Policy and practice: the baptism of slave children and the formal contracting of mixed relationships in the Cape before 1720 Because this paper was originally read to the South African Genealogical Society, the emphasis is placed on the extent to which the genealogist depends on sources other than the baptism and marriage registers, which tend to refute the almost generally established idea that a policy of official opposition to racial mixing held sway at the Cape in the 17th century. This idea is based on the actions of Commanders Jan van Riebeeck and Zacharias Wagenaer and the Plakkaaten published by the authorities in 1678 and 1718. In spite of the apparent policy, the children of slaves, of slaves and Europeans, and of Europeans were baptised together, and marriages contracted between Europeans and liberated slaves. This would appear to suggest some contradiction. In the present article, therefore consideration is given to the manner in which the authorities at the Cape handled the baptism of slave children, black and mixed, and whether their laws were really intended to combat racial mixing. Examples of mixed relationships and official action and lack of action are used to illustrate the degree of contradiction between policy and practice.