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Old 08-09-2016, 02:26 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque NM
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Have you found cases of illegitimacy in your tree and wondered how society viewed this at the time?

I have an ancestor "Nancy" who, while still unmarried, had four children from two married men in rural Georgia. The first two were born around 1828 (one was my great great grandfather). There is a record of a bastardy bond in which she named the father of these two children who is bound to pay over $1200 for the support of the children, a tidy sum for the time.

Then she went on to have two more children (1830 and 1838) from another married man who later married her after his first wife died, and they went on to have many more children. There is a record that he recognized these two illegitimate boys as his own and petitioned to have them take his last name after they were already in their 20's, which they did.

DNA testing by the way easily confirmed the paternity of these illegitimate children. Nancy correctly identified the fathers.

I have no idea if Nancy or her illegitimate children suffered any social stigma, or if they were ousted by the Baptist church. I'm sure the community was so small that everyone knew, and maybe most people had similar issues in their families.
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Old 08-09-2016, 02:53 PM
 
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I had a bunch of illegitimate ancestors, but their circumstances were very different.


On my Dad's side:


I have several ancestors in Sweden who appeared to live together and start having children before eventually getting married. I found one guy who fathered children and then took off, but others who eventually got married to the mother of the children. I'm not sure if this was common in 19th century Sweden. The records are very clear, with the couple being in the same household at a certain date, and having children and being listed as parents, and only later showing up with a marriage record.


All the other ancestors on my Dad's side were in the US in the 1800s, and seem to have gotten hitched before reproducing.






Then my Mom's side is a hot mess:


I have a 2nd great grandfather whose first daughter was born before he married my 2nd great grandmother, but 4 years before, so we're not talking a shotgun wedding. This was in the US, and their lines went back to colonial times here in the US. So 2nd great grandfather married 2nd great grandmother, and there was already a 4 year old daughter. 2nd great grandmother was only 18 when they married, so she'd have to have been 14 when the oldest daughter was born-- possible, but not super-likely. If some guy in the 1870s knocks up your 14 year old daughter, he's either marrying her right away or he's going to be run out of town. You wouldn't let him stick around for 4 years before making an honest women of your little girl. My 2nd great grandparents went on the have 15 more children, and they were all nicely spaced about a year and a half apart. So the 1st daughter stood out, being 4 years distant from the next oldest. So I thought she was probably from an earlier dalliance 2nd great granddad had. The family lore also said that she was 2nd great grandfather's daughter, but from another woman, not from 2nd great grandmother.


Then I have a baby girl born in 1891, whose mother was actually the oldest daughter mentioned above. the oldest daughter never married, and supposedly she had been engaged to the baby's father, but he died before they could marry (but not before they consummated their relationship it seems). But the baptism record for the baby girl clearly shows "illegitimate," and the young mother was there standing up beside her parents, who evidently supported this. This great great aunt remained a "spinster" all her life, wanting to stay true to her deceased fiancé.


Then there is my Scottish-Irish line. I have a male Scottish Presbyterian who married a female Irish Catholic. They had 4 sons. The story handed down was that their marriage had been frowned upon at best, and condemned at worst by both sides, and that neither church recognized the marriage. We have only found the birth record of one of the 4 sons so far, and it says "spurious", to indicate he was illegitimate, though both parents are listed. Now my cousins and I are wondering if they perhaps never actually married. It's possible that the son was considered illegitimate because the marriage had happened but was officially unrecognized, but it's also possible that they simply never married. Anyway, the Scottish father died right after the 4th boy was born, and the Irish mother quickly got herself and all 4 sons to the US, and her story from then on was that they were married but the marriage was not recognized. That may have been a more palatable story to tell than "we shacked up, had all you kids, then he died, and you're all bastards."
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Old 08-09-2016, 04:29 PM
 
Location: Prescott AZ
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Whoa ! Tracy, you've got some interesting ancestors there.

All I know of is my grandfather's mother had a child before she married, but the girl was integrated into the family like all the other (nine) kids. Guess no one even cared since there were so many others in the family.
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Old 08-09-2016, 06:34 PM
 
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My great grandfather was a woods colt born in 1835. His sister was also illegitimate. His mom went to court for child support and y Dna confirms that family name.

I think they were lowly regarded not quite shunned but family helped out. Just one of those everybody knew type things.
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Old 08-09-2016, 09:25 PM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
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I have a couple Italian foundling ancestors, it wasn't uncommon in Italy in the 1700s and 1800s.

I also have a female Italian ancestor who had three kids out of wedlock and never named the father(s). She must have been either a prostitute or someone's mistress.

Yet another Italian pair of ancestors had their first child out of wedlock but they lived together as though they were and only got officially married when she got pregnant with their second child.

I also have a 2nd great aunt who had a baby out of wedlock but the baby died. She later married but never had any other children.
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Old 08-10-2016, 07:23 AM
 
Location: Wisconsin
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I have at least one person in my family tree who was born out of wedlock and was raised by her grandparents as her birth mother's younger sister. She only found out as an adult that her sister was actually her mother.

With that story in mind, I always wonder when I see a large gap between a group of siblings and the youngest sibling. Was that just a surprise late baby or was it a case of covering up an illegitimate child?
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Old 08-10-2016, 07:57 AM
 
Location: Verde Valley AZ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aries63 View Post
Have you found cases of illegitimacy in your tree and wondered how society viewed this at the time?

I have an ancestor "Nancy" who, while still unmarried, had four children from two married men in rural Georgia. The first two were born around 1828 (one was my great great grandfather). There is a record of a bastardy bond in which she named the father of these two children who is bound to pay over $1200 for the support of the children, a tidy sum for the time.

Then she went on to have two more children (1830 and 1838) from another married man who later married her after his first wife died, and they went on to have many more children. There is a record that he recognized these two illegitimate boys as his own and petitioned to have them take his last name after they were already in their 20's, which they did.

DNA testing by the way easily confirmed the paternity of these illegitimate children. Nancy correctly identified the fathers.

I have no idea if Nancy or her illegitimate children suffered any social stigma, or if they were ousted by the Baptist church. I'm sure the community was so small that everyone knew, and maybe most people had similar issues in their families.

I can think of three right off hand. My great grandfather was illegitimate, as far as we know. His mother's first husband was killed in 1807 and she already had five children. In 1812 she had my gr grandfather by a man she either was, or wasn't, married to. No record has been found. She raised this child with her other children giving him her first husband's last name. It has since been proven, by DNA, that his father was the man that oral tradition claims. This child's father was killed shortly before he was born. One reason for so many illegitimate children 'way back when' was because they lived in areas where there were no established churches so they had to rely on the irregular visits of clergymen to marry when they did come around. My grandfather may have been illegitimate as well since records show he was born in 1876 and his parents married in 1877.


My great grandfather also had an illegitimate child by a neighbor woman before he married his first wife. The child's mother died when he was three years old and custody was given to my gr grandfather. Well, actually, he was given an indenture and was required to raise and educate his son till he was 21. I have a copy of the indenture papers. At age 15 this son is found in the census living with my gr grandfather's in-laws and listed as a 'farm laborer'. He went on to become the leader of a Civil War company that included his father and most of his brothers and other relatives.


There's also a third one but it's from the 1950s. I had an aunt who was widowed young and, unfortunately, got involved with a married man and got pregnant. This was a very small town back then and there would be no 'hiding' it so when she was about six months along she went to Texas to 'visit' her sister and bro-in-law. She had the baby and her sister adopted her. It was good that my cousin got to be raised in the family but she didn't know her true history till she was grown. Her father's family has never openly acknowledged her however.


One thing I did notice in all my research was that, even back in the early 1800s, the father's of these illegitimate babies tended to not deny their paternity and being in such very small communities they were always involved with them. That, considering how things are today, impressed me.
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Old 08-10-2016, 08:24 AM
 
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Yes to the non availability of ministers for legal marriages

On my Moms side who were back in the mountains the young couple would 'jump the broom' then marry officially when the circuit riding preacher came though and documents were signed. So any children conceived in the meantime might be considered illegitimate or as living together on a census but they were not actually such.

Opposite of the situation of my great grandfather mentioned above. They lived in the foothills with plenty of preachers around but the bio father as married so this was a true case of illegitimacy
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Old 08-10-2016, 09:10 AM
 
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My seventh great-grandfather, John Harris, was a married man who had no children. When he died in North Carolina in 1711, he appointed his "trusty friend" neighbor Sarah Tyner his executor, and in his will left everything (after his wife's death) to Sarah's children, all with the Tyner surname. Her own father left her "one cow & a calf, if shee will have it and no more" as though he were quite irritated with her. Finally, in the 1990's a DNA test proved that one of her descendants shared DNA with a Harris descendant. We went by the Tyner name right up to my grandmother, but we were an illegitimate Harris line.

Maybe John and his wife really wanted children, but couldn't have any of their own. Or maybe he wanted children, and his wife didn't. I'd sure like to know the whole story!
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Old 08-10-2016, 09:22 AM
 
Location: Albuquerque NM
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Thanks for the stories here-- makes for some interesting reading!

In the case of my ancestor "Nancy", the first man she named as the father of her first two children (one of them my great great grandfather), soon after moved his family several counties away. He had owned about six slaves but I think he had to sell them to pay his child support bond, because in the next census no slaves were listed. He gave up farming and became a ferryman. There are indications he may have fathered other children out of wedlock, and with his slaves, judging from some of the matching DNA results. He was killed by a "band of robbers" but I wonder if it was a revenge killing by the husband of one of his conquests.

There still seems to be some stigma about this when I look at trees of relatives who do not include fathers of these children when they don't have the same last name.
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