As a Notary Public, I have often been asked to notarize or certify vital records documents, such as birth certificates. People are usually rather surprised when I explain to them that such documents cannot be certified by having them notarized.
Notaries are occasionally asked to “certify a copy” of a birth certificate. This misunderstanding stems from the cruise ship industry, which for years told cruisegoers that a “notarized birth certificate” was acceptable as proof of citizenship. In reality, notaries are not authorized to make certified copies of birth certificates, regardless of where the original birth certificate was issued. (In “Notary Tips” 09-28-2022 – American Association of Notaries)
Part of the misunderstanding is also because many people believe that it is the particular document that is being notarized, when legally what is being notarized is the signature of the person executing the document.
When you appear before me — or before any notary public — for a notarization, I must confirm your identity, and have you swear an oath as to the veracity of the information to which you are affixing your signature (to the best of your knowledge), and that you are freely signing the document — without any pressure, coercion, etc. I also check to be sure that there are no blanks in the document that you are about to sign.
Then, I have you sign the document in my presence — while I observe you doing so.
When I affix my signature and seal to the document, I am certifying that it was indeed YOU (to the very best of my knowledge) who signed it. My signature and seal do not attest to anything about the document itself, rather they attest to your signature.
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