I was recently in Salt Lake City where I researched at the Family History Library. One of the main tasks was to locate a baptismal record. I had the church-generated abstract on a pre-printed form with details presumably taken directly from the church record book. Yet I needed to verify the information.
The microfilmed church record book showed that there were no errors on the abstract but it left out much of what was on the page in the record book. What was missing? The entry directly above this one was for the infant’s sibling. Then there was the notation for the infant in question that the father of these two children had been killed just three days before and it mentioned he was the husband of the mother and where they had been married. I then located the death record for the father/husband who had a common name. With that possible date I was able to find that the death was recorded in another county.
Great results but we still need to be careful of what was found on the microfilm. Is it actually the original record book? Whether it is in “original” form, on microfilm, or a digitized image you need to look at it with a critical eye. In other words, is it the original or one that someone copied either for easier reading or to preserve a disintegrating volume? Check to see if there is a title page giving the date the volume was published. Are there event dates that precede that publication date? If there is no such title page, then look for other clues. Is the entire record book written in the same handwriting. Of course, it could span a brief number of years and could logically hold the same handwriting for all events.
The names in the event descriptions such as christenings should not be in alphabetical order. The church members did not show up in alpha order to get christened, married, or buried. Is the handwriting the same throughout the record book that spans from 1822-1910? It is unlikely that one pastor or church member entering the events was around for all that time period.
Read the church history booklet or a county history entry to help determine if a smaller congregation was a mission or satellite church of a larger one. When the smaller one grew and had its own pastor, were the records pertaining to its members hand copied from the larger church’s books? I found one church record book that stated “people baptized when they had no pastor.” Were all the pages in the record book typed? For those 1845 events, too? Typewriters did not come into common usage until the later 1870s.
Another comment found in a church record book is “perhaps the date is 1870 it is blurred in the original but comes 1st under the year 1871.” [That is a direct transcription, dates and all!)]
Think about the church records you have consulted – what idiosyncrasies have you found?
© 2013 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.