Christening and Baptism
IT TECHS - Add Baptism to Christening line. The Baptism records are going in to Other Records. Everyday I have to manually put the Baptism Date and Place in the Christening line. Takes too much time and is often overlooked by other researchers. I have been very patient with this, but now it needs to be corrected. It is an easy fix. Just add Baptism to the computer language.
Thank you for all that you do.
Thank you for your comment. We think you are talking about adding Baptism to the Christening area in the Vitals section, correct?
A better place to post changes you would like to see in FamilySearch is in the Ideas section. That is where the programmers look for comments such as yours.
On the left side of your screen, click on the lightbulb icon that says Ideas. Then click on Family Tree, then New Idea and post your comment.
@bathompson thank you for moving this thread to the correct category, and please remember that the Ideas category still has the button disabled so no one can start any thread there.
@CSAndrews : This is one of my pet peeves too, so I will Upvote your post. I have requested the change repeatedly. That said, I think it is a lost cause. Here is why.
Several religious denominations make a hard line distinction between baptism and christening. Christening is infant baptism. In some denominations infant baptism is the only baptism that really counts; in others it does not count at all; and in a few denominations it is sacrilege.0
Looking at the history of genealogy, it is easier to understand what is going on here. It appears from old genealogy manuals that probably the original intent was to enter birth information when available and christening information when it was not available as a birth record substitute. For example, prior to 1815, only a very limited number of parishes in Norway ever recorder birth dates, the vast majority only recorded christening dates. These are a pretty good substitute because christenings at that time had to be within eight days of birth.
Since FamilyTree is now a world-wide project, rather than a European-centric tree, what would be most appropriate, would be to leave baptism in Other Information, move christenings to Other Information, and replace the Christening field with some short term meaning "Naming Ceremony held very shortly after birth."0
Don, I didn't enter start this idea, just commented on it. CSAndrews created it under QandA, it looks like, and a moderator moved it to Ideas.0
Back to the evergreen argument of baptism versus christening: add to dontiknowyou's description the fact that English is just about the only major world language that has two different words for the concept. Even in England, records in Latin are labeled baptisati, regardless of what the nitpickers would label the rite in English.
I discovered on previous versions of FS's feedback forums that many people feel Very Strongly that baptism is not the same as christening. Other people -- including me -- believe, equally strongly, that they are Exactly The Same Thing. (To this day, I haven't wrapped my brain around what the difference is supposed to be.)
FS's data setup shows evidence of both beliefs. The index-based legacy profiles that litter Family Tree are largely based on records labeled Baptisati, and they all have the date and place from the record entered in the Christening field. If you go to one of these profiles and use the (inevitable) record hint to attach the originating index entry, Source Linker will helpfully offer to create a Baptism event under Other, exactly duplicating the Christening event that's already there under Vitals.
This duality is annoying and senseless. Either it's a birth proxy event and belongs under Vitals, or it's just a stray religious rite and belongs under Other. Not both, or rather, sometimes this and sometimes that, depending on the history of the profile and on the particular linguistic and cultural beliefs of the users who have touched the profile.2
Well, in some religions baptism is performed only on persons with mature understanding who profess the requisite faith. So infant baptism is right out. Christening is a naming ceremony, with or without baptism, and applied primarily to infants.
In a pedantic Venn diagram of baptism and Christening the union would be very large and the intersection very small.
Wikipedia has a disambiguation page:1
When I know or suspect a baptism is not a christening I leave it under Other.
When I know the baptism was in a community that practiced infant baptism ASAP then I will move the date and place into the Christening field so it can stand in for a birth record. In some families the infants were baptized the same day they were born, and perhaps then the mother was not present to supply the names of her parents...?0
My view of the argument: Christening and Baptism are the same if they occur at the same time. They are different if they occur at different times. Christening confers a name and baptism is a ceremony for entering a religion. If these occur simultaneously and the priest never quits talking, I would say it is hard to call that two different events.0
If these occur simultaneously and the priest never quits talking, I would say it is hard to call that two different events.
I have attached records from some well-documented communities where both Christening and baptism are recorded in painful detail, separately. Usually on the same day and in the same hand.0
This is a great discussion and this topic has been an issue even before FS FamilyTree. There are two similar but separate issues.
