Baptism or Christening

The GEDCOM Standard supports both Baptism and Christening and so does Family Historian, additionally it also may show both the Baptism and Christening fields on the detail tab of the Property Box Dialogue, and this can lead to some confusion as to which to use.


  • Christening is the giving of a name and being admitted to the Christian Church.
  • It is often done by baptism, which is the religious rite of immersing or sprinkling with water.

In many cases a Christening is done soon after birth, but baptism can be done at any time, if not done during a Christening.

How “official” this view is remains subject to challenge. The major Christian denominations hold theologically that admission to the Christian Church takes place through Baptism. The difference is semantic. Etymology shows that to become a Christian is to be “Christ’ened”. It is admitted that separate events can be found for the same individual, and this defies mainstream theological explanation. It is better, therefore, to record either as an event according to what is recorded at source.

Usage in Family Historian

For simplicity sake it’s generally easier to use one or the other in your family history file, many people decide to use baptism, however you will find people using christening and it’s up to you as to whether, when you receive a file from somebody else you change.

Since FH V5 the easiest way to change a file you have received to baptism is to use the Change Any Fact Tag plugin.

Prior to FH V5 the only quick way to change a file you have received to baptism was to use a text editor to replace 1 CHR with 1 BAPM. It is important if you decide to do this, to use the search and replace utility, which will match on case and ideally be able to find them only at the front of a line. A text editor such as PSPad or TextPad is suitable.

Another option is to use GedPad that will allow search and replace of data in a GEDCOM file and has an understanding of the GEDCOM Standard to avoid any errors.

Last update: 22 Feb 2024