Searching for California notaries
At the Alameda County Law Library reference desk, patrons frequently ask where to find a notary to serve as an impartial witness to the signing of important legal documents as required under state law. Notaries are publicly commissioned as “ministerial” officials, meaning that they are expected to follow written rules without the exercise of significant personal discretion, as would otherwise be the case with a “judicial” official. Notaries are licensed by the California Secretary of State’s (SOS) office.
We don’t offer notarial services at ACLL just as we do not provide legal advice. How to find a notary? A internet search for “notary” and the name of your city will pull up contact information for services. A search on the web site, Yelp, will bring up listings. At the reference desk, we can offer business Yellow Pages. (Yes, they still print those.) Individuals who are notaries may work “in-house” at government organizations, bank branches, or real estate agencies. They may also work for businesses that specialize in notary services or business support services companies such as Federal Express or UPS stores. Because notaries work within so many different professions, there is not a professional organization web site – such as the California Association of Legal Document Assistants has set up – to help the consumer locate a professional.
Unlike what the California State Bar does for the attorneys they licensed, the SOS does not provide a user-friendly search screen to help a consumer locate or identify a person who is in good standing to perform the duties required by a notary. The SOS does have an up-to-date statewide list of notaries. But, this text list includes all notaries (150,000+) including the in-house notaries who do not make their services available to the public. This list is available only by downloading the full text file with its fields designated by tags. After you download, you are left with a huge text file to sort through for data. There is too much data to download to an Excel spreadsheet. If you have access to Microsoft’s Access database software, you can import the information and then sort the data by geographic location and other search strategies. (The code for Alameda County is 01.)
Here is the information from the SOS web page describing how to work with its file:
For a list of notaries public who hold active notary public commissions simply download this compressed file (ZIP). After decompressing the file, the file can be opened with any text editor. However, for optimum utility, import the active-notary.txt file into a database to permit better searching and sorting capability, since the number of records exceeds the maximum record limit for most spreadsheet programs.
The active-notary.txt file, which is updated daily, includes:
Notary public name (last name and name suffix, first name, and middle name);
Business name (if the notary public is self-employed, the business name field will be blank);
Business mailing address;
Filing county code number (county where the oath of office and bond are on file) (PDF); [Once the file is downloaded you can sort by county]
Commission number; and
Commission expiration date.