History of Apostilles
Recognising an ever globalised world, the Hague Conference on Private International Law sought to simplify the procedure in which documents from one country can be legally recognised in another. This was achieved through the 1961 Apostille Convention in the Hague, Netherlands.
Before Apostilles were a thing, legal professionals would have to undertake a costly procedure of due-diligence, to ensure the authenticity of documents. Now, if the two countries are signatories to the Convention, that step is no longer required, because the Apostille Certificate proves the document it accompanies.
The meaning of the word is not religious, instead it derives from the French apostille, which means bottom note (or margin note). This is presumably because before an Apostille is issued, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will check the signature and certification of the official who certified it (the bottom note). It naturally follows, to explain the difference in nature between notarisation and an Apostille.
What is the Difference Between Notarising and an Apostille?
Before the FCDO will issue an Apostille, the must check the bottom note and verify that the official is registered on their system. In the case of a Notary, the bottom note would usually certify the originality of a document, that it is a true copy or that they have witnessed it being signed by a party. The notary then applied his or her signature and seal, which is registered with the FCDO.
The bottom note is note is not always from a notary however. In the case of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates and certificates of no impediment (CONI); these can be verified by the signature of the Registrar.