National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Catholic Parish Registers - Births and Baptisms

Catholic Parish Registers - Births and Baptisms

Baptismal registers often record dates of birth as well as baptism. Both dates have been extracted for the index available via ScotlandsPeople. The earliest record available dates from 1703, but the majority of the records do not begin until the 1790s, mainly for the major cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The information contained in the original registers can be quite minimal, and varies from parish to parish and indeed over time within each parish. At best, a baptism or birth register will record the following:

  • name of the child
  • date of baptism
  • date of birth
  • legitimacy
  • father’s name
  • mother’s name (including maiden surname)
  • place or parish of residence
  • father’s occupation
  • names of witnesses (occasionally with occupation, address and/or relationship to the child)
  • name of the priest.

Whilst some registers record all of the information above, some registers record minimal information such as the names of the child and parents and a baptismal date. There was no standard format for registers, and they can consist of small notebooks, larger unformatted ledgers or pre-printed registers.

Some records are in Latin. Translating the information given is not very difficult, and a Latin dictionary or glossary will be useful. An example of a baptismal entry in Latin is shown below (click on image to view the full size).

Baptismal entryDumfries, St Andrews: Register of Baptisms, 1857-1948. MP54/1/2/1 page 7

On the 1 December 1857, was born and on the 3 January 1858 was baptised, Eliza Joanna Smith, daughter of Thomas Smith and Anna Smith (once McGrath ie, maiden surname) his wife. By me John Strain, Missionary Apostolic. Alexander Scelly, godfather, Joanna Galloway, God mother.

Example from a register of baptisms (click on image to see the full size)

Example from register of baptisms

Ayr, St Margaret’s: Register of Baptisms, 1822-1829. MP/51/1/2/1 page 11