2018

not showing

Chris Parreira

04 Oct 2019

Does the principal, who does not have proper ID, need to sign my journal as well?

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2019

Hello. Yes, California requires the signature of each person whose signature is notarized, including the signature of any subscribing witness and the mark of a signer, in the journal entry.

13 Aug 2020

Does the two credible witnesses need to sign a notarial certificate as well?

National Notary Association

17 Aug 2020

Hello. No, credible identifying witnesses do not sign the notarial certificate wording in California.

Lame casse

20 Aug 2020

Do I need to record witness to a will in my notary journal?

National Notary Association

20 Aug 2020

Hello. Please see this link ( for information on California Notary journal entry requirements, and this link ( for general guidance when asked to notarize a will.

Elizabeth Arevalo

10 Sep 2020

When 2 credible witnesses are used in the State of California County of Los Angeles, do we have to have them sign anything other than the Journal entry and conducting the oath? Is there a affidavit we need to attach with their signatures?

National Notary Association

10 Sep 2020

Hello. Credible witnesses essentially serve as "human ID cards." They do not require an additional affidavit to be attached to the journal entry or document.

Rachelle Ladieu

23 Nov 2020

If your signing and notarizing an entire set of loan docs and there are for example 7 notarizations, do the 2 credible witness's have to sign your journal 7 times as well or just the one time proving identity. In other words would they also have to stay for the entire signing process?

National Notary Association

04 Dec 2020

Hello. The best practice would be to have a full, complete journal entry for each notarization performed.

sally baker

28 Nov 2020

Do two credible witnesses need to be fingerprinted in the notary journal?

National Notary Association

04 Dec 2020

Hello. No, CA Notaries are only required to obtain a journal entry right thumbprint for a signer of a a deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust or other document affecting real property, or a power of attorney document (GC 8206[a]). However, if credible witnesses are used to identify a signer for a notarization in California, the CA Notary must have the credible witnesses sign the journal entry (GC 8206[a][2][D]).

Alicia storm

16 Dec 2020

In California, if the signers legal name on ID is Jonathan, but the docs reflect Jon, can we use 2 credible witnesses, even though he has a qualifying ID?

National Notary Association

17 Dec 2020

Hello. As stated in the article, according to California Government Code 1185(b)(1)(A), a credible witness may be used when a signer does not possess an identification document listed in the statute and it would be difficult or impossible to obtain one.


23 Dec 2020

Do I need two credible witness, when the signer can only X their name signature.

National Notary Association

04 Jan 2021

Hello. A signature by mark requires two witnesses: “‘Signature’ or ‘subscription’ includes mark when the signer or subscriber cannot write, such signer’s or subscriber’s name being written near the mark by a witness who writes his own name near the signer’s or subscriber’s name; but a signature or subscription by mark can be acknowledged or can serve as a signature or subscription to a sworn statement only when two witnesses so sign their own names thereto” (GC 16; see also CC 14 and CCP 17[a]).


07 Jan 2021

When using two credible witnesses what statement do we we read to them?

National Notary Association

08 Jan 2021

Hello. In California, a credible identifying witness must swear or affirm the following during a notarization (CC 1185[b]): A. The witness personally knows the signer; B. The signer is the person named in the document; C. The witness does not have a financial interest and is not named in the document; D. The signer does not have other satisfactory ID as required by state law; E. The witness has a reasonable belief that the circumstances of the signer are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for the signer to obtain another form of identification.

Marian Estebez

14 Jan 2021

I my California ID Card expired in June 2020, because of what was going on with Covid-19, I didn't get it renewed. Now in order for me to get it renewed, I need to get my Birth Certificate, but I can't get that because I need the application notarized. The Notary I spoke to said I need a current ID Card, License or Passport. But I don't drive, no license, I don't travel, no passport and my California ID expired. How can I get my Birth Certificate Application Notarized without all these? What do you suggest I do?

National Notary Association

15 Jan 2021

Hello. If you lack any other ID acceptable under CA Notary law, you would need to provide 2 credible identifying witnesses to vouch for your identity. For more information, please see here:


15 Jan 2021

Can the credible witnesses be a family and member and a childhood friend?

National Notary Association

21 Jan 2021

Hello. In California, a credible identifying witness must swear or affirm that the witness has no financial interest in the document being notarized and is not named in the document (CC 1185[b]). For more information about credible identifying witnesses, please see here:

10 Feb 2021

Do we add the signer on the existing acknowledgment attached to the Grant Deed or do we need to use or add another acknowledgment for the signer when using two credible witnesses?

National Notary Association

12 Feb 2021

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.


19 Apr 2021

How to entry journal for two credible witnesses in CA?

National Notary Association

29 Apr 2021

Hello. If you need additional room to enter information about multiple witnesses, you can also use the “Additional Information” section of your journal entry.


27 May 2021

can you show a full entry example? This hard to see.

