Don't Christenings Usually give you the birth year?

+7 votes
In my two-three years of experience I had come to understand that most individuals were born in the year that were baptized/christened.  I have learned in the last month that this is anything but true.  Is this correct?

I am working on two families from New Hampshire and none of their dates are matching up.  In fact, it is hard to find a christening or baptismal date on them and when I do it has nothing to do with their birth year.

These are old families such as White which appears in the North American Family Histories.

Is this my imagination or is it really occurring?


in The Tree House by Taylor Worthington Gilchrist G2G6 Mach 9 (91.1k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

Really great, accurate and impressive genealogy answers on this question thread .. C'est Bon Magnifique !!! 


Yes, I would completely agree that some outstanding answers are coming out on this topic.  Many answers are coming out that I hadn't considered.  I guess I became spoiled when I was able to easily find the Christening and they matched the birth year.

This is a true educational experience for all.  I truly appreciate everyone sharing their knowledge with everyone else.


9 Answers

+6 votes
Normally, (and I can only say from a Catholic perspective), the babies are baptized within the same year as their birth (unless they were born in december or late november, in which case it's possible they were christened early in the new year). However, some babies, and some people, don't get baptized until later (and sometimes even later in life if they converted from another religion, or simply "took up" this religion).

So I would suspect that 80% of the time, christenings might accurately reflect the birth year, but are probably not the best source for the date of birth itself.
by Tannis Mani G2G6 Mach 2 (21.0k points)
Okay, that's what I was seeing a lot of Catholic profiles and the baptism helped you to know if you had the birth year correct.

Thank you for responding.

+6 votes
My niece born in September, christened the following April.

I read a while back that folks in denominations who did christenings generally tried to have that rite accomplished as quick as possible due to infant mortality.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.8m points)
I was born in November, christened the following May on Mothering Sunday, along with my cousin.  I was 6 months, he was just over one year old.
Thank you.

Yes infant mortality did cause a lot of families to have their children baptized early.

Thank you for reminding me about infant mortality.

+9 votes

Not necessarily...

The christening tells you that they were born before the date. I have seen whole families on the same date.

Example my gggg grandfather Samuel and Mary his wife joined the Church of Christ on Buxton on 19 Sep 1779 and 5 of their children were baptized on 23 nov 1779.

by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (624k points)
Thank you for reminding me that I was rebaptized when I joined a church last year recommiting my life to God. I had been baptized as a child.

I think a christening and a baptism are two slightly different things.  A christening indicates a dedication of something, such as a person, ship, or building, which often also includes the giving of a name.  It may also include a sprinkling or baptism with water.  A baptism denotes, generally,  the immersion in water to indicate the washing away of sins and acceptance of Christ as Lord and Saviour.  Doesn't answer the question, but the difference is something to note.  I believe christenings are generally used in Catholic or Anglican religions.  Those are the records I think we are generally looking at for birthdates.  Quakers also include birthdates or some type of baptismal record, I think. Need to check my info on that.
+8 votes
Another "not necessarily". Any place without a permanent church would have to wait for a year or more for an itinerant minister to arrive before a baptism or christening would occur. You have to know the local area before making assumptions.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (556k points)
Yes, this would explain why some families children would be baptized way after their birth.


+6 votes
In some religions, such as wesleyan, the child is supposed to be of an age to understand and accept God, so baptism may not occur until a person is in their teens. Some people in my own family tree were of this religion and their children were baptised at all different ages. Some of my lot were "batch-dipped" in twos, threes or even fours.
by Gillian Causier G2G6 Pilot (301k points)
Gillian, I think I like your answer the best. Many churches have different reasons for baptisms.  They baptize babies for infant mortality or just in case they don't live long enough to know, understand and accept God.  Then the later baptisms are for the older children who are old enough to know old the previous items.This does explain why it is difficult to find baptism records.

Then you have those who don't have a regular church and have difficulty finding a minister to baptize their child.

Thank you so much everyone.

+5 votes
Yes, that was really happening.

I have one ancestor who was actually not baptised (Christened) until she was 14 years old. THat threw off looking for all the records for many many years uintil we finally foiund the baptismal record.

Many of those who births were registered or who were christened in January, I would suspect were probably born in the previous quarter - Oct - Dec.

And also as has been mentioned, it was not unusual for some families to have 2 or more children christened on the same day when the priest or minister finally came to their village. Those children could easily have been ages 0 to 5 or even older.

Catholics tended to baptrise their babies very quickly. Protestants were a lot slower.
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+4 votes
I attended one church where they did not Baptize anyone until they reached the age of 14, at least, so using the baptized date would not always be accurate for the birth date. It can always be used as a "before" date.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
+4 votes
And then you have the other side of the coin where, if the baby was sickly, the midwife could perform a part-baptism there and then.  That's why sometimes you will see that a child was 'received into the church' - because he/she survived.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
+4 votes
Remember also some churches and records were destroyed especially with religions hiding out, like with the Presbyterians in Scotland in the late 1600’s and 1700’s!. I think of course they tried to christen them while very young, right after birth if possible, but hiding out in conveticals with marriages and christenings.. they might have had to wait. And English Dragoon would have destroyed records if found I am sure! Children were snatched from mothers because they were raising children in those religions. Men captured and sent to the colonies and women too sometimes!  Quite awful times for sure! Hard to believe some of the horrid things they did. Families hiding and changing names to protect their children! Some back then is so hard to prove! You need written events usually! Taxes, deeds, jobs in the mines. (James son of Peter Murray mining  accident dates and ages) etc! Good luck! More and more being found all the time!
by Mary Tyler G2G6 (6.7k points)

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