The Malta Study Center

Catalog: Dr. Daniel K. Gullo and Cláudia Garradas

Site Design: Dr. Daniel K. Gullo and John Meyerhofer

Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

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Understanding parish records

Most parish records in Malta and Gozo include information related to births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths, burials, masses, status animarum (parish census), confraternities and wills and bequests. The site focuses solely on the main parish records for genealogical history (baptisms, marriages, etc...) and refers users to vHMML Reading Room to search for additional content.

Baptismal records


Baptismal registers often record dates of birth as well as baptism. The information contained in the original registers can be quite minimal, and varies from parish to parish and indeed over time within each parish. At best, a baptism or birth register will record the following:

  • name of the child

  • date of baptism

  • date of birth

  • legitimacy

  • father’s name

  • mother’s name (including maiden surname)

  • place or parish of residence

  • father’s occupation

  • names of witnesses (occasionally with occupation, address and/or relationship to the child)

  • name of the priest conducting the baptism

Whilst some registers record all of the information above, some registers record minimal information such as the names of the child and parents and a baptismal date with the name of the officiating priest. 

Confirmation records

 

The sacrament of confirmation is generally performed when an individual is a child. In some periods, confirmation may have taken place as young as seven years old, in others as old as 12 years old. These are useful for estimating the age of a child in lieu of any surviving baptismal records. The information contained in the original registers can be quite minimal, and varies from parish to parish and indeed over time within a parish. At best a confirmation register will record the following:

 

  • name of the child

  • date of confirmation

  • a confirmation (saints) name taken by the child

  • parents' names

  • age

  • name of the priest or bishop conducting the confirmation

Marriage records

Marriage registers rarely record much more than the names of the individuals being married, date, and officiating priest. The information contained in the original registers can be quite minimal, and varies from parish to parish and indeed over time within each parish. At best, a marriage register will record the following:

  • date of marriage

  • name of bride

  • name of groom

  • name of parents of bride

  • name of parents of groom

  • parish of residence

  • parish of origin

  • occupation of the groom

  • names of witnesses

  • name of officiating priest

At worst the records will include a date of marriage, the names of the bride and groom, along with the name of the officiating priest.
 

Necrologies - Death records

 

The information contained in the original death registers can be quite minimal, and varies from parish to parish and indeed over time within each parish. At best, a death record (in the absence of a burial or funeral register) will record the following:

  • name of the deceased person

  • date of death

  • date of burial

  • address

  • place or parish of residence

  • age

  • name of a relative (perhaps a widow, or parent if deceased was a child)

  • name of the priest


Whilst some registers record all of the information above, some registers record minimal information such as the names of the deceased and a death/burial date. There was no standard format for registers, and they can consist of small notebooks, larger unformatted ledgers or pre-printed registers.

Status animarum - Parish census records


This type of record is a 'state of the souls' - an enumeration of all Catholics within a particular area at a particular time. These records should have been diligently and regularly kept, but their survival is somewhat irregular. The information contained in the original registers can be quite minimal, and varies from parish to parish and indeed over time within a parish. At best a status animarum will record the following:

  • name of the person

  • address

  • date of compilation of list

  • relationships to others in households

  • age (usually for children)

  • birthplace

  • occupation


In a basic record you should find the name of an individual and a place; other records are more detailed with addresses given, family groups shown, and in a small number of cases ages and places of birth.

Information courtesy of the National Records of Scotland licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.