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For Catholics: What is or was conditional baptism?

In going thru some baptismal records from the early to mid 1800's, I came across some that state: "I baptised conditionally...." . What does that mean if anything? It almost sounds like perhaps one of the parents weren't Catholic or maybe they weren't attending church regularly? I'm not Catholic, obviously, so hoping someone can shed some light on why that wording would have been used.


Asked by meriana at 7:49 PM on Aug. 9, 2010 in Religious Debate

Level 23 (16,739 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (9)
  • That link is correct. Usually baptismal documents are stored forever in the parish where the person was baptized, so if I someone was wondering if I were baptized, they'd contact Immaculate Conception Parish in Celina, OH.

    But if a person says he or she was baptized, but the parish where it happened does not have it on record, then the person could be baptized "conditionally." In a case in which this would happen, say a person was raised in a protestant church, but that church didn't have the baptism on record, and the person wanted to convert to Catholicism, then that person would be baptized conditionally.

    Answer by flatlanderjenn at 8:18 PM on Aug. 9, 2010

  • DarkFaery131

    Answer by DarkFaery131 at 8:02 PM on Aug. 9, 2010

  • Thanks....There is a record, I have a copy of it. I was wondering because the other 2 children in this family were also baptised but the middle child is where this wording occurs. The mother was Catholic....not sure about the father, haven't yet found a record for him. This was in 1876. Anyway, just wanted to better understand. I tend to check out things I'm not familiar with as it often helps to get a better picture of the families and the times they lived in..

    Comment by meriana (original poster) at 8:33 PM on Aug. 9, 2010

  • How old was the person on the date of the conditional baptism? I wonder if the middle child was given an emergency baptism in the hospital (or home since it was 1876) immediately after birth. A baptismal certificate would not have been drawn up then. And the validity of the baptism @ home may have been questioned, like maybe a relative did the baptism instead of a priest or deacon, or maybe holy water wasn't used, or maybe they wonder if the Triune formula (I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"). Then a few weeks later, the baby was taken to church for the conditional baptism?

    That's so cool that you found documents that old! What a family heirloom to cherish!

    Answer by flatlanderjenn at 8:55 PM on Aug. 9, 2010

  • The oldest child was baptised at about 6 months of age, the youngest at about 16 days of age and the middle on was born 18 aug 1874 but not baptised until 28 may 1876. A lot of times, children werent' baptised until they were 6 months to a year old, seemed to depend a bit on what time of year they were born, travel during winter months would have been too much for a baby with the cold weather n all. (This was in Kentucky) This one just seemed a bit out of the norm. I really appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Yeah, I really love these old records....actually have some concerning family members that are much older, I can get these families back to around 1704, so far. Genealogy is really interesting.

    Comment by meriana (original poster) at 10:58 PM on Aug. 9, 2010

  • That does seem odd that the middle wasn't baptized til he(she?) was nearly 2 years old, and the others were baptized MUCH younger. I understand what you mean about the weather conditions delaying baptism. Maybe it was both the location of their home and the weather, and also the parents forgot that he hadn't been baptized yet. =) Then when he was 2, they were like, "shoot, hun! We need to talk w/ the priest!" ;o) I know my sister baptized her kid#1 when she was 2 months old, but didn't baptize kid#2 til he was 2 years old, because of lack of finding a decent godparent (and laziness on her part). That could have happened, too. Maybe a godparent, or parent, had gone to the civil war or to build the continental railroad, and hadn't returned yet. It's soooo cool that you found records going back to 1704! Fascinating way to learn about family history!!!


    Answer by flatlanderjenn at 5:23 PM on Aug. 10, 2010

  • But yeah, probably weather and location of the house. People traveled by foot, horse or horse-drawn wagon in those days. The family may have been several miles away from the nearest church, which would delay baptism by years.

    Answer by flatlanderjenn at 5:27 PM on Aug. 10, 2010

  • After your kind explanation, I really do think it had to do with weather, travel, etc. and being famer's, their activities would have been determined by a lot of outside factors. The church was in the neighboring county too. The wording had just made me wonder if it was something to do with not being a member in good standing or something of that nature....know what I mean? And that thought came about because these families were basically Baptist, and similar faiths...a few of them converted to Catholocism when they married into a Catholic family. Some of the kids, of those families appear not to have remained with the Catholic faith but that is probably due to where they moved to and lack of a Catholic church near them.

    Comment by meriana (original poster) at 10:57 AM on Aug. 11, 2010

  • Genealogy is forever fascinating...not only do you learn a lot about the individual family members but to be perfectly honest, I've learned a lot about how this country grew doing genealogy than I ever did in school. The old records are sooo records that describe the land and measure it as from so many chains and poles "from the white oak to....." etc. If you take the time, it's possible to "map" the land and then using a topographical map, find where it actually was. Contrary to what a lot of people think, to do genealogy correctly and accuratly, you really do have to get away from one's computer and dig into those old many of them are not available on-line. It's amazing what one can turn up and the records that still exist after hundreds of years. Anyway, I thank you again for your insight and help. Have a wonderful week.

    Comment by meriana (original poster) at 11:18 AM on Aug. 11, 2010