1. The vital conclusions of the Person are Name, Sex, and the 4 events: Birth, Christening, Death, Burial. The purpose of these vitals is to be able to describe the vital aspects of the person's life. The events chosen are to conclude the entering and passing of life. Christening typically is very close to the birth, and burial very close to the death and those are there because there is more likelihood of those events being recorded in historical records. Why not Baptism? That term tends to be more confusing for many users, and could be much later than the Birth event so it was not included in the vitals. Likewise other birth-like and death-like events were chosen to be in OtherInformation to capture, but not make the vitals more complicated. There are many posts discussing the details of various cultures, government, and religious record.
2. The issue of the historical record indexing equating baptism/christening is kind of confusing, based on #1 thought-process. I think it would be good to consider a more accurate and matching methodology to the indexing process. But we have to realize historical records and their indexes can be sourced from other record-custodians, parties, and indexing efforts outside of FS.
(copied from :
I wish I had actual numbers to attach to this, but on a practical level, if everything on FamilySearch labeled "baptism" were filed under Christening in the Vitals section, it would be correct functionally every time. Worldwide and throughout the genealogical timeframe, the number of records labeled "baptism" that aren't christenings is infinitesimally tiny.
Never mind the distictions made by the profusion of denominations in the United States. In the rest of the world, there was and is no difference between "baptism" and "christening", because they're the SAME WORD.
I've moved a christening event to "Other" a few times, when it occurred so late that the event was not suitable as a birth proxy. (The family converted from Judaism when the children were preteens.) In contrast, I cannot count how many times I've dealt with baptisms that needed to be moved to Vitals, and with baptisms duplicated between Vitals and Other. Eliminating this tedious, annoying, and totally unnecessary work would be incredibly simple: just stop quibbling over a distinction that is absent from nearly every world language besides English.4
Could we change the name of the field to Baptism rather than Christening? I hear the argument about Christening being for infants only, so not wanting to put records denoted as baptisms into the christening field. Baptism and christening are effectively equivalent. The names are used interchangeably in many types of records. For example, I am working on Netherlands records and frequently find duplicate records for the same event, one that is recorded as baptism and the other as christening. Many traditions don't use the word christening, even though the person being baptized is often an infant or toddler. Christening is a word that isn't in common use in many Christian beliefs. If the field were changed to baptism, then both baptisms and christenings could be suggested for entry into the field.
It is time consuming and error promoting to have to manually move the data to the correct field. Please look into this. We all want the most accurate data possible. By not allowing a person to enter this information into the field where it makes the most sense to be stored, this induces errors into the system.1
As I understand it, the Christening field, from the very early days of paper forms, was meant to be a substitute for the Birth field when the birth was unknown. To hold to that purpose as more people from more backgrounds and cultures use family tree, the Christening field should probably be renamed "Infant Naming Event." Changing that field to baptism will only confuse its use further.
I don't know about the Netherlands, but in Norway there is only one word, "døpt" that can be, and is, translated to English variously as christening or baptism. I suspect what you are seeing as duplicate records using different terms is just due to an unfortunate change in FamilySearch policy. From the beginning of indexing in the 1970s until just a couple of years ago, all christening/baptism events were categorized as christenings and those records all map in the Source Linker correctly to the christening field. It was just within the past two or three years that new collections called these baptisms and the Source Linker started only mapping them to a custom event.
For example, this indexed record was created back in the 1970s or 1980s:
This repeat indexing of the same record in this collection was released within the past year:
What is really needed is for the Source Linker to be fixed so that baptism is recognized as a christening event. Maybe it could include a check between birth year and christening year and treat it as a christening event if no birth year is present or if the birth year and christening year are more than two years apart and treat it as a custom event if they are more than two years apart.1
In the Netherlands, the word christening is unknown (at least in genealogical contexts, I'm not 100% sure about everyday Dutch). "Doop" is the Dutch word used for baptism.
In my own Christian denomination, "baptism" is the only correct term, but nevertheless members frequently use the term "christening". The question of baptism versus christening has been discussed in this forum several times before; it certainly causes a lot of confusion.3
Paul W ✭✭✭✭✭
It might be good for FamilySearch to provide some lessons in genealogy to its engineers and other employees. There is now no excuse for the organisation not to treat these events in exactly the same way. Experienced users have explained the implication of the "switch" to the term "baptism" enough times to make them well aware that this was a big mistake.
As with other users, I share the frustration of having to manually add a "Baptism" (Custom Event) to the Christening area (in Vitals). If FamilySearch employees really do read all the posts in Suggest An Idea, why can't they resolve this problem by at least adopting some consistency?
