How, where and when were our ancestors baptized?
Read our former blogpost about the date of baptism here.
We believe, a genealogist’s ultimate goal is to really get to know his/her ancestors. They too were real people, not only a name, a date and a place. So how did they live?
We should try to learn about their circumstances, beliefs, habits.
Let’s see some habits and beliefs connected to childbirth and baptism.
As you already know from the former blogpost, in some churches anyone could baptize the newborn if needed.
But if everything was all right, the infant had to be taken to the parish church.
And if there was no church in that very village? In this case baptism was administered in the mother church in another location. As home birth was the standard, you can see the birth place from the column “place of residence” (if you are lucky and there is such a column).
Or there may have been a small chapel or baptismal font in smaller locations and the parish priest of the mother church came there sometimes to baptize the children. The baptism by a priest in private homes was not allowed and could be performed only exceptionally with an extraordinary permission.
And if there was stormy weather or any other difficulty? People (especially Catholics) were much more terrified of dying without baptism, i.e. without the cleanse of the original sin and therefore coming to hell. In some regions in Hungary people believed to hear baby crying at the graves of such newborns or to see a fire, until somebody recited the baptism formula above the grave.
And how were people baptized? We can not list all the Christian churches here, only exemplify the many different traditions. Read all or just look for your ancestors’ church:
- Catholics are baptized by submersion, immersion or affusion or sprinkling, while the priest says “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
- Methodists recognize three modes of baptism as being valid: immersion, sprinkling or pouring while saying “in the name of the Holy Trinity”
- Reformed Christians believe that immersion is not necessary for baptism to be properly performed, pouring or sprinkling are acceptable. Only ordained ministers are permitted to administer baptism, with no allowance for emergency baptism, though baptisms performed by non-ministers are generally considered valid.
- Anglicans baptize infants and by submersion, immersion or pouring in the name of the Holy Trinity. They regard it as a new-birth and forgiveness of sin.
- The Lutherans baptize by sprinkling, pouring or immersion, an call it the entry sacrament into the by which a person receives forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.
- In the Orthodox Church, the priest blesses the waterto be used. The one baptised is fully immersed in the water three times in the name of the Trinity. This is considered to be a death of the “old man” and a rebirth into new life in Christ by participation in his resurrection. Properly a new name is given, which becomes the person’s name. Babies of Orthodox families are normally baptized shortly after birth, in emergencies any Orthodox Christian can baptize. In such cases, should the person survive the emergency, it is likely that the person will be properly baptized by a priest at some later date. This is not considered to be a second baptism, nor is it imagined that the person is not already Orthodox, but rather it is a fulfillment of the proper form.
- In the Churches of Christbaptism is performed only by full bodily immersion, based on the Greek verb baptizo which means to dip, immerse, submerge or plunge. Submersion is seen as more closely conforming to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus than other modes of baptism. They argue that historically immersion was the mode used in the 1st century, and that pouring and sprinkling later emerged as secondary modes when immersion was not possible. Only those mentally capable of belief and repentance are baptized, i.e. infant baptism is not practiced.
- In Mormonism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), baptism has the main purpose of remitting the sinsof the participant, who has to be at least 8 years old. Latter-day Saints believe that baptism must be by full immersion and by a precise ritualized ordinance: if some part of the participant is not fully immersed, or the ordinance was not recited verbatim, the ritual must be repeated. It typically occurs in a baptismal font and is performed by a priest or elder. Latter-day Saint theology also teaches baptism for the dead in which deceased ancestors are baptized vicariously by the living.
- The traditional form of Anabaptist baptism was only believer’s baptism for adults by pouring or sprinkling, the form commonly used in the West in the early 16th century when they emerged. Since the 18th century immersion and submersion became more widespread.
- For Baptists, Christian baptism is also only for adults, and solely by immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptisms by other than immersion are not recognized as valid.
- Baptism was not practiced in some groups among the Christians, e.g. the Quakers (they believe in an ongoing purification of the human spirit in a life of discipline led by the Holy Spirit) and the Salvation Army.
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We wish you the best of luck in your research,
Judit and István
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P.S. Have you found a Hungarian, Latin or German text and don’t know whether it is worth translating? We can make you an abstract from it! You can learn who wrote it and to whom, when and where it was written, as well as what it’s about, so that you can decide whether or not you want to have it translated. For details, see our webpage: http://historiatranslation.com/abstract/.