Why I Love French Baptismal Records

On this day in 1774, my 4th great-grandfather François Schmitt was baptized.

François Schmitt in 1774

François Schmitt in 1774

Especially exciting for me was that François’ father Claude signed the document.

Here I am at my desk looking at the crystal clear signature of my 5th great-grandfather written 241 years ago. Is this a great time to be on the planet or what?

But wait – who is the François Schmitt that signed this record?

To solve that mystery, I needed to transcribe the record:

L’an mille sept cent soixante quatorze, le six février, a été baptisé François, né la veille à six heures du soir, fils de Claude Schmitt et d’Anne Marie Schmitt son épouse, ses père et mère, tisserand ( ?), demeurant à Hellimer. Il a eu pour parrain François Schmitt, marchand, demeurant à Boulay, pour marraine Marie Élisabeth Roeder de Puttelange, lesquels ont signé avec le père.

Then, with the help of the French list at Rootsweb, the record was translated:

On Feb. 6, 1774, François, born on the day before at 6 pm, son of Claude Schmitt and of Anne Marie Schmitt, his wife, his father and mother, weaver (?), living in Hellimer. He had as godfather François Schmitt., shopkeeper, living in Boulay, and as godmother Marie Élisabeth Roeder, from Puttelange who both signed with the father.

Too bad the record doesn’t explain any sort of relationship between the godfather and his godson. But Claude and Anne Marie Schmitt have some history in Boulay, so I’ll have to revisit the records from that area.

The record does tell me the name and birthdate of the baby, his parents’ names and their places of residence, it gives me the names and residences of the baby’s godparents, it includes everyone’s occupations and tells me who in addition to the father signed the document. Even the fact that Claude could sign his name is information about his level of education. Notice that the records above François’ are marked with an X rather than signed.

2015 02-05 Schmitt, Francois birth 02

And lastly the godparents, previously unknown, are clues to other family members in nearby villages. All these facts together in one document – it’s no wonder I love French baptismal records!

For cousins trying to place François Schmitt and me in our family tree:

  • my paternal grandfather was Harold Clarke MUELLER (1908-1985); one of two children born to
  • Ellen Gertrude CLARKE (1883-1948) and Alfred Jacob MUELLER (1879-1941); one of two children born to
  • Jacob Koebe MUELLER (1844-1910) and Elizabeth SCHMITT (1847-1910); one of eleven children born to
  • Marie Anne GURY (1818-1870?) and Nicolas SCHMITT (1813-1876); one of eight children born to
  • Elizabeth GROSSE (1781-1826) and François SCHMITT (1774-1854).

2015 02-05 Schmitt, Francois relationship chart WM

Interested in collaborating on Schmitt family history? I can be reached at where2look4ancestors [at] gmail [dot] com.

My 2015 goal for François is to determine his cause of death.

My 2015 organizational goal for is to bring all of his documentation from out-of-date to up-to-date on Ancestry, Dropbox, Family Tree Maker, and in his paper files.

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