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Latin in Church Books

Recently, a colleague and I were examining a death record that was partially in Latvian and partially in Latin. Here is what we found and the Latin terms used in Lutheran church records.

Altar Details, Jaunpils Church
Altar Details, Jaunpils Lutheran Church. Photo by I.Lūsis

In this post, I will focus solely on Lutheran records. Latin terms appear more frequently in older church books, particularly from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. However, some Latin words are also used in later records. Some examples can be found in my earlier post about marriage records.

Examples from Death Records

The specific case was a death record from the Lielvircava congregation in 1833. I will use as example different record from the same congregation:

Miršanas ieraksts

First part is in Latvian and easy to understand: Grieta, widow from Lipša Jānis' home.

But what do these abbreviations mean?

  • 70 an. = 70 years old (annus – year). Other entries show:

  • heb. = week (hebdomada)

  • dies = days

  • 1 conj. 8 – 8 years in first marriage (conjuncti – marriage)

  • Inf. 3 = 3 children (infans – child)

  • Mortt. = indicates how many children have died (mort - dead)

  • 2 conj. 33 an = 33 years in second marriage

  • Inf. 1 mort. = 1 child dead

  • Vid. 4 an. = widow for 4 years (vidua = widow)

  • pee bszas – abbreviation for Latvian "pie baznīcas" (by the church), indicating burial location.

Another example has both Latvian and Latin abbreviations:

Miršanas ieraksts

Steppus, resident of Pīlēna Jānis [farm], poor, act 60 an. (60 years old)

  • 1 laul. 18 gad = first marriage lasted 18 years (laul - in Latvian, abbreviation for laulība - marriage)

  • 2 b. mort. = 2 children, none dead

  • 2 laul. 15 an. = second marriage 15 years

  • 3 inf. 1 mort. = 3 children, 1 dead

  • pee bszas Leel.Wirz. = buried by the church in Lielvircava

Example from Baptism Records

Baptism records mostly use only one Latin abbreviation:

  • nat. = born (natus/nata)

Example: Dāvs, son of Bierantu Indriķis' son-in-law Krišjānis and Anne, nat. 12 Dcbr. (December) in Kr. Wirz (Kroņvircava).

Kristību ieraksts

Dāvs, Bierantu Indriķa znota Krišjāņa un Annes dēls nat. (natus – dzimis) 12 Dcbr. (decembrī) Kr. Wirz. (Kroņvircavā)

Church Book Section Titles in Latin

Various sections in these books also have Latin titles:

  • Baptizati – baptized

  • Confirmati – confirmed

  • Copulati – married

  • Defuncti – deceased

Church Calendar Notations

Finally, dates and months in these books are often written in Latin following the church calendar. For instance:

  • Dom. XVII p. Trin. refers to the 17th Sunday after Trinity. To convert these dates, you can use a church calendar calculator. The page is in German, but the Latin names from the church calendar are also provided in parentheses.

For help deciphering Latin terms, you can also refer to this list of Latin words. It can assist in understanding and translating terms found in historical and genealogical documents.



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