[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Naming of godparents

Karl Krueger dabookk54 at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 19 10:29:03 PST 2004

Jerry is right on with what one can (or can't) determine from a godparent. Sometimes, however, you might be able to get some insight into possible relationships with the parents. If you were to study a number of birth records from people of the same or neighboring towns, you may find certain tendencies like brothers or brothers-in-law of the father are often used as witnesses and also godparents may show a tendency to come from a relationship within family. This would require a study of a good number of records and by putting together families in a single town you might be able to infer certain relationships. 
For example, you might find that Gustav A and Heinrich B witness for the daughter of Friedrich A, whose wife was Wilhelmine B. Then in another record you might find that Friedrich A and Gottlieb C witness for the son of Gustav A, while in another record Friedrich A and Samuel D witness for the son of Heinrich B. Seeing certain names showing up repetitively in this type of relationship might be an indication that Gustav and Friedrich were brothers and Heinrich was the brother of Wilhelmine. Of course, many times witnesses and godparents were simply good friends or neighbors of the parents. But by studying an entire town, and looking at who all the residents of the town were, you will be surprised how much you can figure out without having the "definitive" records to prove that Gustav and Friedrich had the same parents. 

Jerry Frank <FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca> wrote:
At 06:25 PM 18/11/2004, hhowell wrote:
>I have several complete translations of birth records.
>I have a question regarding the naming of godparents. Was there a practice of
>naming relatives as godparents? If yes, then was there a set pattern usually
>Herschuel Howell

It is my opinion that naming practices of any type, in any culture, are 
inconsistent and unreliable for hard core research. They can be used as 
clues for furthering our research but I don't think we should ever say, for 
example, that an infant is related to a godparent just because the name is 
the same. The relationship should be established through actual b/m/d records.

Another example: It was a practice from time to time, to name a second 
child the same as an earlier one if the earlier one died in infancy. Yet 
this practice was not followed by all families in a community or a parish 
nor was it consistent from one generation to the next in the same family.

Naming practices would also change with cultural blending of families. A 
Schwabisch German marries a Pomeraninan German. Which tradition does the 
blended family use? They would use that of the dominant partner or they 
might establish a new one.

I think it is interesting to note the naming traditions and threads that 
one can find in a family search but to pinpoint something as consistently 
definitive - I prefer not to do that.

Jerry Frank - Calgary, Alberta
FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca 

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