Using Parish Registers in Canton Vaud
Types of Registers
Scroll down for samples of these records!
- Batêmes (baptisms): Shows at least the name of the child, the date of baptism, and the name of the father.
Usually also includes at least some of these items: date of birth, given name and surname of mother, occupation and
place of citizenship of father, names of the godparents with their occupation and citizenship status, and notations
about relationships among the parties. In most parishes, the baptisms were kept in one register and the marriages
- Mariages (marriages): Shows at least the names of the parties and one or more dates when banns were read or when the marriage was
celebrated. Usually also includes at least some of these items: occupation and citizenship status of both parties, name and status of the
father of the bride, same for the groom, and whether the bride had been previously married. Since banns would be posted at the home churches
of both the bride and groom, in addition to the church where the wedding was to take place, it is sometimes possible to find two or three
different records (in different parishes) for the same marriage. Watch for this when the bride and groom are stated to be from different
parishes. In most parishes, the marriages were recorded in a different register from the baptisms. In addition, banns might be
recorded in a different place from the actual celebration of the sacrament of marriage.
- Décès (deaths): Also sometimes listed as Sépultures (burials), not usually recorded before about 1650 in most parishes. Usually shows only the
name of the deceased and the date of burial, but sometimes there is additional information such as citizenship status, name of the person's father (if deceased
was a child or a male adult). Women most often appear under their maiden names, with some indication of their husband's surname or full name. Additional items
most frequently encountered in 18th Century, sometimes earlier, include: date of death, age, cause of death or unusual circumstances. Burial records are
generally in a separate register, or sometimes in one or more sections within a register of baptisms, or sometimes simply
interspersed with these.
- Confirmations or communicant rolls: Not commonly found until perhaps the middle of the 17th Century, and then rarely a long series. Information varies, may simply indicate
the year, feast day (Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, etc.), and the name of the person taking communion for the first time. However, there is sometimes enough additional information
such as father's name, age, or unusual circumstances to allow a positive identification. Normal age for first communion seems to be in the range of
14-18. These lists are often scattered among other records, most often with the baptisms. One favorite place to record them was on the fly leaves of the register.
- Chronological list of ministers: Often found on the front fly-leaf of a register, sometimes with considerable biographical detail. Besides ministers ("pasteurs"), deacons ("diacres")
or elders ("anciens") might be recorded.
- Minutes of the Parish Consistory: Rarely, these are interspersed or bound with baptisms. Separate records of most consistories, if they still exist, are not easily available.
- Notes and doodles by the ministers: ALWAYS check fly-leaves for interesting gossip, momentous events, and records of marriages or baptisms recorded out of sequence for some reason.
Some ministers even made notes about the weather, local epidemics, politics, etc. If these are interspersed with baptisms or marriages, they often start with a large "NB" for emphasis.
- Special vocabulary: The male witnesses or godparents at a baptism are called "Parrains", the females are called "Marraines" (often abbreviated "Parr" and "Marr"). There are frequently two or more
of each, and they are very often related to the child in some way, or else they are prominent citizens. When someone really noteworthy shows up in a town, it is not unusual to find most
of the children named after him for the next year or so. Also at baptisms, the word "donné" (given) denotes illegitimacy, and the man to whom the child is "given" is the presumed father.
To avoid jumping to conclusions, be aware of two tricky relationship terms: "beaupère" means either "step father" or "father-in-law", "beaufils" means either "step son" or "son-in-law", you can't tell
which without additional evidence! The same applies to the feminine equivalents, "bellemère" and "bellefille". Twins are "jumeaux" (2 boys, or a boy and a girl) or "jumelles" (two girls), but this
word is subject to spelling variations such as "gemelles". Finally, the strange little word "feu" (or "feuz" or other similar spellings) before a name means "the late" (as in deceased). At least one
scribe abbreviated the common phrase, "fils de feu Jean Favre" (son of the late John Smith) as "ff Jean Favre". Particularly in times of plague, this little word shows up all the time!
Samples from Parish Registers
Click on the following items to see scanned images from different periods, accompanied by exact transcriptions and translations. These examples are typical; once you understand them, you should be
ready to search for your own ancestors using the microfilmed parish registers available through the LDS Family History Centers.
Coordinator for this site is John W. McCoy
French translation by Anne Bohy
This page last updated Tuesday, 02-Feb-2010 15:12:31 MST