Because it is relatively uncommon to find sources of birth dates before the start of civil registration in England in 1837, it is a widespread (and I think not unreasonable) convention for genealogists to assume that the year of birth is the same as the year of baptism. There are many reasons why this assumption may fail, but that is beyond the scope of this question.

Have there been any studies looking at the average time between birth and Anglican baptism in England in the early nineteenth century?

  • This is not an answer to your question, but I prefer the convention of recording such a birth as "Before 10 Jan 1803" which Ancestry.com seems to support. – PolyGeo Oct 3 '15 at 22:37
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    Similar to genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/3740/… (German Catholics) – bgwiehle Oct 3 '15 at 23:12
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    I suspect that religion of the people involved might influence how long after birth a baptism occurs. I wonder whether you should explicitly state whether you are asking with respect to anglican-church members or anyone living in England at that time. – PolyGeo Oct 4 '15 at 0:43
  • @PolyGeo Yes, this question pertains to Anglican baptism. Other denominations of the Christian religion would almost certainly have a different answer. – Harry Vervet Oct 4 '15 at 0:50
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    Be careful with this - I have two children (my gt. grandfather being one of them) baptised to an unmarried mother on the same day - initially I guessed they were twins. It turned out after some research that they were being admitted to the poorhouse which would not accept unbaptised children. They were actually 10 an 12 at the time. – OldCurmudgeon Oct 8 '15 at 15:53
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I have mentioned this very interesting volume in another answer:

Population Studies from Parish Registers, a selection of readings from Local Population Studies, edited by Michael Drake (Local Population Studies, 1982, ISBN 0 9503951 7 X).

It contains 8 papers with detailed statistical analysis of age at baptism. They cover parishes in London, Liverpool, Melbourne (CAM), Colchester (ESS), three parishes in Bedfordshire; four in Somerset and four in Flintshire.

Unfortunately there's too much information to summarise.

There are further papers on marriages, burials and migration, and two broader population studies.

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    Hi, Colin -- I've made some minor edits to your answer. 1) I removed your reference to "another thread" and changed it to "another answer" to be in line with the SE philosophy. Since we aren't a forum, we don't have threads -- we have Questions and self-contained Answers. I added the link to your previous answer. 2) I linked to Drake (ed) 1982 on Google Books and 3) I removed your signature because all your posts are signed automatically by your user card. Any time you have further information to add, or you want to make changes, you may use the edit link under your question or answer. – Jan Murphy Apr 13 '16 at 17:42
  • Hi Colin – thanks for your answer. There are a number of cheap copies on Amazon so I'll definitely get a copy. I understand if you aren't able to, but if you can add a few 'key points'/conclusions about age at baptism from the book then this answer would be more useful to those who can't access the book. – Harry Vervet Apr 13 '16 at 23:37

I decided to perform a little experiment with some data from the relatively small parish of Caunton, Nottinghamshire. The baptism register from 1785 to 1812 reliably recorded the date of birth. During this period there were 354 baptisms, of which 341 had a plausible birth date recorded (a small number were illegible or impossible [i.e. baptised before born]). I calculated the age at baptism and produced the following graphs using Microsoft Excel.

For background, according the 1801 census statistics for Caunton there were 67 houses occupied by 73 families, and a total of 366 inhabitants. Caunton was the only village in the parish, although there were a couple of small hamlets nearby (Knapthorpe and Beesthorpe). Most parishioners would not have had to travel very far to baptise their children.

Looking at the average age at baptism by year indicates that in this parish there was not a great deal of change over this period in terms of the average baptism age in days. Note in 1798 the data is a little bit skewed because the sample size per year is quite small and there were two later baptisms that year.

enter image description here

Looking at the number of baptisms by age is also interesting. Over this period there were 39 baptisms on the day of birth, and similar numbers over each day in the first week after birth. Interestingly there is a significant drop off after the age of 7 days which suggests that some effort may have been made to baptise within the first week of life.

enter image description here

I have not performed an in-depth statistical analysis, but will provide the following percentiles:

Percentile   Baptism age (days)
-------------------------------
25           2
50           4
75           7
90           12
98           28.6

From this we can see that 75% of children in Caunton were baptised within the first week, and 98% within the first month of life.

No doubt these statistics will vary depending on the location. I am sure this being a small rural parish will have made a difference as compared to a busy city parish.

I would be interested to see other examples if anyone can find data or studies from other areas of the country.

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    Great analysis! Can you describe the size of the parish and if there were multiple villages within it? What was the furthest distance a parisher would have to travel? Was there any correlation in travel distance with the 'later' baptisms? Farming activities (planting, harvest) and weather are likely also factors, but probably can't be teased out of the data. – bgwiehle Feb 9 '16 at 13:34
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    @bgwiehle I've added a little bit of background on the parish. The parish was not enormous like some parishes up north where there would have been long travelling distances to baptise children, but that's a good point. I've got no way to assess that from the data as abodes are not given in the register. There is some variation by month (it looks like perhaps a little longer birth-baptism interval in Aug-Sep-Oct which would be harvest time), although I doubt it is a statistically significant difference from other months. – Harry Vervet Feb 9 '16 at 16:23
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    At some point I may do a more thorough statistical analysis - for example it would be interesting to see if there is a difference between the time when males vs females were baptised, or if being illegitimate made any difference, etc. – Harry Vervet Feb 9 '16 at 16:24

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