I was doing some research this week and found 2 children recorded as being christened – also known as baptized – on the same day in 1884 in a parish in Derbyshire, England. I got to thinking about this boy and girl and asked myself, are they twins?
Don’t rush to hasty conclusions – certainly not based on only christening data – we can learn more.
I turned to the wiki at FamilySearch.org and searched first for England and then went to the article on Church Records where I found the following under a heading Christenings (Baptisms):
“Children were usually christened within a few weeks of birth, though christenings of some older children or adults were recorded. The parish registers give at least the infant’s name and the christening (baptism) date. Additional information may include the father’s name and occupation, the mother’s first name, the child’s birth date and legitimacy, and the family’s place of residence. In larger cities the family’s street address is given.
The pre-printed forms introduced in 1813 called for the child’s christening date and given names, both parents’ given names, family surname, residence, father’s occupation, and minister’s signature. The birth date was sometimes added.
It is worth mentioning that it was common practice in families to use the same Christian name over and over again until a child survived with it. This means that individuals need to try and capture all of the family members listed watching for deaths and that same name being given to the next child of the same sex.”
Usually christened with a few weeks of birth . . . well they probably weren’t born to the same mother with a few weeks of each other! But, you can’t just assume they are twins because they were christened on the same day.
I was glad that they reminded us of the practice of re-using children’s names if sadly one should die early in life.
Then I found another very interesting article in the wiki: Birth-baptism intervals for family historians – you can find it by searching by the title – or here is a short cut https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Birth-baptism_intervals_for_family_historians . The article is by Stuart Basten from the Geography Department at the University of Cambridge. The article is well worth reading . . . .
It includes the following quotes :
“In the sixteenth-century, the Anglican Church ordered parents to baptize soon after birth. For example, in the Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552, it was written that ‘The pastors and curates shall oft admonish the people that they defer not the Baptisme of Infants any longer than the Sunday, or other Holy day next after the child be borne, unless upon a great and reasonable cause declared to the Curate.’ Similarly, in the early seventeenth-century, William Gouge wrote that ‘it is not meet for Christians to defer the baptizing of their children beyond eight days.’ However, both Gouge and the later seventeenth-century Prayer Books allow for a short period of rest for mother and child.”
“Evidence strongly suggests that during the sixteenth- and much of the seventeenth-centuries, parents did indeed baptize in haste. As such, family historians working on the early modern period can usually assume that any date they uncover either in a parish register or on the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which specifies baptism will normally be no more than a week after birth. However, studies have shown than from the mid-seventeenth-century onwards the interval between birth and baptism became longer and longer. In one study, for example, in the period 1650-1700 it took 14 days before 75% of children in the register were baptized, while between 1771-89 and 1791-1812 the corresponding period was 38 and 64 days respectively. Just as importantly, the same figures for the parishes which saw the longest intervals for these three periods are 27, 155 and 444 days. A further complicating factor is the growing appearance of ‘baptism parties’ or ‘family baptisms’ in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries. In these instances parents waited to baptize all of their children in one go.”
Baptism parties sound fun! The article shares an example of an entry for a baptism party where ages range up to over 3000 days from birth.
“This is of course highly significant for genealogists attempting to trace their lineage in the period between roughly 1700 and the beginning of Civil Registration in 1837. For example, if one was attempting to use the age data in the 1851 Census or in cemetery or burial records to track back to a birth, if the register only gave baptismal dates, the birth could potentially be some years before the date given in the register. A second potential difficulty relates baptisms being missed altogether.1 During periods and in communities where the intervals between birth and baptism are longer, the likelihood of babies and children dying before they are baptized is greater.”
And so, what is the answer to my question? Births in 1884 can also be found in civil registration records! Lucy’s birth was registered in 1881, John’s birth was registered in 1883. They were both christened on 3 Feb 1884. Good thing that I didn’t assume they were twins!