I believe Gordon is correct and this is a relatively recent change (i.e., all these events were recorded as christenings in the past, but now as baptisms). Please, either revert to the former practice or change the term used in Vitals from Christening to Baptism, as suggested.0
Or rewrite the source linker to allows more flexibility in where information moved to.
Just to throw in another wrinkle to this discussion, I just took a look and found that in the Norwegian version of FamilySearch, they are using the relatively modern term of Barnedåp (child baptism) for christening in some places, but not all. But that word is not used in any of the actual records. In Dutch they made the same modern split between Kinderdoop and Doop.1
I cannot agree with @Paul W that the Family Tree fields Baptism and Christening are one and the same. In some communities they emphatically are not one and the same.
The distinction between believer baptism and infant baptism aka christening is very significant both in religious doctrine and in genealogy.
That said, I would like to be able to select in the Source Linker whether to handle the event as a believer baptism or as an infant baptism.0
The comment by @dontiknowyou sparked a realization. FamilySearch is created by the LDS church. LDS have believer baptism at 8 years old. It's highly ironic that the field is called christening when the LDS church doesn't even believe in christening. :)0
@dontiknowyou, the distinction between the synonyms is both very modern (20th century or later) and extremely American: it is only possible in English-speaking communities and in denominations that do not follow standard 18th-19th-century European Christian practices.
In over a decade of this hobby, having looked at many, many thousands of baptisms in at least four different denominations, I have never encountered a record that could even be remotely classified as a "believer baptism". Never. Not even once. The only ones I've seen that weren't infants (usually newborns) were my spouse's converted Jewish relatives, who were baptized as pre-teens in the mid-1800s.
Consider: the language of the Catholic church was Latin well into the 20th century. Other Christian denominations also sometimes used Latin as their language of record. Latin has only one word for baptism/christening: baptismus.
The next most common language of record in European churches was German. It, too, has just one word for baptism/christening: Taufe.
As Gordon and AvanH have pointed out, Norwegian and Dutch also have just one word for the concept, 20th century retronyms notwithstanding.
Hungarian also has just one word, keresztség.
In fact, I cannot find another European language that has two different words for this concept the way English does. Modernly, people have added "infant" or "child" to the word for "baptism/christening" in order to create the distinction, but I can find no evidence for such usage prior to the 20th century.
In other words, the distinction makes about as much sense as it would to file deaths under "Other" if the date was an odd number and under "Vitals" if it was even.1
Wikipedia has an overview of the history of believer baptism.
I deal very often with the distinction between infant and believer baptism, which can be separated in time by decades, because one of the surnames I work on includes a large contingent of Seventh Day Baptists. They were among the earliest European colonists to settle in Rhode Island. This happened in the middle of the 17th Century. Another surname has a large contingent of Anabaptists. Et cetera.0
@Alex Ezra Campbell, two points:
1) Christening is used because that has long been an accepted English term for infants being named and baptized shortly after birth and, as far as genealogical purposes go, a recognized substitute for birth information. In fact, sometimes it is the only fact available. The Norwegian parish registers before 1815 almost never contain birth dates, only baptism (dåp) dates. What is ironic about using those dates no matter what one may think of the religious practice? Particularly if it is the only information giving documentation close to the time of birth?
2) If you take the standpoint of others here who maintain that christening and baptism are two independent events that just happen to occur simultaneously or in the same few minutes in some religions, then the LDS church certainly does believe in christening as an event separate from baptism. In the LDS church, all infants are brought before their congregation at about a month of age to be officially named and given a blessing.
It would seem to me that using the term christening would be the lease confusing term for this birth substitute. Are there any groups, religious or not, that would use the term christening for an event beyond the newborn period? We've seen here how broadly baptism can be interpreted. But the important thing is that all these records for children that used to be classified as belonging in the Vitals section where they have been put for the past 150 years, suddenly and without explanation got labeled an Other Information event.
Here is are the instructions from a 1915 manual on recording family information:
Note where christening dates are recorded and how they are identified.
