Return to History Page
Vuelva a Rastros Hispanos

Spanish Customs and Observations Related to Baptisms 
Submitted by Gloria Cordova

When reading early baptismal records of Spanish families with New Mexico roots, it is useful to understand the relationship of the godparents (padrino and madrina) to the family of the child being baptized. The customs related to married women and widows acting as a godparent (madrina) are also informative. 

Spanish Customs and Observations Related to Baptisms

(as recalled by contemporary descendants)

Source: The Family of Lucero de Godoi Early Records (1981). (pp. 1-2)

Compiled by Margaret L. Buxton;

Published by the New Mexico Genealogical Society. 

Padrinos took the infants to church for baptism. They were the godparents.

Padrinos named the child.

If alive, the parents of the mother were padrinos for her first child.

If alive, the parents of the father were padrinos for his second child.

Parents of the couple could act as padrinos only once.

The mother stayed in bed for 40 days after childbirth.

Birthdays were not celebrated as such I colonial times. 

For espanols, padrinos were a blood relative, the spouse of a blood relative, or possibly a visiting dignitary.

A married woman appeared as madrina with her husband as a padrino for relatives and at the baptisms of Indians and for her servants of mixed race.

A married woman appeared as a madrina with a son as a padrino. The son might be an infant or an adult.

If a woman was a widow, she seems to have appeared as a madrina only for a son or daughter’s child. More often, she appeared for the child of a son.

A widow did not appear as a madrina with any man as a padrino unless it was her son.

If a widow appeared with a man whose surname was that of her late husband, that man was usually her son.

If ancestors seem to suddenly vanish from a parish, it was because the early settlers moved often. They may have had official position. There may have been Indian raids. They may have had lands in scattered areas by inheritance or marriage.

The Spanish settlers were mobile. They were almost always under attack from various tribes. Records of one family can sometimes be located in four or five parishes. The more established settlements, well behind the frontiers had fewer problems with Indian raids but were still vulnerable.

Many wealthy families had private family chapels. Ideally such records should have been recorded at a parent church. However, some were overlooked. These events must then be proved with supportive supplemental record that may be available.

Familial relationships

aunt, uncle = tia (f), tio (m)

grandchild = nieta (f), nieto (m)

mother = madre

father = padre

niece = sobrina

nephew = sobrino

relatives = parientes

cousin = prima (f), primo (m) 

Other terms found in baptismal records

Padres no conocidos (PNC) = of unknown parent(s)

filagres = parishoners

genizaros = the issue of purchased or captured Plains Indians who were reared with the Spanish culture and often observed the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.

2005