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Understanding Catholic and Lutheran Church Records

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Catholic Church Records

Baptismal Records | Marriage Records | Catholic Church Records at the Archives

Catholic Baptisms

Using the records of the English Speaking Catholic Churches is actually easy in the 1700s and the first part of the 1800s. The hardest element you will encounter is reading the handwriting. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the records are maintained in Latin. Below you will find translations of common terms which are found in Catholic records:

The German Catholic Records from the mid through the late 1800's are in a mixture of Latin and German, and are set up in this fashion:

  • Number: The actual number of the baptism performed during that calendar year.
  • Dies Baptismi: Day of the baptism. The year is typically found at the top of the page.
  • Minister: Priest who performed the baptism.
  • Nomen Baptizatus: Name of the child. Please note, that most German children were given only one name at the time of their baptism. The middle name is the child's confirmation name, typically taken around the age of 12. If there are two names, for example, John Henry, the first name is the Church name, taken from the Godparent, while the second name is the family name, what the individual would be called by the family. In census records the middle name usually appears. As an adults, John Henry will normally become Henry John, or even Henry Michael (confirmation name). There are exceptions to this.
  • Nomen Patris: Name of the father
  • Patria Patris: Birth place of the father
  • Nomen Matris: Name of the mother
  • Patria Matris: Birth place of the mother
  • Dies Nativitatis: Day of birth
  • Patrini: Godparents. In German families, brothers and sisters of the parents served as the sponsors. The child will be named after the Godparent, and names will be repeated from generation to generation. If you find an unfamiliar name, most likely that person is not part of your family.
  • Notae: Observations, such as the legitimacy of the child, or the residence of Godparents. After 1885, many times you will find data concerning the marriage of the child, spouse's name, date and place of marriage, as well as the church in which it occurred. If this information does not appear after 1900, normally there are two possible reasons: a) the person did not marry, or the person married Protestant; or b) although the pastor who performed the marriage was obligated to inform the baptismal parish of the marriage, this did not always occur or the baptismal pastor did not make the notation in the record.
  • Ngotiam: Occupation of the father
  • Domicilium patrinorum: Residence of the Godparents.

In the late 1870's new, printed books became standardized, and the following format was used in all Parishes:

  • Nomen familia: Surname of the family
  • Die Mense: Day of the baptism
  • Baptizavi: Name of the child
  • Natum/Natam: Day of birth
  • Ex: Name of Father. Please note, many of these names appear in Latin
  • Ex Loco: The birth place of the father
  • Et: Name of the mother. Please note, many of these names appear in Latin. For example, Mariam is the Latin for Maria, Marie, and Mary. There is no way of knowing just from the baptismal record which reading is correct
  • Et loco: The birth place of the mother
  • Patrini fuerent: The names of the Godparents
  • Observanda: Address, marriage information, legitimacy of child, any other notations

Catholic Marriages

The Marriage records for Irish are in English until the 1870's when the Record Books were standardized and written in Latin. The Latin format is shown below. The Marriage Books for the German Catholics are consistent from the 1850's.

  • Dies Matrimonii: The date of the marriage
  • Minister: Priest who performed the marriage
  • Denuntiones: A recording of how many banns were announced. In many situtations, this took the place of the marriage license. (No banns normally meant that the woman was pregnant)
    • Prima: one
    • Duos: two
    • Tres: three
  • Nomen Sponsi: Name of the groom
  • Et parentes: Name of the groom's parents
  • Patria: Place of birth of groom
  • Aetas: Age of groom
  • Nomen sponsae: Name of the bride
  • Et parentes: Name of the bride's parents
  • Patria: Place of birth of the bride
  • Aetas: Age of the bride
  • Testes: Witnesses
  • Occupatio: Occupation of the groom
  • Comitas: Where groom is living
  • Observationes: Comments of the priest, indicating dispensation for Protestant partner, lack of bands, etc.

In the 1870's all Marriage Books were printed with the following format:

  • Nomen Familia: Surnames of the groom and the bride
  • AD. Die Mensi: Date of Marriage
  • Praemissis: Banns
  • Conjunxi: Name of the groom
  • Ex Loco: Place of his birth
  • Filuim: names of the groom's parents
  • Et: Name of the bride
  • Ex Loco: Place of her birth
  • Filiam: names of the bride's parents
  • Praesentibus testibus: Names of the witnesses
  • Dispensationes: Permission for mixed marriage, etc.

Lutheran Church Records

Lutheran Church Records at the Maryland State Archives

Since the Lutheran Church, also known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, is based in Germany, most records are in German.

Lutheran Baptisms

  • Namen des Tauflings/Kinder: Name of the child
  • Geburtstag: Birth date of the child
  • Tauftag: Baptismal date of the child
  • Eltern: Names of the parents
  • Geb.: family name of the mother (Note: the suffix "–in," is often found added to that family/maiden name simply indicates “feminine”. As example: the woman/mother may be Catharina, geb. Straussin; but her father would be Johann Strauss.)
  • der Pate/Taufpate or der Gevatter: male baptismal sponsor, godfather
  • die Pate/Taufpate or die Gevatterin: female baptismal sponsor, godmother
  • die Paten/Taufpaten or die Gevatterleute:: sponsors, godparents

Lutheran Marriages

  • Getraut: Date of the marriage
  • Namen der Getrauten: Names of the groom and bride
  • Alter: Ages of spouses
  • Stand und Gewerbe: Status, rank, profession and trade or occupation
  • Zeugen: Witnesses

Lutheran Funerals

  • Gestorben: Date of death
  • Namen der Gestorbenen: Name of the deceased
  • Alter: Age of the deceased
  • Familien Beztchung: Date of the burial
  • GemeinBe: Remarks. Possibly cause of death, cemetery, and place of birth

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