Sunday, June 22, 2014

Church Record Sunday: Elisabeth Vanasse’s Baptism Record

Baptism record of Elizabeth Vanasse
Baptism record of Elizabeth Vanasse [1]

My great-grandmother Elisabeth Vanasse was born on 11 September 1862 in Chapeau, Pontiac County, Quebec. She was the third child and first daughter of Joseph and Marie (Guérard) Vanasse.

I find it interesting and a bit puzzling that she wasn’t baptized until she was nearly three months old, on 7 December 1862. Roman Catholic parents were urged to have their infants baptized without delay, lest they die before receiving the Sacrament.

What could have caused the delay? Here are some ideas that I’ve considered.

Remote location?
The Vanasse family lived on rural Ile des Allumettes, near the village of Chapeau, where St. Alphonsus church was located.

Bad weather?
Unless there was unseasonable weather when Elisabeth was born in September, it doesn’t make sense to wait until almost the end of the year when there’s a chance of snowstorms.

No church or clergy?
Two Irish-born resident priests served Chapeau’s faithful, Father James Lynch and his assistant Father Bartholomew Casey. [2]

Priest too busy?
With risk of infant mortality a real concern, parents sought to baptize their children as soon as possible, and were indeed instructed to. [3] Therefore, other events (generally) did not take precedence over baptism.

Objection of clergy?
Since Joseph and Marie were both baptized, married canonically, and practicing Catholics, there shouldn’t be any objection, unless perhaps one or both parents were in a state of grave or mortal sin in 1862.

Parental objection?
Joseph and Marie’s first two children (sons Dalmatius and Regis) were baptized, so unless they had serious doubts about their faith when Elisabeth was born, they wouldn’t object to their daughter being received into the Church.

Father absent?
A father’s absence (for example, if he was working away from home) did not prevent or delay his child’s baptism. In such a case, the priest would simply note his absence in the baptism record with the phrase “le père absent”.

Sick baby?
If Elisabeth were sick, she could have had an emergency baptism, and indeed, should if in imminent danger of dying. [4]

Sick mother?
At this time, it was common for only the father, the godparents and the newborn to be present at a baptism ceremony.

There could be other reasons, like choosing the baby’s name, finding godparents, or baby’s gender, but I think they are less likely to be the ones.


1. St-Alphonse (Chapeau, Quebec), parish register, 1857-1876, p. 96 verso, entry no. B.109 (1862), Elizabeth Venance [sic] baptism, 7 December 1862; Ste-Cécile-de-Masham parish; digital image, “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, ( : accessed 15 June 2010).

2. Alexis de Barbezieux, Histoire de la province ecclésiastique d'Ottawa et de la colonisation dans la vallée de l'Ottawa (Ottawa, 1897: I: 253 and 563); digital images, Our Roots ( : accessed 13 March 2014). Father Lynch was appointed curé of St. Alphonsus in 1844, the year after he was ordained. He spent his entire priestly career there, and died in 1885. Father Casey arrived in Chapeau in May 1862 as assistant priest. He remained there until September 1863, when he was transferred to St. Bridget in nearby Onslow.

3. The Canon Law Society Trust, The Code of Canon Law In English translation (London: Collins Liturgical Publications, 1983), 160, Can. 867.1, which states “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks”.

4. The Canon Law Society Trust, The Code of Canon Law In English translation, 160, Can. 867.2.

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.

1 comment:

  1. My guess is "remote location."

    I believe the church of St. Alphonsus was not built until 1885? Was there a small chapel there before the church was built? In many of the early Catholic missions of Pontiac, parents did not bring their infants to the church to be baptized (because there wasn't yet a church); instead, they had to wait for the priest to visit and perform baptisms and marriages. And the priest might have to cover a large territory, so might only visit an area every few months. Not sure if this applies to Ile des Allumettes in the early 1860s? but it might be the explanation for the three-month delay.