In Ancestry's "Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915" record set there is a baptism in Birr, Offaly on 15 May 1856: enter image description here

Mary Henry Moore Margt Gillece
Sp: (per pr??) John & Bridget Gillece

This is the baptism of Mary Moore, whose parents were Henry Moore and Margaret (nee Gillece). The second line is the sponsors (godparents), John and Bridget Gillece, who may have been related to Margaret.

My question regards the partially obscured phrase in parentheses in the sponsor line, which I'm having trouble reading/parsing. As it looks like "per something", I assume it's a Latin phrase, and the second word may be an abbreviation. I've looked for a few pages either side and can't see another baptism with a similar parenthetical note, so it may not be a particularly common usage.

"per pro" (per procurationem) is a possibility, generally used for writing on the behalf of someone else, but how would that make sense in a baptism record? What else might it be?


1 Answer 1


Per proc. (per procurationem) refers to the presence of proxy sponsors (godparents) standing in for those named.

From the introduction of the Rituale Romanum (1614) and possibly earlier, the Catholic Church allowed sponsors (godparents) to be represented at a baptism by a proxy (per procurationem) if they were unable to be present but could otherwise carry out the duties associated with being a sponsor.

From the (translated) Rituale Romane (emphasis and ellipsis mine):

  1. To validly act as sponsor it is required:

(a) that the person is baptized, has attained the use of reason, and has the intention of acting in this capacity;


(e) that during the act of baptizing the sponsor (or his proxy) physically hold or touch the one baptized, or immediately lift him out of the water, or take him into his arms from the font or from the hands of the minister.

This provision remained in place until the 1983 Code of Canon Law was introduced, from which point proxy sponsors were not (officially) recognised.

  • 2
    Thanks, that looks good to me. Sadly, my Latin doesn't extend much further than "Romanes Eunt Domus". And I think it does make sense, now I've looked at the family again. Henry was an English soldier who married Margaret in Newcastle. I guess she accompanied him on a posting to Ireland. But she was Irish, born in Cavan, around 120 km from Birr. So it's plausible that, say, her relatives (brother?) were in Cavan but couldn't get to Birr for the baptism, hence proxies were employed.
    – AndyW
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 8:25

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