Keresztszülő ~ Godparents and their genealogical importance

According to a Hungarian-English dictionary, the word - komaasszony - means "the godmother of my child";  komám means "godfather of my child".

"Keresztapa" (male) and "keresztanya"(female) are the actual literal translation of the words for godparents. When working with baptismal records of mostHungarian baptismals, one will notice a custom that differs from the typical godparent designation in the records of other cultures. Most cultures in the European tradition use the siblings of the baby's parents, or the siblings, first cousins or even the grandparents of the baby. Recent immigrants fresh on American soils also used family, someone from the same European village, or less frequently, a neighbor, maybe another couple that were also having a baby baptized that same day .

But Hungarians tend to like having their buddies for godparents. It's a tradition. And then, the same guy and his wife ( sometimes his daughter or sister if he was not married or widowed ) will be the godparents for ALL the children of this same couple. If the godfather happen to die while that couple were still in their child-bearing years, he was replaced by his son or someone from his family to represent him. Although he could also be replaced by another " Koma ". "Koma" translates to "long-term buddy from youth or bachelorhood". Koma is also used as "crony",  "friend" or the word for " brother " as in the labor unions.

Felix Game, an Austrian-Hungarian genealogist, once posted at Hungary- List the importance of paying attention to the roles godparents - or the Koma - played in a child's life. He mentions, "Often they reciprocate and be each other's koma but not always". The fact that the same man will normally act as godfather for all the children, is already a big help when trying to place a child into the correct family in genealogical research. The big bonus is that the godfather has an important privilege : he must be the first one asked to be a witness at his godchild's marriage. If you have seen situations ( and who hasn't ), where two or three men exist in the same village, and two of them marry girls with the same names, and then you find that two of the fathers also have the same first names, then you know how important it is to have some other dependable way to sort out these people. Look for the name of the witness on the baptism record, you should find him as the godfather." I highly recommend reading Felix's article on how to use designated godparents in records to sort out children born with the same names in the same time period in genealogical investigation.

Further elaborating the role that the Koma plays in genealogical research by citing from Peter D. Bell's book, Peasants in Socialist Transition: Life in a Collectivized Hungarian Village,He writes "KOMA - The godfather of a villager's child, or a male for whose children one is a godparent, is one's koma. Such individuals reciprocally refer to each other as koma................ Although more limited in scope than the relationship between relatives, the koma tie was often strong and more emotionally intense than many non- immediate kin ties. In some ways, koma relationship combined the tone of friendship and kinship. This was a function partly of the koma role itself and partly of the fact that koma generally were chosen from among close friends and often from among relatives. ........... The baptismal koma chosen by a husband or a couple has once usually been one of the best friends of the husband, more often from childhood or bachelorhood. Indeed, " koma " often means just that - a good, male friend of the same age group or a bachelor band of one's youth."  Peter D. Bell further explained the extensions of the Koma in a child's life, by saying that in most cases, the baptismal godfather were also chosen to be confirmation godparent and witness to their wedding.

Whatever the tradition, I have noticed the reciprocity of the godparents in Hungarian research. In my own family, I have traced the godparents/koma later being the "násznagy" at the child's wedding later. In fact, my own Great-Great-Grandfather, Karol Stermenzsky, married the daughter of his godfather who was his father's Koma.

 

1) Peasants in Socialist Transition:Life in a Collectivized Hungarian Village.By Peter D. Bell.University of California Press, 1984.

2) Preponderance of Evidence. By Felix Game .Austro-Hungarian Web Site : http://www.felix-game.ca/html_files/prepond.html

3)Post from Felix G. Game on Hungary-L. Hard copies owned by me.

4)HUNGARIAN - ENGLISH DICTIONARY : http://www.genealogy.ro/dictionary/hun_eng_k.htm.