In Colonial America, after the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, the first notaries were in New England colonies in Connecticut and Massachusetts. For 38 years, there were also Dutch notaries in New Netherland.
Notaries in New England followed notary laws based on English common law. Eventually, English law spread across the country and formed the foundation for state notary laws that were written later, after the American Revolution of 1776.
Louisiana notary law is based on French law known as the Napoleonic Code. In Puerto Rico, notary law is based on Spanish law. French law and Spanish law are based on Roman law because the Romans conquered Europe and brought Roman law with them. The Romans also brought Roman law to the Dutch.
In 1626, the Dutch West India Company established the colony of New Netherland, along the Hudson River, which remained in Dutch hands until it surrendered to the British in 1664. New Amsterdam was the capital. There were notaries in New Netherland, who followed Dutch-Roman law.
Notary records show the notaries were appointed by the Director-General and high Council of the colony, residing in New Amsterdam. Notaries kept original notarized documents in their office records. They made copies of original documents as needed and attested that upon comparison the copies were found to agree with the originals.
Some examples of documents notarized by Dutch notaries, translated into English, are found in Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, published by Weed, Parsons and Company in Albany in 1881.
New Netherland Notarial Records
According to Dutch law and custom, until the 1680s, wills were probated by notaries. Wills were not required to be recorded in a public archive. Notaries kept wills and other original legal documents such as marriage contracts, guardianships, letters of apprenticeship, powers of attorney, contracts, and conveyances in their personal custody.
Some notarial records of persons in New Netherland ended up at the old Amsterdam Municipal Archives. The Noord Amerika Chronologie (North American Chronology) is a 5,000 card index to notarial records of the city of Amsterdam from 1598–1750. It contains information about persons in New Netherland including the old world place of origin of immigrants. The collection is available on microfilm at the New York State Library.
The Dutch records include interactions with Swedish intruders, first led by Commander Peter Minuit, arriving with 50 colonists in two ships, Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Grip, in March 1638. They built new forts and captured Dutch forts in their claimed colony of New Sweden along the South River (Delaware River) in areas previously claimed by the Dutch.
The Swedes surrendered following the Dutch capture of Fort Casimir and Fort Christina in 1655 in a military expedition led by the Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant. They stayed on to live in New Netherland but kept their Swedish customs.
In 1664, the British acquired the Dutch colony and it was renamed New York and the capital was renamed from New Amsterdam to New York. The Dutch notaries were replaced with notaries who followed English law.
Some geographic names, such as Brooklyn, and some words in our vocabulary, such as boss and cookie, are from the Dutch language. Presidents Roosevelt and Van Buren were of Dutch descent.
The colors of the Dutch flag are still used for the flags of New York City and Albany, and in the colors of sports team uniforms, for the New York Mets baseball team, New York Knickerbockers basketball team, and New York Islanders hockey team.
Under Dutch rule, women enjoyed legal, civil, and economic rights that were denied under British rule in their colonies.
While the Dutch notaries are long gone, Roman civil law once influenced Dutch notaries in the colony of New Netherland.
The Fall of New Amsterdam, artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Description: Print shows Peter Stuyvesant, in 1664, standing on shore among residents of New Amsterdam who are pleading with him not to open fire on the British who have arrived in warships waiting in the harbor to claim the territory for England. Postcard published by The Foundation Press, Inc., 1932. Reproduction of oil painting from series: The Pageant of a Nation.
[Last-Modified Date 2020-05-15] added New Sweden information