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Making sense of old handwriting

Latin Influence

The Use of Latin in Records 


Latin has been used for official documents for centuries in all kinds of records from notarial, church, and even in civil records. Latin was used since the beginning of the Catholic Church and was used as the language of education, science, and theology well into the twentieth century. Since all the priests who kept records were versed in Latin, it is common to see its influences in Catalan records.

There are many aspects of parish records kept in Catalan that show the influence of Latin. Sometimes, scribes would include specific ecclesiastical phrases relative to sacraments directly in Latin, such as:

  • Sub conditione (conditionally)
  • Inter missarum solemnia (during the solemn mass)
  • In faciae ecclesiae (in front of the church)
  • Propter periculam mortis (because of the danger of death)

Other phrases are included to explain the authority by which the priest is acting in performing the sacrament, such as:

  • Ex licentia parochi (by license of the parish priest)
  • Cum venia parochi (with permission of the parish priest)
  • Coram testibus (In the presence of witnesses)
  • Cum licentia in scriptis (with a license in writing)

One of the most commonly included phrases used in parish records is ut supra (as above), which is usually used to refer to the date or other information that was already mentioned above in the record.

Regarding notarial records, most wills start with the Latin phrase In Dei Nomine, Amen (In the name of God) or In Nomini Domine, Amen (In the name of the Lord, Amen).


Latin is an interesting but complex language that can be a daunting obstacle to those that are unfamiliar with it. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to those who are willing to tackle it head-on.

First of all, it is recommend that researchers who want to learn more about the Latin language and its use in genealogical records should see the Latin Tutorial that is available on this site, as this gives much more in-depth information on this subject. Also, see's page Latin Genealogical Word List for a comprehensive Latin word list (including numbers and dates), and see the UK's National Archives website for additional help with Latin practice and additional help with Latin Paleography.

Online translators, like, are also helpful for understanding Latin phrases, while sites like Cactus 2000 are helpful for understanding the meanings of individual words:

Cactus 2000

The Influence of Latin on Spelling

While priests would often include entire words or phrases in Latin in the records they kept, its influence could often be seen in its effects on spelling. This is generally more pronounced the older the record is, as the standardization of the language occurred in more recent centuries.

Some names that are written in Catalan with one vowel and could appear spelled with two vowels because of Latin influence, for example, Augustin for Agustin.

Sometimes, it is common to find Catalan words including additional consonants at the end of syllables that occur in the Latin spelling of the word, such as c and p.

The effect of Latin can also be found in the use of old Latin abbreviation practices in Catalan handwriting. Among the most common Latin abbreviations are those used to replace syllables like com-, con-, pro-, per-, ver-, vir-, ser-, and many others by utilizing certain symbols.




com-, con-, cum-, cun-


ver-, vir-








Paleography Introduction