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Making sense of old handwriting

Church Records: Baptisms






According to Catholic doctrine all individuals must be baptized in order to be saved. Because of this universal need for baptism, these records will include the majority of the people living in the parish, regardless of their social or economic status. Christening records for most French speaking countries may include the following information, depending on the time period when they were created:

  • Given name and surnames of the person being baptized
  • Date of the baptism
  • Date of baptismal entry (usually same as baptism)
  • Date and birthplace of the person being baptized
  • Whether the child being baptized was legitimate or illegitimate
  • Given names, surnames, residence and birthplaces of the parents and grandparents
  • Marital status of the parents
  • Names of the godparents and sometimes their relationship to the child
  • Residence or birthplaces of the godparents
  • Name or signature of the officiating priest

The information included in these records usually follows a specific order; however, it is not uncommon to find the same information in different order.

  • Image: Pietro Longhi, Baptismi Sacramentum, after 1757, Painting, Digital Image, Wikimedia Commons ( : accessed 5 April 2024). This image is in the public domain.

Paleography Introduction