One of the themes today over at GeneaBloggers is Church Record Sunday. I thought immediately that Sundays were often baptismal days for the newborns of our communities. Baptisms were typically held after Mass.
Baptismal records from the parishes that my family attended have been a great source of genealogical information for me. Not only do they prove the birth of a child, they often contain nuggets of genealogical data if you’re willing to scrutinize the record.
For Polish Catholics, a typical baptismal custom was to name a child after the saint whose name day the child was born on. So you may find perhaps that a family has three or four sons. The eldest son wasn’t named after his father; but the fourth son was. That may leave you scratching your head if you are more familiar with the custom of naming the eldest son after his father. However, check the birth dates. You may just find that the father and son share a common saint name or birth date. Another common tradition was to have siblings or other very close relatives as sponsors or godparents. So this information can lend insight or connections in linking families together.
Also with older Catholic baptismal registers, you’ll have to read and review many pages before you find your relative. This is a difficult task at times–Catholic records are often written in Latin. Plus, you will need to familiarize yourself with the priests’ handwriting. Often it was ornate and often it is difficult to read. Ink blots, smears, age-related fading also factor in.
The Catholic baptismal records for the Toledo Dioceses are not indexed; however, they are available in digital format from familysearch.org. So if you know an approximate date of birth of your relative from northwest Ohio and you believe he or she may have been Catholic, it’s worthwhile to peruse some of these records.
The Catholic Gene posted a great list of Latin terms to help with understanding these records.
Occasionally, you may stumble on a baptismal record that holds a wealth of information. This happened when I was researching the children of Joseph Plenzler and his wife, Eva Dauer. Two of their children, Robert and Mary, contained more data than I expected. This is how I learned the surname of one of my great-great grandparents, Aumiller. The priest recorded the parents and grandparents of the newborn. See this snippet.