In Tennessee, a Notary Public is a public officer elected by the county legislature and then commissioned by the Governor to act as an impartial witness in taking acknowledgments, administering oaths and affirmations, and performing other acts authorized by state law.
Notaries serve the public by certifying that certain events did take place — the person who signed the document did acknowledge signing it, or they did swear that the statements made in the document are true — as well as verifying that proper identification of the signer was presented.
The most frequent official acts a notary public is requested to perform are the taking of affidavits and acknowledgments.
An affidavit is a sworn statement made by a person called an affiant. The affiant makes oath before a notary public that the facts contained in the affidavit are true or that they will do what the document they are signing says they will do.
An acknowledgment, as its name implies, is a declaration by a person who has executed or signed a deed or other document, that he or she has in fact executed such document.
Other acts that notaries may perform (depending upon state law) include certifying copies, conducting depositions, and officiating at weddings. (If you are interested in the details of these additional services, please let me know and I will post some information here about them.)