Old Baptism Records from Mexico

I’ve been looking on line a various Catholic ledgers from Mexico dating back over 100 years. Baptism records typically will list a child as the “legitimate child of” followed by the names of the parents. In some cases the child is listed as the “natural child of” followed by only the name of the mother. I’m assuming in some cases these children were born out of wedlock. Assuming the mother knows the father of the child and is not trying to hide the relationship, does anyone know why the father would not be listed and under what circumstances? Just curious.

Normally, unless the father also admits paternity, he would not be listed. I don’t know what canon law had to say 100 years ago, but present-day canon law says this:

Can. 877 §1. The pastor of the place where the baptism is celebrated must carefully and without any delay record in the baptismal register the names of the baptized, with mention made of the minister, parents, sponsors, witnesses, if any, the place and date of the conferral of the baptism, and the date and place of birth.
§2. If it concerns a child born to an unmarried mother, the name of the mother must be inserted, if her maternity is established publicly or if she seeks it willingly in writing or before two witnesses. Moreover, the name of the father must be inscribed if a public document or his own declaration before the pastor and two witnesses proves his paternity; in other cases, the name of the baptized is inscribed with no mention of the name of the father or the parents.

I’ve run into this just recently. Two babies were baptized on Christmas day, born a day apart, different mothers, apparently the same father. One had the father listed on the records given me to insert in the register, the other didn’t but the mother called a few days ago to have his name added. Had to confer with the priest who said, “Oh yes, they told me that day that X was the dad for both babies” so I will be entering his name in the register.

there used to be a distinction in canon law, it no longer exists

don’t know about Mexico but it is now a law in most US states that the father be listed on the birth certificate, and that information is entered in the baptismal record, but if no father is listed, it is left blank

before formal birth certificates were issued I imagine the sacramental record contained the information supplied by the family. there are myriad reasons why a woman would not want to supply the father’s name, most likely that the father refused to acknowledge the child

The distinction does still exist in canon law and I’ve seen a priest make the notation of illegitimacy in the register as late as 2000 – a priest who had only been ordained after the promulgation of the 1983 code. Others may not have written 'illegitimate child" but they had their own way of noting that the parents weren’t married – usually by entering the father’s name in brackets.

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