Author Topic: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?  (Read 808 times)

Offline Wexflyer

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Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« on: Monday 10 April 17 04:13 BST (UK) »
I have a situation I have encountered before: Family names appearing as godparents/sponsors at christenings. Of course the question is, what relatives are they?  Several of the names I am dealing with right now match those of supposed grandparents, but my own understanding (feeling) is that tradition has always been that grandparents are **not** typically used as godparents or sponsors (at least in Catholic Ireland). Anyone else have any feeling - or even knowledge! - about this issue?
BRENNANx2 Davidstown/Taghmon,Ballybrennan; COOPER St.Helens; CREAN Raheennaskeagh/Ballywalter; COSGRAVE Castlebridge; CULLEN Lady's Island; CULLETON Forth Commons;CURRAN Hillbrook; DOYLE Clonee/Tombrack; FOX Knockbrandon; FURLONG Moortown; HAYESx2 Walsheslough/Wexford; McGILL Litter; MORRIS Forth Commons; PIERCE Lady's Island; POTTS Bennettstown; REDMOND Ballygarrett; ROCHEx2 Wexford; ROCHFORD Ballysampson/Ballyhit; SHERIDAN Monadurtlow; SINNOTT Wexford; SMYTH Gerry/Oulart; WALSH Kilrane/Wexford

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Offline dathai

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #1 on: Monday 10 April 17 09:53 BST (UK) »
My view on it i am 66 now but my parents told me that the idea of of Godparents was if anything was to happen to the parents the child would become the responsability of it's Godparents,who would need to be around the same age as the parents in my case my fathers sister.
I was recently asked by my grandson to stand for my great grandaughter which i refused due to age, he was shocked when i refused but understood when i explained the above to him.

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Offline roopat

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #2 on: Monday 10 April 17 10:41 BST (UK) »
My mother always said my grandmother was very offended not to be asked to be my godmother - maybe there was something of a tradition (Catholic family in London in the 40s - not sure if that's anything to do with it).


Pat
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Offline Ghostwheel

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 12 April 17 04:29 BST (UK) »
In one case,  a man who I presume married 17 years earlier than the father acted as sponsor.  I say "presume" because only the baptism records survive. The father had a brother born ten years after him.  It is technically possible this first man was also a brother, but I think it unlikely.

It is my belief that the sponsor was a great uncle, with respect to the baby.  He was also sponsor a second time, ten years later.  The father was 32 when married.  If this man was married at the same age he would have been 50 and 60 years old respectively.  Though, of course, he may have married younger.

Do you have the maiden name of the grandmother and does it match that of the female sponsor?  (some priests had different record-keeping practices) If not, I would presume no.  If it does match, I would be suspicious, if it is a common name, like "Bridget Sullivan."

Taking a godparent was a sort of survival strategy and I think naming grandparents would be sort of redundant, as they would presumably, if alive and capable, already feel some obligation towards the child.

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday 12 April 17 20:09 BST (UK) »
1. Were the godparents not more likely to have been uncle & aunt of baby with same names as baby's grandparents?
2.  Was baby  among youngest of a large family?  Godparents may have been baby's brother & sister or brother & brother's wife. (My godfather is an elder brother.) Children/ adolescents were allowed to be godparents as long as they understood the role. I was 10 when first invited to be a godparent. I had 2 godchildren before I was 16. I think 16 is now regarded as a usual minimum age. If both sponsors had same names as grandparents they might have been baby's eldest brother and one of the older sisters.
3.  Cousins, or 1 cousin + spouse. This happened in my generation of my family: eldest grandchild of family was godparent to a cousin almost 20 years younger. I've noticed it in a close-knit R.C. line 200 years ago. Again the cousins may have had same names as grandparents.

You don't say what era baptism was.

Most important roles of godparents: 1. Make the response and promises on behalf of the child at the baptism ceremony. 2. Support parents in religious upbringing of child. If parents neglected this or if something happened to parents, godparents' role would have become crucial in this respect. Their prime responsibility is care of the child's soul.
Godparents (if still around) would be sponsors at child's confirmation.
I only found out, years after the baptisms, about this idea of a godparent becoming a guardian. 

NB One of the penal laws against Catholics in England forbade a Catholic being guardian to an orphaned child. So a Catholic child's godparent was legally disbarred as legal guardian. The law would have been largely ignored.

Offline clayton bradley

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #5 on: Wednesday 12 April 17 20:35 BST (UK) »
In the Dunkenhalgh Catholic registers there is a lady named Anastasia Thompson, born in Ireland. The last time this lady was a godmother, a duty she performed several times, was in 1833. She was buried at the Catholic Church of St Mary, Enfield (Clayton le Moors) in 1845 aged 80, so she was 68 in 1833. I have other examples where I strongly suspect grandparents were godparents, but cannot be absolutely sure because there are people of different generations with the same name. cb
Broadley (Lancs all dates and Halifax bef 1654)

Offline Wexflyer

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #6 on: Wednesday 12 April 17 21:26 BST (UK) »
Thanks to everyone for their comments. I will to address the  questions from Ghostwheel and Maiden Stone in some detail, as an example of the "reverse engineering" I am trying to do, as it may illustrate the trials and tribulations that most everyone doing Irish research will face.

