OBSERVATION COLUMN IN RC BAPTISM REGISTERS.
Notes in the observation columns in these registers can add greatly to a family’s history. One such note caused quite a stir in the Gibney family. I was checking the baptisms of the 15 children of Robert Gibney and his wife Catherine Flynn. The majority of the children were baptised in St. Mary’s RC, Haddington Road, Dublin and the registers in the National Library of Ireland extend up to March 1907 and now available freely online.
A daughter Catherine was born on 30 April 1893 and baptised on 1 May 1893. Then I found another Catherine was born on 17 November 1895 and baptised on 18 November 1895. Often when a child dies young, another child born later would be given the same name, but this could not be the case in this instance. The first Catherine did die young but she was aged 10 when she died in 1903 from TB. Therefore she was alive and aged two when the second Catherine was baptised. So who was the second Catherine? The answer was in the observation column which is very faint to read, written partially in Latin, but mostly in English, image below:-
This translates as ‘Catherine Gibney was joined in marriage to Bridget Doyle in the church of St. Patrick’s Ringsend on 5 April 1931 as Ernest Gibney’! Obviously the priest had made a mistake in recording the name of the child as Catherine instead of Ernest in 1895 and this was only discovered when Ernest looked for his baptism record when he was getting married in 1931. The original entry was not corrected but the observation column gave the marriage details which revealed the error in the baptism. The civil record of the birth does show the correct name as Ernest, see below:-
When I found this note in the observation column regarding the mistake in Ernest’s baptism, I told my mother-in-law about it. She was born Catherine Gibney in August 1911 to Edward Gibney and his wife Bridget Kelly. Edward was the eldest son of the 15 children born to Robert Gibney and his wife Catherine Flynn. Ernest was one of the youngest children and was Catherine’s uncle, whom she knew well as he married in 1931, just the year before she also got married. She remembered that many years ago the Gibney aunts were talking and laughing that one of the boys had been baptised as a girl and now she knew who it was. Ernest Gibney did marry Bridget Doyle on 5 April 1931 with his correct name recorded.
The Oscar Wilde play ‘The Importance of being Ernest’ comes to mind when you think about the above. The importance of the observation column in Roman Catholic registers should not be overlooked.