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When Can a Notary Use “Personal Knowledge” to Identify a Signer?

Notaries play a crucial role in the authentication of documents, serving as impartial witnesses to ensure the integrity and legality of various transactions. One method they employ to confirm the identity of a signer is “personal knowledge.” In this blog, we will explore the concept of personal knowledge in notary services, when it can be used, and its significance in the notarial process.

Understanding Personal Knowledge: Personal knowledge refers to the notary’s familiarity with an individual based on their prior interactions or community involvement. It is a fundamental aspect of notarial acts as it allows notaries to identify a signer without relying on additional identification documents such as driver’s licenses or passports.

When Can Personal Knowledge Be Used?

  1. Regular Clients: Notaries can use personal knowledge when they have a longstanding and substantial professional or personal relationship with the signer. This often applies to individuals who regularly seek notarial services from the same notary.
  2. Small Communities: In close-knit communities, notaries may use personal knowledge to identify signers. If the notary is familiar with a large portion of the community members, they can vouch for their identities based on their local interactions.
  3. Consistency in Appearance: Personal knowledge can be applied when the signer’s physical appearance remains consistent over time, making it easier for the notary to recognize them.
  4. Legal Requirements: Some jurisdictions explicitly permit notaries to rely on personal knowledge. It’s essential to understand the specific laws and regulations governing notarial acts in your area.

The Significance of Personal Knowledge:

  1. Convenience: Personal knowledge can expedite the notarization process, making it more convenient for both the notary and the client, especially for repeat customers.
  2. Trustworthiness: Notaries who establish personal knowledge with clients create a sense of trust, as the clients feel confident in the notary’s ability to verify their identity accurately.
  3. Community Bond: In small communities, notaries who rely on personal knowledge contribute to the communal trust and cohesion by acknowledging the identities of fellow community members.
  4. Legal Compliance: Notaries must adhere to their jurisdiction’s rules and regulations regarding the use of personal knowledge to ensure they are in compliance with the law.


Personal knowledge is a valuable tool in the notary’s toolkit, enabling them to confirm a signer’s identity without the need for additional identification documents. Notaries who build strong relationships with their clients and communities can leverage personal knowledge to make the notarization process more efficient and reliable. However, it is essential to be aware of the legal requirements and limitations associated with personal knowledge in notarial acts to ensure full compliance with local regulations.

Author: Vandana

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