Quick tip – Which baptisms did your ancestor witness?

Baptismal witnesses were often close relatives or friends of the parents of the child. Knowing their associates and relatives can help you prove their identity and parentage.

You should look at baptismal witnesses from both sides:

  • Check the people your ancestors chose as baptismal witnesses for their children
  • Check for whom your ancestors acted as baptismal witnesses.

Most researchers do the first, since the information is there when they look up all the children. Fewer researchers do the second, since they think this is less relevant or the information may be more difficult to find. Baptismal witnesses are not always indexed. Finding out for whom your ancestors acted as baptismal witnesses may require browsing the baptismal registers of the town where they lived, and even of surrounding towns. But this will give you a new list of associates who may well be relatives, and may be the key to unlocking their identity and parentage.

child baptism

Baptism in 1948. Credits: Ben Merk, collection Nationaal Archief (public ddomain)


About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Matt Newbold says


    Checking for baptismal witnesses in the notary index for the town where the baptism takes place has been helpful for me. I’ve found proof of family relationships in transcripts of the notary records.


    Matt Newbold
    Layton, Utah

  2. Tina Stuber says

    I’ve taken to tracking the witnesses after- more than once- the witnesses for one ceremony later marry into or prove to already be in-laws of the ancestor I’m researching. Given the spelling variations of the surnames of certain ancestors [ for example: Moermond, Moremond, Moeremond, Moermont, Moermans,, and Moerman] – it can be difficult searching all variations. Add first name variations and the use (or not) of the patronym and the search for one ancestor’s records can be twenty-fold.

    And I have found multiple “double-cousin” marriages, where the brother or sister of my relative marries the sister or brother of the bride or groom. This has actually confirmed the identity of an ancestor with a common name, and even provided the prvious generation [grandparents as witnesses to a baptism] or a missing sibling on more than once occasion. What previously seemed a detour ultimately proved a shortcut to the destination!

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