Baptism registers before 1813

From the beginning of parish registers, until 1813, the amount of detail given in baptism records is very basic indeed.

"Charles the son of Gyles Mason Baptized the 6th day".

It is very common indeed to have no mention of the mother. That information was not considered to be important. Later, the mother's name began to be stated, and a typical format for the entry would be:

"Francis the son of John Neep and his wife Mary was baptised"

In the case of the baptism of an illegitimate child, the mother's full name would be stated, with either the wording "illegitimate", "base", "bastard" or "spurious" added, sometimes in the margin. (see below). Sometimes the clergyman's comments were a little more descriptive!  "The bastard son of that whore Mary Smith".

The hand writing in some of the registers is fairly difficult to read, but experience helps considerably. It is also a good idea to look at other writing on the page when you come to a difficult word.

Below is an extract from a typical baptism register for 1629 and 1630

Anno Domini 1629
John the sonne of John Lambley & Mary was baptized July 19th
William Cooke the supposed sonne of William Richards was
baptized November 13th

Anno Domini 1630
Thomas the sonne of Robert Neepe was baptised March 27th

There are some "strange" looking letters which we learn to get used to in the old handwriting.

Note "Cooke" in the entry above. The capital C is typical of the period, but confusing is the ending "e" which looks like an "o" with a little loop on top. The entry for "Neepe" (my family name NEEP) below, therefore at first glance looks like "Noopo".

Look back at the Cooke entry... "Cooke the supposed sonne". Notice the large lazy "s" and the "osed" at the end of the word which clearly shows the difference between the o, e and d. Of particular interest is the "h" in the word "the", and the similar "h" in the date "November 13th". The clergyman reverts to a more modern form of the "h" in 1630.

Watch out for that lazy "s", especially when it is a double s (ss) because the handwriting style of the day makes it look like "fs". The surname Rosser would be written in a way that looks like Rofser.

In the first 1630 entry, note the capital "T" of "Thomas", and the capital "R" of "Robert", again typical of the period. The combination of the "R" and the strange "h" gives us the answer to the surname of "William Richards".

In the example below (from the same register page) we see some more interesting formations of letters.

The first noticeable one is the capital "F". This is *not* a double "f". A capital F was simply written that way. The person's name is Francis and not Ffrancis! The clergyman actually makes a spelling mistake here. It was normal for a female to be "Frances" and a male "Francis". Literally we have:
Francis the Daughter of Thomas Wallis
and Margret was baptized the 27th
day of March
Notice the typical, but strange "r" in March, (it looks rather like a "w", and the "h" at the end which we have already come to recognise.
Francis the sonne of Francis Richardsonne and Alice was baptized the first day of May Note the capital F of Francis, and the capital A of "Alice"

A common misconception is of the use of "ye" in old documents.

This is not "ye" but simply "the". The t and the h were combined into what looks like one character. The word "the" was simply written that way! Other similar abbreviations are:
yt = that
ys = this

which puts ye into perspective.

By the late 1700s the handwriting becomes more "modern" in style, but some older clergymen still continued using their old style well into the 1800s. This example of 1782 is clear, but the handwriting of some individuals was horrible!


Jany 14th
Daniel son of Daniel & Elizabeth Brown was baptized.

Feby. 10th
Alpheus son of Willm. & Jane Ratcliff was baptized.


Samuel son of Thomas & Mary Wogden was baptised.


Francis son of John & Mary Neap was baptised.

Baptism registers after 1813 contained more information.

Copyright ©1999 Rod Neep - all rights reserved