The format and wording of the parish registers is uniform. Learn the wording for a few, and generally one will be able to read them all. This is so true that, when we showed a copy of an 18th century marriage registration from Louisiana to experts here, they were flabbergasted at the perfection of the form and language from a colonie! Yet, reading the registers is another story. The old language and the unfamiliar handwriting are among the biggest hurdles for genealogists. Courses in paleography are incredibly popular.
The parish registers are little bonanzas of information. Baptisms will give the parents' names, sometimes the grandparents' names as well, the full name of the child, date of birth, and the names of the godparents. Sometimes, the father's employment will be mentioned. Here is an example (click on the image to enlarge it):
Under the first large B in the margin is the child's name, "Michel Le clerc". Translated, the entry reads:
"The second of January, one thousand seven hundred sixty, was baptized by us, the curate signed above, Michel, born this day, son of René Le clerc and of Renée Chretien , his wife. The godfather being René Le cler grandfather and the godmother being Michelle Bourdais, wife of Jean Chretien, all of this parish who do not sign. [Being illiterate and not knowing how to sign their names]"
The following is a standard burial entry:
Under the S (for Sépulture) in the margin is the deceased's name. Translated, the entry reads:
"The tenth of June, one thousand seven hundred sixty, was buried by us, the curate signed above, the body of Pierre Guillaume Moucher, died yesterday, aged one day, present at the burial were René Moucher, his father, and Guillaume Chretien, his godfather, who did not know how to sign this."
Finally, we have selected a short marriage entry, such as most of the earlier ones are. When grand people married, the entries are quite long, with much discussion of witnesses and important relatives. Ordinary folk just received a blessing and went their married way.
"Today the ninth of June one thousand seven hundred forty-two after three canonical publications [of banns] made in this church during mass of this parish without prevention or opposition coming to our notice, were affianced and married by us the undersigned canon regular priest subprior of the abbey, curate of the parish of roë pierre beasse a boy of about twenty-four years son of michel beasse and of the late jeanne lourdais of this parish his father and mother on one side, and on the other renée bernard girl of about twenty-three years daughter of michel benard tenant farmer of this parish and of marguerite malon her father and mother present and witnesses were michel beasse father of the groom michel beasse brother of the groom michel benard father of the bride joseph benard uncle of the bride and many other relatives who all have declared that they do not know how to sign this."
Forget modern rules of punctuation; they're married.
In a later post, we will look at modern civil records.
©2009 Anne Morddel