witnesses on OPR birth certificates

Parish Records and other sources

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Mo-anne
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witnesses on OPR birth certificates

Post by Mo-anne » Sun Nov 18, 2007 6:28 pm

I've just got a copy of a birth entry from 1794 (thanks, Andrew, for your suggestion as to which) and it contains the names of two witnesses (as does each entry on the page).

Sorry if this is a very basic question but this is the first time I've seen this on a certificate :why did the births have to have witnesses and would these be "official" people like a doctor or person of rank or family members or god-parents or what.

Thanks for any info

Mo-anne

Tracey
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Post by Tracey » Sun Nov 18, 2007 7:38 pm

Hi Mo-anne

This may may help explain

http://talkingscot.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4148

I have been able to work out some of the witnesses on mine. Some were neighbours and witnesses also on Wills. The ones that have the same name sake though sadly i cant prove they are related to either parent.

Tracey
Scotland - Donaldson / Moggach / Shaw / Geddes / Sim / Gray / Mackie / Richards / Joel / Coull / Mckimmie / Panton / McGregor
Ireland and Scotland - Casey / McDade / Phillips / McCandle / Dinely / Comaskey + various spellings

Mo-anne
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Post by Mo-anne » Sun Nov 18, 2007 10:01 pm

Thanks for this link.

Mo-anne

jennyblain
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Post by jennyblain » Fri Nov 23, 2007 5:53 pm

Witnesses can be amazing!
They could be anybody but very often, particularly with the first child, they are relatives, and can give real clues particularly when their occupations or status are noted. I've just had an example of this today - the eldest child of Katherine Keir and Patrick Johnstoun of Corstorphine, for whom the witnesses are John Johnstoun and Adam Keir, burgesses of Edinburgh, who may be either fathers, brothers or uncles of the parents. And I've now found that Adam Keir was deacon of the baxters in Edinburgh at the time.

I've had some interesting other ones - one situation where two children were baptised on the same day and the fathers were each witness to the baptism of the other child, and several where witnesses were people in the same line of work, patrons or employers, or related by marriage to the family. I've found it quite useful to poke around a bit to get info on some of the witnesses, though of course it gets expensive!

Jenny
http://wyrdswell.co.uk/ancestors

Robert1893
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Post by Robert1893 » Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:15 pm

I find witnesses on OPRs to be invaluable. In one instance I was trying to establish why a son of my 3x Great grandparents was baptised as Peter Sutherland in 1818. This did not seem to fit the usual naming pattern. When I examined the OPR for baptisms, the witnesses were a Captain Peter Calder and Mrs Calder. Peter Calder was the tenant at Mount Pleasant Farm, Thurso, Caithness where my 3x greatgrandfather, Donald Sutherland was Grieve. Information from the Ulbster Estate records and the Midwife's Birth Register confirmed that Peter Calder was tenant at that time. It is therefore possible that he was the source of the name. In the same OPR Baptisms, my 3x Great Grandparents, Donald Sutherland and Helen Waters were witnesses to the Baptism, in 1821, of a son of James Dundas, farm servant at the farm. But interestingly, in 1823, another son of James Dundas was Baptized with Donald Sutherland, Grieve, and Donald Sutherland Junior as witnesses. Until I saw this, I had no idea whether Donald Sutherland Junior had survived after his birth in 1806. At least I know he is likely to have been alive in 1823. Unless of course he was the second child of that name and was not recorded in the OPR Baptisms. But I feel that is unlikely. Unfortunately I have no knowledge of what happened to young Donald after that.

As a footnote to the above, although not directly related to witnesses, another sibling was baptized, Benjamina Sutherland in 1810. Another mystery firstname until I found that Peter Calder's father and previous tenant at Mount Pleasant was Benjamin Calder. I wonder....... Was my 3x great grandfather a sycophant?

Muriel
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Post by Muriel » Sun Dec 02, 2007 10:29 am

I've got one where the baptism is recorded twice, each time with 2 witnesses - but only 1 of them is on both records! The first reads: David Crawford, colour maker, Bridgeton and Catherine Law had a lawful daughter their 1st child born 31 May 1846 named Catherine, William Law & James Crawford, witnesses. Bapt'd 12 July 1846. The second, in a different hand further down the page read: David Crawford & Catherine Law had a lawful daughter their 1st child names Catherine born 31 May 1846 at Main Street, Bridgeton. James & Thomas Crawford witnesses. No baptism date given in this one.

