Baptism Is Like Real Estate–Location Matters

I’ve not done any studies, so what follows are just some random thoughts.

Many of my maternal and paternal ancestors were members of religious faiths that practiced infant baptism. Many of these families were Germanic in origin but not all. My comments are based upon things I have noticed in researching those families. The overriding piece of advice here is:

Determine the “norms” for the area, time period, and denomination in which your ancestor existed.  Realize that these norms changed from one area to another, over time, and in different denominations. Remember that not everyone behaved according to societal norms.

The sponsors of a child often usually have some connection to the parents of that child. That connection is not always biological. In United States immigrant families it is often suggested that sponsors of children born after immigration be researched. Sponsors possibly knew the parents pre-immigration and, if the parents cannot be located overseas, researching those sponsors can lead to possible locations where the parents originated.  That’s true of people who migrate without crossing a pond as well.

I’ve noticed that in some geographic areas, ethnic groups, and time periods that the sponsors are almost always related to the parents and in other areas, ethnic groups, and time periods this is not as prevalent. The child may or may not be named for the sponsor. There can easily be some variations in this tradition from one ethnic group to another.

There are also variations within those denominations that practice infant baptism.

A random reading of other christening entries within the same set of records can provide some insight as to whether it was a common practice to generally name a child for the sponsor. It can be more difficult to determine from other entries if the sponsors of children  are related to the child or not.

The first time I discovered a baptismal entry where the parents were the sponsors, I was surprised. It seemed to me to be the most unusual thing. Then, after reading entries for other children in the same set of records, I discovered it was common in that location. Today tongues would wag if the parents of a child acted as its sponsors, but in that place in that time in that church-it was not unusual.

In an upcoming post we will see a Godparent listed who was not related to the child. In fact he never even saw him.





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