Adult baptisms in Colonial New England and Mid-Atlantic

+3 votes

I've seen a lot of adult baptisms in Colonial New England and Mid-Atlantic. I've looked carefully the the records of the Baptist church at Swansea, Mass., so of course they were all adult baptisms. But I've seen them a lot at other denominations too -- Congregational, Presbyterian, Church of England. This surprises me, given how strongly religion was built into the culture. 

Were there really just more people than I expect who never baptised their children, even though they were living in a culture where failing to meet some church strictures could get you fined or even whipped? Or is there some other reason behind some of these adult baptisms? Was rebaptism more common than I imagine?

Or maybe I am seeing instances of extreme difficulty in getting to the nearest church? I know some of my ancestors from Southern New Jersey would travel to Philadelphia to baptize their children before they formed a local Presbyterian church -- a trip of over 40 miles one way, which couldn't have been easy.

in The Tree House by Barry Smith G2G6 Pilot (240k points)
edited by Barry Smith
Not all Christian denominations believe in infant baptism, in fact there was a huge row in the Puritan congregational church in the early days over adult vs. infant baptism. I guess it depends on what their church practiced at that time.

1 Answer

+4 votes
Best answer
In early New England, only the children of church members could be baptized, and church membership was restricted to those who could convince the powers that they had experienced a conversion experience. Hence, many children were not baptized as infants. In some cases, a parent (either or both) joined the church after they had had several children, and it's relatively common to see a list of the children from a family baptized on the same day, sometimes on the same day as the parent. It's one reason a careful genealogist only uses baptism dates in the period as estimates for birth dares with some caution.
by Stu Bloom G2G6 Mach 9 (94.5k points)
selected by Barry Smith
Wow, they *couldn't* baptize their children. That's definitely different than the modern experience. My wife is Catholic, and we baptized our daughter in the Catholic church even though I was not allowed to partake of their communion, etc.

I was just looking at a list of kids baptized simultaneously, and the father owned the covenant that same day. Makes sense now. Then they baptized two children two years and two months later. People assumed both were born in that two year span, but I have a suspicion the one listed first was actually one of the oldest children and had somehow been missed during the first group baptism.

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