Re: interpretation of parish baptismal records
- From: Ian Goddard <goddai01@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2010 10:32:05 +0100
----- Original Message ----- From: "Ian Goddard" <goddai01@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
SNIP>A burial of a newborn or stillborn child
may explain an apparent gap; look for the term chrisom which is used to
describe an unbaptised infant. >SNIP<> -- Ian
My understanding of the term "chrisom child" is that it applied to an infant dying within one month of Baptism. A child doing so would be buried in the chrisom cloth which had been used at the Baptism. As the Book of Common Prayer ordered children to be baptized on the first or second Sunday following birth, I can understand how it loosely may have been applied to a child dying within a month of birth. But the BCP also ordered that the Burial Office be not read over suicides, or those who died unbaptized or excommunicate. Would an unbaptized child have been buried in consecrated ground at all - the other two categories were often refused such burial? And would the burials have always been recorded?
The meaning appears to have changed. The first occurrence of the term in Kirkburton registers is a burial on 31 Nov 1568 of Mergere Kay who had been baptised on the 31 Oct and the transcriber, Frances Collins provides an explanation similar to yours plus the comment "notwithstanding its being the tenth year of a Protestant Queen's rule, the people in the North of England still followed Romish practices." She adds that by the third year of Elizabeth's reign such practices had been "entirely given up" in the south.
On a quick search of the register I don't see any further use of the term until the 1580s when it returns and in each case the child has no name, usually described along the lines of "A chrysom child of John Smith"
It appears that in Catholic times the meaning is as you have given it but that in the CoE it simply meant an unbaptised child.
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