Confirmation records found in Latin American Catholic parish registers have proved to be an invaluable asset to genealogists. These records usually contain the name of the person being confirmed and names of his/her parents. Even though the records lack excessive genealogical information, they can be useful in other ways. Confirmations are useful in the following ways:
• As a locator tool
• Speeding up baptismal, marriage, and death searches
• Filling gaps between children
Sometimes confirmations are often found in the parish baptismal book. Other times they are maintained in there own book. Depending on parish size and location confirmations may have been done every year or once every several years. In small parishes far away from the Diocesan bishop a researcher may find a child and mother being confirmed at the same time.
Often times when we think of a locator tool we think of census records. Unfortunately Latin American countries did not record many censuses like the United States did. Confirmation records can help place a family within a particular parish. One of the quickest ways to know if a family lived in or moved to a parish is to check the confirmation records for that parish. Unlike census records confirmations will not list every person living in the parish, but will only list those being confirmed.
Recently I did some research on a family from Spain. The information given to me identified a parish, but when the couple married and began having children had not. None of the records had been indexed. I estimated a time period when the couple should have been having children. Instead of searching several pages of baptisms I began with the confirmations. Very quickly I learned that the confirmations were taken approximately every nine years. In a matter of minutes I determined that the family was having children between 1730 and 1750. I checked the baptisms between these years and found that the couple had seven children between 1731 and 1746.
If a child is found in the baptismal records but not in the confirmations he/she may have died as an infant. Death records should be consulted to verify any assumptions of an infant mortality. This should narrow death record searches and eliminate any searching for marriage records.
Confirmation records are also great gap fillers. As a general rule couples tended to have children every two years, sometimes spanning twenty or more years. At times four or five years will pass between before another child is found for a couple. If a gap of more than three years is discovered, the confirmations should be checked to see if a child was overlooked in the baptisms.
Confirmations, when available, can save you valuable time while doing your family history. To know if your parish of interest has confirmations available perform a place search on the family history library catalog found at www.familysearch.org. If you find that your parish has not been microfilmed, a letter to the parish priest might be necessary.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
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