Definitely NO RULE! There were, however, local
idiosyncrasies. One parish for a while always
had Witnesses with the same forename as the
child, male or female, often with people who had
travelled a long distance to stand witness.
Another Minister seems to have insisted on family
members, sometimes one family sometimes one of
Another occasionally had two women as witnesses,
most frequently, but not only, for a girl child.
There are numerous other reasons for the choice
of a Witness. We saw one case where there were
three witnesses, another where the Minister's
son was so honoured - with a long eulogy in the
OPR. We've found local landowners or other worthy,
employers, best friends, older and younger brothers,
sisters, fathers, mothers, also aunts or uncles or
even distant cousins, of one of the parents. Some
look like they may have been dragged off the street
as we can find no connection with the family. There
are bound to be more examples. The Minister himself
was sometimes a Witness.
And then there are the frustrating ones which simply
add "in the presence of the Congregation"!
Having said all that, there can be gold in the Witness
names. One said:
"..., grandfather of the child". Others can surely
show family connections such as a brother of one of
the parents - although with the Scottish Naming Pattern
at work, there may be a problem of sorting out just
which "John Smith" is meant.
The message is: use the names of Witnesses to help but,
without firm evidence, don't be too quick to assume a
Hope this helps. It might sound like a warning off, but
there really can be a great help in the Names & especially
the Address of witnesses.
Enjoy your trip to Scotland. Others will probably tell
you about the National Archive. I only know the Kirk
I have located quite a few birth/baptism records
for some family members and now that I have
received the certified copies I notice that there
are generally two witnesses to the baptism, both
male. Usually the have the same surname as the
father or mother of the child. This would seem a
terrific way to dig deeper into the parents'
lineage. Before I go too far, though, I thought
I would ask a question:
Did any particular family member stand in as witness?
i.e. brothers or fathers? If there is a "rule" that
will help me at least get started. If no rule, then
I'll just begin at the beginning.
Chicago, IL, USA