Here is what is given as a correctly constructed and completed pedigree in this same manual:
I haven't looked at this for a long time, but looking at it now, in light of some of the debates about the new Other Relationships feature, I find the bottom right hand corner very fascinating.0
This manual was published by the Genealogical Society of Utah, which was the original name of FamilySearch.0
@Gordon Collett I disagree with some of the premises that you are proposing. However, I don't want to continue a discussion about it. You have very clear and vocal beliefs about this topic. I'm not interested in debating this further, since it appears that your mind has already been made up.0
Paul W ✭✭✭✭✭
My issue (as with other issues on the website) is related to FamilySearch inconsistency - both in terminology and the way things are applied. So it is not really that important to me which term is used for the exact-same event, as long it used consistently and the same rules applied when the event is added as a source.
The present situation should be seriously embarrassing to anyone at FamilySearch who is involved in its continuation. Instead, no FamilySearch employee seems even willing to acknowledge the problem, let alone set about implementing a simple solution.
Please stop this crazy situation, by labelling the same event with the same title and making sure the data goes straight to the (currently titled) Christening field in the Vitals section. It's currently a complete joke that I can have, say, six sources for the same event and FamilySearch chooses to label three of them as a baptism (custom event item) and the other three as a christening (vital item).
Finally, let's be clear we are talking about an event that commonly takes place soon after the birth of a child, not at a set time several years later - or even into adulthood. These types of ceremony really should be indexed differently and be entered as a Custom Event, thus avoiding any suggestion they are closely connected to the birth event.1
@Alex Ezra Campbell, Gordon hasn't disagreed with you: he, Paul, A van H. and I all agree with you that the current basically-random shuttling of baptism/christening between Vitals and Other is ridiculous and needs to stop. Gordon's latest comment points out that even in some LDS materials, the two words are treated as exact synonyms.
The only participant here who supports the separation is dontiknowyou. I suppose people with Anabaptist ancestry have a different experience of European church records than the rest of us, whose ancestors all baptized their newborns as quickly as possible, to prevent them from dying as heathens.1
As a genealogist, I fully support the separate handling of infant christening/baptism vs believer baptism. I support this separation simply because believer baptism, like the religious initiation rite of numerous other faith communities, is not a proxy for birth date.
That said, I do wish more historical record collections were being indexed in such a way that we did not have to evaluate and transfer one by one literally billions of infant baptisms from the Other Information block into the Vitals block, when the baptism almost certainly is an infant baptism. Could there not be more discernment in collection processing, please?!
If https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations_by_number_of_members has credible numbers, infant baptisms far outnumber believer baptisms. However, both historically and today, most people are not Christians. With few exceptions, we all conduct baby naming ceremonies at birth or soon after. Infant baptism was and is practiced by a minority (albeit that minority is a majority of Christians). That minority is declining.
Among those Christians who practice infant baptism there is much variety in practice. For example:
- I worked a set of German church records of infants that I at first thought had simply been indexed twice, with a change of label for the event, because there were indexed records of both baptisms and christenings with the exact same details including date. Until I noticed some had different dates for baptism and christening. If I recall correctly the records are Catholic church records; if I am not remembering correctly then they are Lutheran.
- I worked a set of records from England where the children received infant baptism/christening and years later also received believer baptism in a different religious denomination. They were converts.
@dontiknowyou, given that German doesn't have two different words for baptism/christening, I am doubtful of your interpretation of those doubled results. It's linguistically basically impossible for it to be correct. I think it's much more likely that it was, in fact, two different indexes of the same events, and the different dates on some of them were either birthdates or errors. (Perhaps one was the parish register, the other the bishop's copy, and the copyist made some mistakes?)
However, I fully agree with the sentiment that everything in FS's databases labeled either "baptism" or "christening" is most likely of an infant and belongs in the Christening field under Vitals. In those rare cases where it isn't appropriate as a birth proxy event, it can be moved to Other, but the default should be to put it where it belongs 99.99% of the time.0
Catholics definitely did not practice non-infant baptism. Until the 20th century Catholics believed an infant who died before baptism had no chance of salvation, therefore it was extremely important to them that the baptism occurred ASAP. If a child seemed likely to die, anyone could administer an "emergency" baptism, and if they survived that would be followed up with a "conditional" baptism.0
Catholics definitely did not practice non-infant baptism.
Adult converts to the Catholic faith are baptized. See histories of the Roman Catholic Christian Initiation Process, such as this brief outline:
Of course, that will be an exception. I was talking about children born into Catholic families. And even in that situation, if the convert was previously baptized in another Christian denomination whose baptism ritual is sufficiently similiar to the Catholic ceremony, they will either not be baptized or will be offered a conditional baptism.0