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Baptized before birth

Updated: Dec 26, 2018

  I’d like to say that I’m completely prepared for researching in Ireland, but it would be a lie.  I am prepared for the research trip with all of the arrangements made for 30 researchers, 15 in Belfast and 15 in Dublin.  Hotels, dinners, orientations for each repository, a trip to the Ulster American Folk Park, EPIC and a pub night…check.  Donna’s personal research, not so much.  Part of the reason is that I’m not staying on in Ireland after the research trip to do my own research, and there is very little time for me to do much as I make myself available to work with the researchers.

   In between trips I keep a running list of things I need to do.  Over the weekend I took a look at the list and found there were some things I could do online as more of the civil registrations are now available.  We're still waiting for the images of early marriages and deaths to make it online (rumor is that they will be there before year end), so I may just purchase a couple of certificates at the GRO.   

   One of my to do’s was a copy of the birth and death records for Emily Corry/Curry in 1876.   The birth record popped right up, Emily was born on 10 Sep 1876…whaaat?  I have a baptismal record from the Parish Church of Kinlough (COI) in Leitrim showing 4 July 1876.  Baptized three months before her birth? Emily also died in 1876 and the image of that record in not yet online.  I only know it was registered in the 4th Quarter of 1876 (the same as her birth).

   Have you seen this in your own family?  Actually, I was pretty familiar with the phenomenon with my husband’s family.  The difference, his family was all Roman Catholic. In the Roman Catholic Church it is important to have a child baptized immediately after birth in case the child dies so the baptism usually happens within a few days of birth.  Here’s an example for Patrick Moughty, my husband's grandfather.

Transcription of baptismal record from Birth 16 Oct 1888 Baptism 17 Oct 1888

Image of civil record of Birth from 20 October 1888

Notice that the registration date was the 9th of November.  This was probably a case of the father, who registered the birth, just guessing about the particular day three weeks earlier. Had the date been off by months instead of days, the problem would more likely to be a late registration.  Rather than pay the late registration fine, the date was just moved to bring it in line with the registration requirements.

   So how to you resolve this conflicting evidence? Typically you would think that an “official” birth record would be the stronger piece of evidence, but like all self reported information (think census records) there was no way to verify that the information given was correct.  Understanding the context of these records and the practice of the time, the weight of the evidence would fall to the baptismal record (assuming the record is recorded in the proper order in the register) being the correct (or closer to correct) record. 

Happy Hunting! 

Now that the summer is over and it’s time to get back to serious research, why not order a set of my Irish Quick Reference Guides.  Guide 1 covers finding the place in Ireland where your ancestor was born, Guide 2 covers civil and church records and Guide 3 takes you through land and estate records, including Griffith’s Valuation and the Revision Books.

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Unknown member
May 28, 2019

If you have both dates and the baptism predates the civil registration, the baptismal date is probably closer to the birth. Most of the Irish immigrants had no idea exactly when they were born, so I usually consider ±5 years a reasonable timeframe.😀


I have seen this in every one of my Cavan ancestors until the mid 1900s, so far. Very confusing and makes it difficult to trace them as some used as their birthdate their baptismal date while others used their civil registration date!

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