Godparents in late 18th-century Catholic Maryland

+1 vote
77 views
Background: A DNA match of mine, who appears to be related to me through my Cissell ancestors, has traced her Ancestry back to William Bowles (b. c. 1750, apparently not on WT) and his wife Mary.  The question is whether Mary's surname was Cissell, a supposition hinted at by our shared DNA.  In addition, there is a clue:  Anastasia Cissell was the godmother of Mary's second child.  Bowles was apparently part of the Catholic Maryland to Kentucky migration of 1785 and later.

Question:  Can anything be deduced from the selection of godparents, beyond the fact that the parents knew them?
in Genealogy Help by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (458k points)

1 Answer

+2 votes
The godparents of a child baptized in the Catholic church must themselves be baptized and practicing Catholics, but beyond that there is no hard-and-fast requirement.  The duty of godparents is to ensure that the godchild is raised in the Catholic faith if the parents are unable to do so due to death or incapacity.  Godparents are and were often close relatives such as aunts, uncles, or older cousins, but not always.  I'm unsure what the age requirements for godparents were, but perhaps as young as fourteen.  They would normally have to be present at the baptism, so someone who lived nearby.  Godmother and godfather need not be married to one another.
by Michael Thomas G2G1 (1.1k points)

Thank you.  I had read some of that myself on Wikipedia.  smiley  I also saw among the article's list of references a couple of scholarly books or articles on godparents and baptism practices.  Those listed did not apply to early Catholic Maryland, but I thought somewhere there might be one that does, and that someone might know of it, even though I had not found such a thing in my search.  A long shot, I suppose.

Meanwhile, I found the (transcribed) baptism record that my relative had referred to, and I think I will review the other listings for a couple of years and see what other family members turn up.  I've done a lot of work on the early Cissells, and it doesn't seem to me that it should be impossible to fit this person into the puzzle (if she was indeed a Cissell).

This is the record:  "1776 28 Apr Elizabeth Bowls of William and Mary; [Godparents:] Ignatius Bowls, Anastasia Cecil," St. Francis Xavier church.  It is from O'Rourke's Catholic Families of Southern Maryland.  

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