In church death records I recently found odd remarks. In the Diocese of Gurk (Carinthia, Austria) in Malta in 1722 in several entries there is the term nauli morte or morte nauli. Example for a full entry:

Xbris 28 Joannes fil. legit. Christiani Faschauner Rus. am Maltaperg iad. 2 me[n]sium. nauli morte.

I'm not proficient in Latin, so my interpretation could be wrong. nauli could be a form of naulum which means a fare or passage money. More specifically it could be related to the custom of Charon's obol where a coin was placed under the tongue of the deceased so that they could pay Charon for transporting them across the river Styx.

I would find this strange in several ways as this custom builds upon ancient Greek mythology, which was then adopted by Romans but I wouldn't expect to find this with Christian funerals and so late in the 18. century.

Would the custom of Charon's obol still be practised in Christian funerals in the 18. century? More specifically in the area of the Diocese of Gurk, but I'm also glad for examples of other areas where this was customary. Wikipedia hints at this being popular in Britain (see section Among Christians in the Charon's obol article, citing L. V. Grinsell, "The Ferryman and His Fee" in Folklore 68 (1957), pp. 265 and 268.).

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    Downvoted because you didn't show your research effort. "Wikipedia hints at this being popular in Britain." < -- [citation needed]
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 2, 2019 at 19:55
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    If you would have looked at the linked Wikipedia article you would have seen the source of it. Not helpful at all.
    – nebulon42
    Dec 2, 2019 at 20:16
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    The article you linked to could disappear tomorrow in an edit war and none of us would know what you had seen. I've edited your Q to include the reference Wikipedia cited.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 3, 2019 at 0:28
  • Wouldn't the simplest explanation be that it is a fee for church services or the gravedigger, rather than a coin to be buried with the deceased? (And If there was such a practice in that place and era, it would be carried out by the family member who prepared the body, rather that needing official notice in the church's burial record).
    – bgwiehle
    Dec 3, 2019 at 0:39
  • That could be possible but then also the argument about why this was noted in the record would hold. I first thought it might have something to do with providing the last rites but also "provisus/provisa" appears in the records and once it says "nauli morte et provisa". One entry that is missing the phrase is about a newborn who was emergency baptised.
    – nebulon42
    Dec 3, 2019 at 7:31

1 Answer 1


I don't think it reads "nauli". The two consecutive vowels look very similar, often the same, and sometimes more like an 'a' than a 'u'. Those letters often look very similar in handwritten documents. In addition, there is always a wavy line over the word in the linked example. This, according to the UK National Archives' guide to palaeography, generally indicates an abbreviated word.

Examples from the OP's link showing the abbreviation line: Document snippets reading 'morte naali'

So I suspect it reads "morte naali", where at least one extra letter has been removed from "naali", and probably from between the two 'a's as that's where the line is drawn.

I don't know Latin, but a quick play with Google's translator brought up a couple of candidates:

"morte natali" - "birth and death"
"morte natiali" - "nativity death"

The former might indicate that someone lived their entire life locally, or that both birth and death were being recorded at once - perhaps for an incidence of infant mortality. The second option may suggest infant mortality too, or still birth.

I've briefly searched for both terms online and found nothing useful, so there may well be another way to expand the abbreviation for a valid result that will be supported by other examples elsewhere.

But my "gut feel" is that "morte natali" as the recording of both birth and death at once at least makes sense in the context of a record of such events.

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    I agree we haven't pinned down the correct phrase yet. I had checked my transcriptions of 18th century Lutheran records from Transylvania, and they don't use the phrase -- it may be specific to Catholic records or to Carinthia.
    – bgwiehle
    Dec 3, 2019 at 11:29
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    That is a well thought of line of argument, thank you. It's helpful that you have reproduced different writing examples. Just for the record the images are licensed CC-BY-NC-ND so the reproduction may not be covered by the license. I think we can rule out the possibility of infant mortality, because on that page it is indicated that the people who died where 30, 55, 90, 14 years and 3 and 2 two months old. Only the last entry is a newborn baptized by the midwife in emergency and this entry misses the phrase.
    – nebulon42
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:32
  • I have seen the line above the vowel as a line above a u which was used in Kurrent and that was the writing the priest would use when he was not writing in Latin. You can see that line above the u of "Faschauner". But as you mention it, the line above "nauli" (or what it is) looks quite different and could point towards it being something different than "nauli".
    – nebulon42
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:37
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    I'm now pretty confident that it really is "morte na..ali" but with different letters in-between. I think it means "morte naturali" which means that the person died of a natural cause. I have accepted your answer. Would you amend it with this meaning or should I post a different answer? I would leave your answer accepted then.
    – nebulon42
    Dec 3, 2019 at 19:28

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