Amy M Turner

03 Jun 2021

Can a credible witness be related to the notary public? Can the notary be related to the signer and the credible witness?

National Notary Association

07 Jun 2021

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


14 Aug 2021

Hello, Base on the following from notary hand book,) "For purposes of this section, “satisfactory evidence” means the absence of information, evidence, or other circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the person making the acknowledgment is not the individual he or she claims to be" he following: if the person does not have an ID to support the claim he has to the name(i.e.). So if the situation is as follows, If the person/borrower has an ID . But, the name on the ID is not what is supposed to be to support the name on the documents (ie, SR or JR). Then doesn't this law allows u to use a credible witness?

National Notary Association

07 Sep 2021

Yes, a credible witness can be used if the ID presented is not satisfactory to the Notary.

Adri J

18 Sep 2021

This was incredibly helpful; thank you! The class I took showed an example for one credible witness but not for two. Furthermore, the instructor didn't explain why he said to put the ID documentation and have the credible witness sign when the Handbook says one or the other for a single CW. I'm happy to know the CA SOS recommends this as a best practice. I take my exam later today, so this article is timely and invaluable. I look forward to becoming an NNA member! I can tell already that the membership will be well worth it, considering the value you've already provided me on your website. Thank you so much!

Sam H

26 Dec 2021

Hello, I am in CA. When someone sign as a X mark. Can a notary be one of the two witnesses?

National Notary Association

13 Jan 2022

No, a Notary may not serve as a witness for someone signing by mark on the document because they are required to sign the document. The state does allow the Notary to be a witness for the signature in the journal, however.


28 Feb 2022

Hello. What form is used for a credible witness. Credible witness is known to the notary and is witnessing the signing of the document by the principle not present and not known to the notary.

National Notary Association

11 Mar 2022

Hello. What you are describing sounds like a proof of execution by subscribing witness, which is different than a credible identifying witness. Please see this article for information explaining the difference between these two types of witnesses:

Ha Vandervorst

15 Jun 2022

does the principal signer, who doesn't have an ID, sign in the journal ? or do the credible witnesses sign in the journal only?

National Notary Association

08 Jul 2022

Hello. In California, each person whose signature is notarized must sign the Notary journal entry. The method used to identify the signer does not affect this requirement. (GC 8206[a])


12 Jul 2022

Can a California notary witness my mother's signature with two credible witnesses present who verify who she is? She has old expired DL and US Passport expired more than 5 years. It would be very difficult to get her new IDs as she is bed bound. Her attorney is saying this law has been changed recently, and that 2 credible witnesses no longer works in this scenario. Can you please help? Thank you

National Notary Association

15 Jul 2022

Hello. If your mother needs a signature notarized, then in California she may use two credible identifying witnesses as proof of her identity. Both credible witnesses would need to know your mother personally and each witness will need to present identification to the Notary. For more information, please see here:


26 Oct 2022

Hello, If I have 2 credible witnesses for a gentlemen who has an expired id, is there a certificate I need to use? Or do I just notate in my journal?

National Notary Association

10 Nov 2022

Hello. In California, “If the identity of the person making the acknowledgment or taking the oath or affirmation was established by the oaths or affirmations of two credible witnesses whose identities are proven to the notary public by presentation of any document satisfying the requirements of paragraph (3) or (4) of subdivision (b) of Section 1185 of the Civil Code, the notary public shall record in the journal the type of documents identifying the witnesses, the identifying numbers on the documents identifying the witnesses, and the dates of issuance or expiration of the documents identifying the witnesses” (GC 8206[a][2][E]). When a signer’s identity is proven by the oath or affirmation of two credible witnesses, the Secretary of State stipulates that “the journal shall contain the signatures of the credible witnesses and the type of identifying document, the governmental agency issuing the document, the serial or identifying number of the document, and the date of issuance or expiration of the document establishing the identity of the credible witness” (Notary Public Handbook).


17 Apr 2023

I had a signer call me stating she had an expired license and passport. I informed her that 2 credible witnesses with valid ID can be used (and not named in the document). She has 2 witnesses but witness #1 can not appear in my presence. I would have to walk down the block to get her information. I informed her we could all meet at witness #1’s home….signer said she didn’t want to do that, it was inconvenient. I informed her that all parties, signer, witnesses 1 & 2, would need to be in my presence. She was adamant that can’t happen and would find a notary that could fill her request. Was I wrong? I think not… both witnesses should be in my presence to attest to the signer’s identity. I’m in California.

National Notary Association

18 Apr 2023

Hello. You acted correctly in this situation. Since a credible identifying witness is essentially a "Human ID card" who is vouching for the signer's identity, it is necessary for the credible identifying witness to be present at the notarization. If the credible witness is not present at the same place and time as the signer, you have no way of being certain if they can actually confirm the signer's identity if the witness is not present with the signer.

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