Baptism Records in Parish Registers

Baptism records were maintained by the church and were records of christenings conducted in the church.  A christening was carried out in order to accept the person involved into the family of the church.  

It should be remembered that a christening date is not the same as a birth date, and is usually conducted somewhat later, unless there is a specific reason for a baptism to be on the same day as the child's birth, such as their ill health.  

You sometimes see private baptisms in church records, which again usually meant the child was suffering from ill health, and in many cases not expected to survive.  You may also find that some people were baptised as adults, so unfortunately you may never discover the names of their parents.

Baptisms before 1813

Early entries of baptism records in parish registers contained less information than those from later years when a baptism register book was used.  

It is not uncommon for baptism records at the time to simply state the infant's name, the date and the father's name.  No mother's name was often entered in a baptism register because the mother was not considered important.

In later registers the mother’s name began to be recorded, and sometimes the child's birth date. In certain baptism registers from the late 1700’s the mother’s maiden name was included in the entry, which can help you to track down the parent's marriage.

The information recorded could vary between parishes however. Some vicars stated the infant's grandfather's name and you may find more than one child of the same parents were baptised together even though they did not necessarily share a birthday. This was possibly because they could not afford to have each child baptised separately.

If no father is named, it is possible the child was illegitimate, this being shown by the terms base born, illegitimate etc.  Sometimes a vicar wrote the word bastard in big letters after the child's name. This was to signify his displeasure at this circumstance.

Some vicars noted the occupation of the child's father, and if a particular surname is common in a village, this could help you determine whether you have found the right family.  

Baptism Records after 1813

After George Rose’s Act of 1813, the Church was required to keep separate books of baptisms, marriages and burials. This section deals with the baptism register.

The baptism register gave the opportunity to record baptisms in much more detail than the older parish registers, as there were separate columns across the page to enter the child's name, the parent’s names and the father's occupation.

The family’s abode was also recorded. In towns and cities, a street name was sometimes entered for the address, but it might not include the house number. In villages only the village name was usually entered.

In some cases, the birthdate was also recorded, and you may find more than one child of the same parents were christened together.

There was also a column where the name of the clergyman who performed the ceremony was recorded.

Information recorded in the baptism register

  • When baptised
  • Child’s Christian name
  • Names of both the mother and father and their surname
  • Abode
  • Quality, Trade or Profession
  • By whom the ceremony was performed

If you are unable to find your ancestor in the baptism records of a Church of England Parish Church, it is possible your ancestors were either nonconformists or Roman Catholics.

Please also view my guides to parish registers in general, marriage records and burial records.  You may also find much information is included on memorial inscriptions.


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