Fall oot in the family, or were there 3 witnesses?? David had brothers called James & Thomas, so I reckon they were the 2 Crawford witnesses. Unfortunately, I know nothing about Catherine's family & she died shortly after the birth, so no d.c. I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to trace her via William.

Muriel
Searching Ross - Lochwinnoch & Eaglesham, Renfrewshire; Glasgow; Glover - Paisley; Macadam - Glasgow.

LesleyB
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Post by LesleyB » Sun Dec 02, 2007 12:26 pm

Hi Muriel
That is an interesting one.

As the second christening was copied in a different hand, do you think it might be a case of the session clerk writing one and someone else - the minister maybe? writing the other. Perhaps they were both working from notes of the week's christenings, as I think in some cases the book was not always written up at the time as for some parishes there are two copies of births - the rough one, sometimes referred to as the "blotter" register and the copy in the "official" book, e.g.
http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/sct/FIF/LD ... urches.htm
  • Dunfermline Parish Church Blotter registers: Burials, 1790-1800, 1815-1833
    Limekilns Burgh Seceders and United Associate Congregation Blotter registers: Baptisms, 1782-1832;
    Parish Church of Kirkcaldy Blotter registers: Baptisms, 1750-1769;
...and only realised there was an overlap in their entries in the book after it had been writtten? Just trying to work out why it would be there twice. ...But that still does not explain the difference in those witnesses! :roll: :lol:

Best wishes
Lesley

Muriel
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Post by Muriel » Sun Dec 02, 2007 3:06 pm

Hi Lesley

I think you're right & it's an overlap in the records. I went back & checked my copies & the first entry is in the middle of a page, marked 7 at the top. The next entry is on another page, I think marked 8 (it's not very clear) where the first 2 entries are in the same hand as on page 7, then there are 3 entries including Catherine in a second hand while the page is completed in a 3rd hand. Looks as if there was a change of roll-keeper with someone standing in temporarily! As you say, it doesn't explain the difference in the witnesses :?

Best wishes

Muriel
Searching Ross - Lochwinnoch & Eaglesham, Renfrewshire; Glasgow; Glover - Paisley; Macadam - Glasgow.

DavidWW
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Re: witnesses on OPR birth certificates

Post by DavidWW » Sun Dec 02, 2007 4:24 pm

Mo-anne wrote:I've just got a copy of a birth entry from 1794 (thanks, Andrew, for your suggestion as to which) and it contains the names of two witnesses (as does each entry on the page).

Sorry if this is a very basic question but this is the first time I've seen this on a certificate :why did the births have to have witnesses and would these be "official" people like a doctor or person of rank or family members or god-parents or what.

Thanks for any info

Mo-anne
Dobry wieczor Mo-anne

The protocols of the Church of Scotland and other presbyterian churches in Scotland required that several people should "stand witness" when a child was baptised according to the tenets and procedures of the Established Church of Scotland, as well as the various other presbyterian churches that split from the CoS following 1690 when presbyterianism was re-established in Scotland.

Most often these witnesses were two family members, most often grandparents of the child, or uncles/aunts or other relatives of the parents; but there was no definition that I'm aware of regarding who was acceptable.

One quite frequent practice was that the witnesses were selected from the congregation as having the same given name as the child in question.

As is the case in the CoS to this day, the whole congregation were often reported as being the witnesses. ('In the presence of the C[ongregation]')

There was no requirement that such witnesses had to be "official" people like a doctor or person of rank (as in such a term meaning a heritor).

The Church of Scotland did not consider the formal Catholic Church practice of godparents as acceptable to their church's tenets.

Given

David

Mo-anne
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Post by Mo-anne » Tue Dec 04, 2007 10:00 am

Thanks for all this fascinating info. The birth entry that sparked my query is one from 1794 for Richard Wood: there are five entries on the page and in each case the second names of witnesses is different to those of the parents while two of the witnesses each witness two baptisms (hence my query about "offical" witnesses.)
Richard Wood was born "in fornication" and baptised six months after his birth : in this case, would the witnesses be likely to be elders of the church who have "sanctioned" the couple for their "fornication " ?
Thanks Mo-anne

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