Author Topic: Surname of illegitimate child  (Read 6238 times)

Offline miss marple

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Surname of illegitimate child
« on: Sunday 08 June 08 12:35 BST (UK) »
Hello all

In the 1920's was it possible to give an illegitimate child a surname other than the mother's if the father was not named?

An example: John Smith is living with, but not married to, Jane Jones, who has been (or still is) married to Mr Jones. John Smith and Jane Jones have a daughter, Susan. On the birth certificate the details are: "child's name - Susan Smith: father's name - left blank: mother's name: Jane Jones formerly Taylor". I believe her mother intended Smith to be Susan's surname, but the register entry reads "Susan S. Jones". When Susan married her name on the certificate was Susan Smith Jones and her father's name was given as John Smith Jones - presumably simply to avoid embarrassment as he was only ever John Smith in real life.

My question is, if the father was not named, was it the law at that time that the child took the mother's surname? Or was it just a misunderstanding on the part of the registrar that led to Susan ending up with Smith as a forename rather than a surname?

Hope someone can enlighten me!


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Offline Tati

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 08 June 08 12:51 BST (UK) »
Hi Miss Marple,

Have a look at the cert - does it have a surname column for the child at all? I can't see one on any of the certs I have, therefore I assume the child would be recorded in the father's surname if there is one, and in the mother's name if there isn't.

(Just posting this to make sure I don't miss the replies from knowledgeable people, really!  :D)

 :)

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I'm afraid of no ghost

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Offline miss marple

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 08 June 08 17:04 BST (UK) »
Hi Tati

No, there's no separate surname column - just one headed "Name, if any".

Another child in my tree born in similar circumstances in the 1940s appears in the birth register with father's name first, then mother's name - "Susan Smith, Jones" - but I haven't seen the birth certificate itself for that one. Perhaps they started bringing in a separate column for surnames at that time?

As fas as I know you can currently choose what surname you want the child to be known by; I was just interested to know whether that was not the case in the 1920s.

Like you, I await knowledgeable responses!

Offline stanmapstone

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #3 on: Sunday 08 June 08 17:20 BST (UK) »
Susan Smith are taken to be her forenames, you can't put a surname in that column  :)
Column 2: Name, if any
the name given to the child at birth, which may not be the name by which they were known throughout their life
Column 5: Name, surname and maiden name of mother  if married once only, her maiden name is preceded by the word ‘formerly’ if married more than once, the surname the mother had immediately before her last marriage is preceded by the word ‘late’ and then followed by ‘formerly’ and her maiden name if the mother was using and known by 2 different names at the time of the birth these names would be recorded with the word ‘otherwise’

Stan
Mapstone, Mapston.
Census Information is Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Offline miss marple

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #4 on: Sunday 08 June 08 17:29 BST (UK) »
Thanks Stan. So as there was no column for the child's surname, does that mean the child had to take the father's surname, or if that was not given, the mother's surname? No other option?

Offline miss marple

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #5 on: Sunday 08 June 08 18:02 BST (UK) »
Just found a couple of useful website which I think give me my answer. Apparently before 1875 the mother was allowed to name any man as the father, and he was not required to acknowledge paternity. It doesn't spell it out, but I assume from this that after 1875, he did have to acknowledge paternity to be named on the birth certificate. The current GRO rules are that if you are unmarried and want the father's details to be entered in the register, then both parents can go and sign the birth register together; or if the father is unable to go to the register office with the mother but still wants to be named as the father on the certificate, then he has to make a statutory declaration acknowledging his paternity which is given to the registrar.

It was from 1 April 1969 that the surname of the child, which could be any name the parents chose, was entered separately on the certificate.

So it looks as though my 1940s illegitimate relative was acknowledged by the father whereas the 1920s one wasn't. I think this was probably through ignorance or oversight rather than deliberate - the family stayed together until the father's death at the age of 95!

Offline miss marple

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #6 on: Sunday 08 June 08 18:05 BST (UK) »

Offline casalguidi

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #7 on: Sunday 08 June 08 18:07 BST (UK) »
Quote
So it looks as though my 1940s illegitimate relative was acknowledged by the father whereas the 1920s one wasn't. I think this was probably through ignorance or oversight rather than deliberate - the family stayed together until the father's death at the age of 95!

No, not necessarily.  The child was registered in the mother's name as was appropriate at the time.  I have a close relative born in the 1940s with no mention of father on birth certificate purely because the parents weren't married and not for any other reason.

Casalguidi :)
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Offline stanmapstone

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Re: Surname of illegitimate child
« Reply #8 on: Sunday 08 June 08 22:15 BST (UK) »
Between 1837 and 1875 if the mother informed a registrar of an illegitimate child's birth and also stated the father's name, the registrar could record him as the father, otherwise the space for the father's name and occupation will be blank.

This applied until The Registration Act of 1875 which stated:
"The putative father of an illegitimate child cannot be required as father to give information respecting the birth. The name, surname and occupation of the putative father of an illegitimate child must not be entered except at the joint request of the father and mother; in which case both the father and mother must sign the entry as informants"


Stan
Mapstone, Mapston.
Census Information is Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk