Bishopwearmouth (Sunderland) St. Mary Roman Catholic baptisms 1834-1851

2,133 baptisms at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on Bridge Street in Bishopwearmouth (now part of Sunderland), from June 1834 to the end of 1851. This is our first offering from this parish, and it might be our last, as this register was astonishingly difficult to work with – darkened pages, lots of smudging and blotting, names spelled in many inconsistent ways, and handwriting that was barely a horizontal scribble at times.

Starting in the end of 1838, most of these show the mother’s maiden surname, but the clerk or priest was inconsistent about this, sometimes entering the father’s surname in both places, so a single baptism is not enough to determine the mother’s surname – you must check it against other baptisms with the same father to see if the mother’s maiden surname changes. Sometimes the mother’s maiden surname is preceded by “late”, but often it is not, so you can’t infer anything from the absence of “late” about whether or not the parents are married – most of the time, they probably are.

From 1834 to 1839, most of these baptisms list the father’s occupation. Starting in mid-1837, most baptisms have one or more sponsors (godparents) listed. From Oct 1837 onward, nearly all the baptisms show the child’s birth date.

Abodes mentioned include Bishopwearmouth, Boldon, Deptford, High Southwick, Hilton or Hylton, Low Southwick, Monkwearmouth, Newcastle, Seaham, Seaham Harbour, South Hilton, Southwick, Sunderland, and the Sunderland Barracks.

Sample baptisms:

  • 1 Feb 1835 Ellenor Jane Mitchell, of Sunderland, daughter of George (watchmaker) & Mary Mitchell
  • 7 Dec 1851 Danniel Lynch, of Sunderland, born 26 Nov 1851, child of William Lynch & Mary Curo
    Godparents or Sponsors: Hugh Brenan; Margaret Lynch
  • 25 Dec 1841 Henry McCardel, of Bishop Wearmouth, born 2 Dec 1841, child of Patrick McCardel & Catherine late Doyle
    Godparents or Sponsors: Bernard Ward; Mary Dodgshon(?)
    [Note: parents’ given names are blotted and smudged, but other baptisms suggest Patrick and Catherine are correct. Surname is McCarl in the GRO birth index.]

There are lots of Irish surnames in this set where the use of the root name plus Mc or O’ seem to all be interchangeable. For example:

  • 28 Jun 1840 Mary McCarrell, of Monkwearmouth, born 15 Jun 1840, daughter of Patrick Carrell & Catherine late Doyle
    Godparents or Sponsors: Thomas Carrell; Catherine Fox
    [Note: surname spelled 2 different ways in this record.]
  • 15 Jun 1851 John O’Connell [Connor], of Sunderland, born 11 Jun 1851, child of Danniel O’Connell [Connor] & Catherine McGaughlin
    Godparents or Sponsors: George Scanlon; Elizabeth Burdon
    [Note: Connor and McLoughlin in other baptisms to these parents.]

Some of you may be familiar with the RG4 record series, a set of non-conformist registers that were hand-copied and sent to the Public Record Office (now the National Archives) around the end of 1837. A copy of the years 1834 through Nov 1837 from this register are part of the RG4 series. However, you should be aware that the copy is missing the sponsors (godparents) and has some errors and discrepancies, some of which we have annotated, and a couple of records of illegitimate children were omitted from the copy. Obviously the original register is the “more primary” source. We do not think this register from Nov 1837 to the end of 1851 has been transcribed or indexed anywhere else on the Internet, and after fighting our way through its problems, we understand why!