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Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:34 pm

My question today: Are there circumstances which might lead to a child being Christened twice? I have two possible examples in Birmingham. I have used the wonderful new images of Birmingham’s Parish Records available on Ancestry to re-examine all my information, but the questions still remain.

My 4 x Great Grandfather Thomas MOLESWORTH lived in Birmingham, married twice, and had a big family. All the family Christenings took place in the New Meeting House, a Unitarian chapel in Moor Street. However, as this was a non-conformist chapel, most of the rest of the family church events took place, of necessity, at the main C of E churches in the city, such as St Martin's in the Bullring.

Thomas and his first wife Myra had 10 children between 1781 and 1799. This included 2 sons called Thomas (following a standard practice of ‘recycling‘ the names of children who died), who both died young, and apparently 2 daughters called Elizabeth. The first of these was Christened on 1 October 1792, the second on 5 January 1795. This second Elizabeth was buried in St Martin’s on 18 May 1796. Between the 2 Elizabeths, Thomas and Myra had a son, the second Thomas, who appears to have died so soon after birth that he was never Christened, and was buried in St Martin’s on 3 January 1794.

My problem is that I can find no burial for the first Elizabeth. She must have died between her Christening on 1 October 1792, and the birth of the second Elizabeth in cMay 1795, but there is no sign of it anywhere. Even the new Ancestry records have not thrown it up.

So, it is possible that Elizabeth’s Burial was somehow omitted from the records, probably of St Martin’s. Given the large numbers of burials, this would not be particularly surprising. Or the record for the burial of Thomas in 1794 was incorrectly rendered in the records, and it was actually “Elizabeth, daughter“, not “Thomas, son“, who was buried. Or there was only one Elizabeth, but she was Christened twice.

The reason why I wonder if this ‘double Christening’ was a possibility, is that I have another example.

Thomas’ daughter Myra married James SPITTLE in Birmingham in 1808, and they raised a family of 9. They had a daughter Sarah, who was born on 20 February 1813 and Christened in St Martin’s on 15 March 1813, with her older sister Mary. I have no record of any burial for Sarah, but then on 18 November 1816, another Sarah was Christened in St Martin’s. No date of birth is given on the Christening record. This Sarah married and lived until the 1860s. Again, I realise that the strong probability is that the original burial for the first Sarah, presumably between March 1813 and late 1816, was missed from the record. But I also wonder if there was only one Sarah, and she was Christened twice for some reason.

I would be grateful for any thoughts on this, particularly if you have any proven examples of children being Christened twice, and the reasons it might have occurred.

Many thanks,

Brummie on Exmoor
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Postby KayFarndon » Sat Oct 19, 2013 3:41 pm

I have a child belonging to a 2x great aunt, who was christened twice. The child was born out of wedlock, but certainly christened: then the mother married and had a child and the records show that when the child was christened, so was the illegitimate child too.

My thoughts on the reason for this is simply that the parents perhaps felt that it brought the family together: or, did they do this to make everyone think that both the children belonged to the same father?

Double christenings are not uncommon and as a seasoned researcher I would say not to worry too much about it.

I feel quite sure that the child you say died before he was christened, would have been christened if only at home and certainly before they buried him, even if he had already died.

Another feature of family history research is that often records were not diligently kept and for a myriad of reasons, a real bugbear, but something you just have to accept.
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Postby jillj » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:15 pm

I have found that a child was sometimes christened quickly if it was thought that it might die. If the child survived, a "proper" christening would take place. This has occurred in my husbands family. So, your Elizabeths could be the same person. Hope this helps!! :)
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Postby Sylcec » Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:17 pm

I too have come across several instances of repeat baptism over the years and agree with Kay & Jill's comments. However, unless as jillj says, this involves a "private" or conditional baptism of a newborn who is not expected to survive, it would be unusual to have the second event occur in the same parish by the same minister. The follow-up event in this case is usually a formal reception of the infant into the congregation though often written up as a baptism.

