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Notary Bulletin

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 Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.


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.

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