[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] godparents and witnesses to baptisms

Karl Krueger dabookk54 at yahoo.com
Tue May 30 11:49:10 PDT 2006

Very good question Kristen. I have tried to use witnesses and godparents as data to help me understand potential relationships in my ancestry where records are incomplete or difficult to find. Understanding how they chose these can show you the limits of what you can conclude from this information.
  In cases where I know the relationships of all people involved in a set of records I find there is definitely a preference that brothers or brothers-in-law were present as witnesses. But a brother (in-law) of the father is also often accompanied by a good friend or neighbor. The same sort of reasoning holds for godparents. When you are dealing with the same surname from a town, this is suspicious evidence that these people were related - usually siblings of the parents.
  But you have to be careful. I can give a good example of some Hapkes I have been studying in Grabina near Wladimir-Wolynsk, Volhynia. I often see Wilhelm Hapke (my g-grandfather's brother) or his wife serving as a godparent for kids of Michael Hapke (also living in Grabina) and vice versa. If one were to look only at this Volhynian data, you would come away with the impression that Michael was an older brother of Wilhelm. The problem is I know more than this. I know where both of these Hapkes were before moving to Volhynia and since they lived in distant towns in the province of Lublin, I have my doubts that they are brothers. 
  I recommend that you try to put the whole town together, knowing every family that lived there and determine how they might all be related. By looking at all the pieces to this puzzle, you might be surprised how much you can figure out with a reasonable degree of certainty. All birth, wedding, and death records provide the solid relationships (parents, couples, etc) while the witnesses and godparents indicate the additional pieces that you need to consider. By attempting to reconstruct the town, you should learn so much more about your ancestors and their siblings/friends. I have used this strategy to set up tentative relationships in my ancestry which subsequently got confirmed when I found the the right record to verify it.

Ohgrmtns at aol.com wrote:
  I received some information that has lead me down a path of reasoning. I am 
hoping that it is correct. So, does anyone know if there was a 
custom/tradition related to the choosing of godparents? Where they family? Good family 
Did the same pertain to the witnesses of a baptism?

Kristen FEIFERT Clark

Searching: Nedbajewka, Rohrbach(Berjozowka), Gruental, Kutuzowka, Lublin

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