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Making sense of old handwriting

Baptism Records

Baptism Record Context

In line with the general religiosity of Germany before the 20th century (mandatory or not), almost all Christian Germans born before the 1900s will have a Baptism or Christening record. German Baptism records are pivotal because they typically give the name of the child, father and mother (including her maiden name), as well as other notes, such as births of siblings. Legitimacy of birth is also regularly recorded (illegitimate birth was common, and notes may include a later marriage of the parents).
For children who were stillborn or died young, this may be the only extant record referencing them. Additionally, this record may provide a valuable note of the death of a mother or father, either of which may have future children with a different spouse.
To better understand the language found on these records, the BYU German Script Tutorial also provides a list of common vocabulary found on such records here.

Baptism Record Content

Baptism records will have:

  • The date of the baptism
  • Names of individuals associated with the baptism-at minimum a father (or mother in the case of an illegitimate birth) and the name of the child- either given explicitly or inferred as the name of the first of the witness

Additionally, it is common to find:

  • Date of baptismal entry (usually the same as baptism)
  • Date and birthplace of the person being baptized
  • Whether the child being baptized was legitimate or illegitimate
  • Given names, surnames, residence, occupation, 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

Baptism Record Examples

Click any image to go to its transcription and translation page.

German/Baptism Example 1

Note in this example, the birthdate is crossed out and a cross was inscribed in the remarks column- no indication of the death date is given. Other birth records may include an expanded note on their death or no mark at all.

German/Baptism Example 2

This example includes entries for two illegitimate children. The child of the second entry is illegitimate even though the mother is married and has her maiden name underlined. The note says "die Mutter lebt mit ihrem Ehemann in Scheidung," meaning she does not currently live with her husband, making that child illegitimate. Additionally the birth date is struck through and a cross is included by the entry (and a death date is given in the remarks), all showing that the child passed away.

The third entry on the page only lists the mother and her father, with the note that the child was illegitimate.