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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Religious Records by Brenda Dougall Merriman, CG, CGL. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Quaker records often place people in family groupings. Records that I have seen which were labelled ‘birth records’ are in fact listings of family members with their birthdates given, and spaces for filling in marriage information, death dates or dismissal data.
What About Quaker Birth Records?
This means that the birth information is not necessarily recorded at the time of birth, but when the membership of that meeting is set up, when the family join the meeting, or even when that membership book came into use. If a family moved to a new meeting, they were re-recorded there and the information would be as accurate as the data they provided. If you find information about a birth in the minutes of a meeting, then it may be contemporary (the event and its announcement happening around the same time). Information in membership books may not be so.
Should We Bother with Godparents?
As with records of witnesses at other family events, making note of godparents’ names is essential. It may be that they are related, or not, but in any case they were of significance to the parents of the child, to be asked to perform this important role. Parents and close relatives were banned from assuming the role of godparent during the middle ages, but after the Reformation, as we have seen, these restrictions fell away in all denominations over a period of time.
Since it was not unusual for a child to be given the name of a godparent (especially in German families), these were often close relations. Whether you recognize the godparents’ names or not, make a note of them. The information can be included in the family history. It can also come in handy if you later find that the people may be related.
Example Involving Godparents
Wilhelmina Magdalena Wisser is baptized in 1863, the daughter of Johann Wisser and Dorothea Hauptmann. The godparents are Johann and Magdalena Schneider and Elisabeth Kumpf. Research later shows that Dorothea Hauptmann had a sister, Magdalena. It is worth hypothesizing that Magellan Hauptmann and Magdalena Schneider are the same person, since naming a baby after one’s sister, and having an aunt as a godparent are both common happenings. A search could then be made for the Schneider- Hauptmann marriage record, or simply for Johann Schneider’s marriage record to see who his Magdalena was.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Religious Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
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