Religious records can provide an incredible amount of detail and information about our ancestors.

They can tell us our female ancestors' maiden names, they can reveal birth and death dates, and they can even help us discover family friends or distant relatives through the witnesses listed on marriage records. If your ancestors were Catholic, looking at the original documents can be intimidating because the majority of Catholic records are recorded in, or partially recorded in, Latin because up until the 1960's the official language of the Catholic church was Latin. If you aren't familiar with Latin, many words are familiar, especially within the context of the records, but if you're feeling a bit rusty on your Latin skills or are unsure about what a term could mean, here are some common Latin words to get you started in your genealogical research.

Search Parish Records

Baptism Records

Baptism records are extremely helpful in your family history research because baptisms can reveal names, dates of birth, the names of each parent, the maiden names of your women ancestors, residences, and more. If your ancestor was Catholic, chances are his/her records have some Latin in them.

  • Anno - year of
  • Die - day of
  • Mensis - month of
  • Natus - he was born
  • Nata est - she was born
  • Fillius - son of
  • Filia - daughter of
  • Olim - formerly
This can reveal your female ancestors' maiden names, so be sure to look closely on the image
  • Patrinus - godfather
  • Matrina - godmother
  • Pater - father
  • Mater - mother
  • Ecclesia - church
  • Habitantibus in - lives in
  • Conjugum - of the married couple (married is conjugatus, married couple is conjuges)
  • Matrimonium - marriage
  • Contraxerunt - they contracted (marriage)
  • Contraxit - together
  • Cum - with
  • Matrimonium contraxit cum - married together with
  • Testibus - by witnesses
  • Presentibus - presently
  • Ecclesia - church
  • Apud - at the house at, by, near
  • A (ab) - from, by

Burial Records

Burial records can provide you with information about where your ancestors died, where they're buried, the date of their death and burial, and more information dependent upon the records and the cemetery. Since the official language of the Catholic Church was Latin, chances are you'll encounter some Latin when searching Catholic burial records.

Sometimes names were recorded in their Latin spellings, instead of their English spellings, for example you might see Willelmus listed instead of William, so if you're not getting any hits in your searches, try searching the Latin version of the name, but be diligent about verifying your ancestor's identity

Also check the variant spelling box as well as use our wildcard feature to help bring up different spelling possibilities for you to find your Catholic ancestors.

  • Sepultus: buried

Marriage Records

Marriage records are a goldmine for genealogists because not only do they provide you information with the two people getting married, but they also sometimes provide information on each person's family as well. If your ancestors were Catholic, then chances are that some of these records are in Latin. Below are some phrases and words you may commonly see in marriage records.
  • Anno Domino – year of Our Lord
  • Cognomina – surnames
  • Eorum residentia – their residency
  • Die mensis – date or day of month
  • Denuntiationes – denunciations (refers to if there are any impediments to a marriage)
  • Impedimentum – hindrance or impediment to the marriage; such as a blood relation
  • Matrimonium – the sacrament of Holy Matrimony or marriage
  • Nomina parentum – the names of parents
  • Nomen parochi vel Vicarii – the name of the priest
  • Nomina sponsorum – the names of the parties
  • Observanda – observations or notes
  • Testes adfuerunt – witnesses present
Pay attention to the witnesses present because they could reveal more information about your ancestor's family or friends. The witness could be a married female relative, which could give information on maiden names, or could be other members of the family for you to research
  • Conjugum - of the married couple (married is conjugatus, married couple is conjuges)
  • Matrimonium - marriage
  • Contraxerunt - they contracted (marriage)
  • Contraxit - together
  • Cum - with
  • Matrimonium contraxit cum - married together with
  • Testibus - by witnesses
  • Presentibus - presently
  • Ecclesia - church
  • Apud - at the house at, by, near
  • A (ab) - from, by
You might see these phrases below which may indicate the relationship between the couple with a little more detail.
  • consanguinati - related by blood, such as cousins
  • affinitatus - related by marriage
  • consanguinati in tertio grado - the two are second cousins

The same goes for names in the marriage records as for the burial and baptism records, so be sure to use the above tips to broaden your search, if needed.

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