Other instances may occur if a family changes their religious denomination and the new church doesn't recognise baptisms performed by the old one, so re-baptises children (and often adults).

Finally, I recollect a case of a young John William Maiden being baptised 3 times in 3 different churches between 1819 and 1825. The last was part of a family group baptism prior to the family making a hazardous journey to British Honduras (dad was a doctor) - presumably it was thought that the extra blessing conferred would save them from peril on and over the seas.
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Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:02 am

Thanks to you all for these ideas.

Yes Kay, regarding DOUBLE Christenings, I have a lot of those too, and even triple ones. I find them useful as they often engender comments by the vicar etc about dates of birth or age, even if they don't normally give this in the Register. In one interesting case however, in a later MOLESWORTH generation, the parents had 2 children Christened, but one was the child of the previous marriage, his mother had died and father remarried. This led to hosts of Trees on Ancestry placing him in the wrong line! I realised when I saw his D/B on the Register that his mother was the previous wife.

I think that my second example, Sarah SPITTLE, could well be in the catagory referred to by jillj, of very poorly babies who were Christened fast. The SPITTLEs were not particularly speedy in getting their children Christened, but Sarah was Christened within a month, along with her sister who was 3 or 4. So I now strongly suspect that there was only one Sarah, and they redid the Christening once she was stronger.

With Elizabeth, I tend to think it is just a case of a missed record. As Kay says, there are lots of instances of missed or error-strewn records. As the MOLESWORTHs were Chapel-goers, and were using the Church only for burials, they would have not been well-known to the Vicar, so it was all too easy her burial to be overlooked when the records were filled out.

Re little Thomas, yes Sylcec, he might well have been Christened at home. (I had that happen with an uncle in 1915, who was a twin and too tiny to survive.) His parents were clearly pretty devout, so that is a strong probability. It all happened over Christmas 1793 I think.

Anyway, thanks again everyone, this was a really useful mind-clearing exercise.

Best wishes

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Postby andmax » Mon Oct 21, 2013 11:55 pm

I also have a question, did people have to pay for their children to get christened? I have cases in my tree, where 2 or more children were christened at the same time.
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Postby Guy » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:09 am

According to the laws of the various churches a baptism should only take place once (note baptism, not christening, they are not the same).

If an infant is baptised due to fear of it dying before a church baptism they are later received into the church (not re-baptised).
If there is doubt whether a person has been baptised previously there is a conditional baptism that provides the ritual - "If thou art not yet baptized, then I baptize thee in the name" etc.

As baptism is a sacrament not charge or fee may be made in payment. Any cleric making such a charge would be guilty of the offence of Simony.

However as clerics are individuals as everyone else both duplicate baptisms and Simony do take place.

P.S. If one comes across cases of a duplicated baptism it is wise to check and re-check that the infant has not died and a subsequent child has been given the same name (this was a common practice).
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Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:08 pm

Thanks Guy, this is really helpful.

Missing burials is clearly the solution, and they are stubbornly missing despite using a host of different indexes, including the really superb new Birmingham images from Ancestry. I have searched using all manner of variants and wildcards, and even searched manually page by page in the more likely registers. But I do suspect that the big busy inner city Churches, with their overflowing burial grounds, did occasionally mislay a record.

And yes, the recycling of names was a very common practice. Clearly, if you named a child after your Mum or Granny with a family forename, and the child died, the idea was to ensure that another child was given the name so the name carried on and Mum or Granny were still remembered in the naming - and possibly the dead child too. Sometimes the name was used with a second forename, even in families that did not routinely use second forenames.

On your point, andmax, double or even multiple baptisms in families were not uncommon, with as many as 5 or 6 children all being baptised in a family group. I have always suspected that it merely indicated a less devout outlook within the family. It was also probably more economical of time in a busy working class family where people worked long hours, 6 days a week, and there were lots of babies to be looked after and no modern labour saving devices.

Best wishes,

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