I started out my family history research, about 23 years ago, already knowing the name of my great-great-grandfather, Edward Roche, a cordwainer. We also knew the name of a sister, Anne, while their parents were believed to be Patrick, with a wife named Sinnott. [We were that sort of family, great for genealogy :) ].

Some family members looked in the parish records (the originals), and without much difficulty found baptisms of both Edward and Anne, with parents Patrick Roche and Eleanor or Ellen Sinnott, in 1821 and 1816, respectively. So far, so good!

The issues arise at the next step. The Wexford records extend back to 1671, so obviously we wanted to trace the families further back. We found likely looking candidates for the baptisms of both Patrick Roche and Eleanor Sinnott ca. 1790, and further generations on back. However, the parish records, as is often the case in Ireland, don't include addresses (for either baptisms, or marriages), or parents names (marriages), so these identifications were never 100% certain. [But very little in Irish genealogy is truly 100% certain, anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves]. In any case, we entered the names in the family tree database and life was good.

Fast forward 20 years to September last year, when I became aware that the records from a missing "hole" in the Wexford baptism records as filmed by the NLI, from 1787-1815, were actually available on RootsIreland! [Why are there so many such "holes" or missing registers in the NLI microfilm set, when the originals clearly exist?]. So, I signed up and immediately found baptismal records for an additional four children for Patrick and Eleanor, stretching back to 1803. With these additional discoveries, our previous identifications for their births (around 1790) were clearly impossible. So, back to square one.

The position now is that we have the names of the two parents, 6 children and 12 godparents, from births spanning 1803-1821, with which to try and reverse engineer if we can get a match to possible births to the parents and siblings, and their parents, back in the 1770-80s. The results of this matching/identification exercise might change if the godparents were grandparents as opposed to uncles/aunts. There is no "perfect" match, it will be a question of deciding if there are any, or one or more reasonable matches  :(
BRENNANx2 Davidstown/Taghmon,Ballybrennan; COOPER St.Helens; CREAN Raheennaskeagh/Ballywalter; COSGRAVE Castlebridge; CULLEN Lady's Island; CULLETON Forth Commons;CURRAN Hillbrook; DOYLE Clonee/Tombrack; FOX Knockbrandon; FURLONG Moortown; HAYESx2 Walsheslough/Wexford; McGILL Litter; MORRIS Forth Commons; PIERCE Lady's Island; POTTS Bennettstown; REDMOND Ballygarrett; ROCHEx2 Wexford; ROCHFORD Ballysampson/Ballyhit; SHERIDAN Monadurtlow; SINNOTT Wexford; SMYTH Gerry/Oulart; WALSH Kilrane/Wexford

Offline Wexflyer

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday 12 April 17 21:53 BST (UK) »
1. Were the godparents not more likely to have been uncle & aunt of baby with same names as baby's grandparents?
Absolutely [more probable]. But were grandparents actually actively discriminated against? I think so, but I am not sure, hence my post...

2.  Was baby  among youngest of a large family?  Godparents may have been baby's brother & sister or brother & brother's wife. (My godfather is an elder brother.) Children/ adolescents were allowed to be godparents as long as they understood the role. I was 10 when first invited to be a godparent. I had 2 godchildren before I was 16. I think 16 is now regarded as a usual minimum age. If both sponsors had same names as grandparents they might have been baby's eldest brother and one of the older sisters.
I have since posted more details. I am trying to reverse engineer a set of 6 baptisms.
As for who could be a godparent, technically I believe the requirement is that they have to be confirmed. But I am not even certain that confirmations were routinely performed in penal era Ireland.
3.  Cousins, or 1 cousin + spouse. This happened in my generation of my family: eldest grandchild of family was godparent to a cousin almost 20 years younger. I've noticed it in a close-knit R.C. line 200 years ago. Again the cousins may have had same names as grandparents.
Yes, some of the godparents appear to be cousins, and/or spouses, just to add to mix/fun  :)

You don't say what era baptism was.

Actually, I did, in the thread title  :)
BRENNANx2 Davidstown/Taghmon,Ballybrennan; COOPER St.Helens; CREAN Raheennaskeagh/Ballywalter; COSGRAVE Castlebridge; CULLEN Lady's Island; CULLETON Forth Commons;CURRAN Hillbrook; DOYLE Clonee/Tombrack; FOX Knockbrandon; FURLONG Moortown; HAYESx2 Walsheslough/Wexford; McGILL Litter; MORRIS Forth Commons; PIERCE Lady's Island; POTTS Bennettstown; REDMOND Ballygarrett; ROCHEx2 Wexford; ROCHFORD Ballysampson/Ballyhit; SHERIDAN Monadurtlow; SINNOTT Wexford; SMYTH Gerry/Oulart; WALSH Kilrane/Wexford

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Grandparents as Godparents in Early 1800s?
« Reply #8 on: Thursday 13 April 17 01:17 BST (UK) »


You don't say what era baptism was.

Actually, I did, in the thread title  :)
[/quote]
 :-[
Since my previous reply I've checked the rules. They were re-issued about 30 years ago. My brother and I may have made acceptable godparents when we were young but wouldn't if we were young now. The only relatives disqualified are parents (biological or adoptive). One modern cleric even recommends grandparents if other suitable candidates are in short supply.
You're probably right about infrequency of confirmation ceremonies. Some people may have been mature adults long before a bishop arrived to confirm them, if ever.