Is it a convention in the Catholic church to put a baby's Christian name first in a birth record, before their actual first name?

For instance, my father was born Elmer Edward. Since he was very premature, he was not expected to live, so the doctor did not file a birth certificate. The birth certificate was then filed by the priest. My dad said he insisted the Christian name, Edward, be listed first, so that's what his birth certificate says, although he was always called Elmer (and he verified his parents intended his first name to be Elmer). This caused a huge problem trying to get a state ID post-9/11.

If this is how the Catholic church has always operated, it would explain a lot of records from my French (Catholic) side. I found one family in my ancestors where they had 5 daughters, all "Marie something". I suspect they were actually "something Marie", so they had different first names. Has anyone else come across this and can confirm my suspicions?

  • 1
    I think I'm failing to understand some of the concepts in your question. For me it is unclear what the difference of the "Christian name" and "their actual first name" is. Maybe I know too little or at least in Austria something like that does not exist. There exist several first names. Historically this was found mostly in the upper class. Regarding others there was not much variation. A lot of Marys, Johns, Josephs, and so on. I'm unfamiliar with recent developments.
    – nebulon42
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 17:34
  • @nebulon42 As I understand it, as my father explained it (he was Catholic, I'm not), in the Catholic church, it's expected that one of your names must be a "Christian" name. That is, it must be a saint's name. If your parents want to give you a first name that's not a saint's name, they usually make your middle name the saint's name. This is from a culture where the majority of people have only one first and one middle name. I could be mistaken and that's not a Catholic thing at all, but that's what I was told.
    – bkb105
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 14:23


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