One thing you can say about the German Lutherans—they kept very good church records. Although the handwriting can be difficult to read, they usually recorded a good deal of information and left a lot of valuable genealogical data for us today.
I refer to the church records of both Zion Lutheran in Chattanooga and Schumm often. I usually look the birth/baptism, death/burial and marriage records.
However, other events were often recorded in the church records. Lutheran church books usually contain confirmation records and they can be a source of vital information.
Confirmation records were not kept as consistently as the other church records but they are still worth looking for. I have seen confirmation records in old church books from Germany as well as America.
In the Lutheran Church young adults are usually confirmed at age fourteen, sometimes a little younger or a few years older. They are confirmed after two-three years of Catechism or “instruction”. Once confirmed, they were allowed to take communion and considered full members of the church. I say were allowed to take communion because today most youth at Zion, Chatt, are allowed take communion before they are confirmed.
In the confirmation records you will find the names of the confirmands and their confirmation date. Their confirmation Bible verse is often included. The records may also contain the individual’s date and place of birth and their parents’ names. Even if you don’t find a specific date of birth you can estimate that the child was about 14 years old.
Confirmation records may be useful in several ways: show the date of birth if birth/baptism records don’t exist or cannot be located; identify a child that was confirmed but did not live to adulthood; give the names of the parents; give the mother’s maiden name; indicate that the family resided in a particular area at a particular time.
Adult confirmations were also recorded. Zion, Chatt, even recorded the date and place of birth as well as the names of the parents of the adult confirmands.
The photo below is the Confirmandenregister from Zion Lutheran, Chatt, on Palm Sunday, 6 April 1884. The first column gives the names of those confirmed, second column their date of birth, third column the confirmation date and the fourth column the names of the parents.
I was confirmed in 1966 and my confirmation class was made up of five girls. Our minister at that time was Rev. Arnold Green. I remember him fondly as a good minister and teacher. We memorized just about all of Luther’s Small Catechism and we were required to sit in the front of the church and take sermon notes on Sunday mornings. We were confirmed on Palm Sunday, as was the custom back then. Now we confirm on Pentecost Sunday. We had a confirmation verse and received either a hymnal or a Bible as a gift from the congregation.
We were fortunate that by the time our class was confirmed our church had dropped the practice of public examination. In classes before ours the confirmation students were required to answer questions in front of the congregation about a week before the actual confirmation. No public examination for us. Whew!