Author Topic: Concealing the birth of a child  (Read 1460 times)

Offline Eric Hatfield

  • RootsChat Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 174
  • Sydney, Australia
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #18 on: Wednesday 22 August 18 05:19 BST (UK) »
Thanks everyone for interesting and helpful comments. Keep them coming!! :)

Quote
Any stillbirth to an unmarried mother was automatically deemed as abortion or infanticide unless proved otherwise (I can't remember when it changed - this was in some old midwifery history book I've got)
That is interesting. I wonder if it still applied in 1865? It would seem she certainly wasn't considered guilty of infanticide or sh'ed have been imprisoned for more than 2 weeks.

Quote
Offences Against the Person Act 1861
Thanks for this reference, it was almost certainly current at the time, just 4 years later. This was clearly not considered a serious crime, but a "misdemeanor" with a maximum penalty of only 2 years. Since Betsey only received 2 weeks, it must have been considered minor, or else the judge was hugely sympathetic.

Quote
It sounds like a very lenient sentence? Could she have been "feeble minded" in some way? Such girls always have been, and still are, taken advantage of.
I have wondered the same thing. This was her third child (that we know of) before age 23. She was in the workhouse for a while, which was for people unable to find work or unable to do work. Since her family was nearby, you'd think they'd care for her unless they had given up trying to help her, for whatever reason. The four possible theories I can come up with are (1) naivete, (2) mental disability, (3) working as a prostitute, or (4) very unfortunate.

The story handed down in the family was that she was working in "the big house" and was taken advantage of by the son of the squire, who then paid a man in the village to accept paternity. Closer investigation reveals many holes in that story (not least that the paternity case was for her first child, and the man in the village contested paternity, whereas the family link is through the second child. So I think the story was probably invented to save family reputation, but it does illustrate the difficulties facing young women in service in those days. They needed #MeToo back then!

Quote
Sometimes there are newspaper articles on these sorts of cases and at times give a bit of information on the mother's life. Could be worth a look. Prison records might give something up as well.
I have a newspaper report, but it says little beyond the fact that she was single, the location (a village about 20 km from the small villages where she and her family had lived), and the fact that the child died immediately after being born, and she disposed of it by wrapping it in a bundle and placing it under the bed (which sounds a very naive thing to do). I haven't seen prison records betond the court case summary.

Quote
There are thousands of  newspaper reports on  cases of concealing the birth of a child. The earliest one in the British Newspaper Archive is for March 1803.
I have never heard of it before, but I will have to look it up. Thanks.

Quote
Are you sure that the person convicted was the one who had given birth?
The court return says "her child" and the newspaper account says the same. From what others have said, the light sentence probably indicates a degree of sympathy and an assessment of little culpability.

Thanks again everyone, I hope more can be found about this and similar cases.

RootsChat is the busiest, largest free family history forum site in the country. It is completely free to use. Register now.
Also register instantly with Facebook or Twitter (and other social networks). Start your genealogy search now.


Offline pharmaT

  • RootsChat Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 765
  • Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #19 on: Wednesday 22 August 18 16:05 BST (UK) »
If they could prove illegal abortion they would try for that offence and I think the sentence would be far more than 2 weeks. Looks like she hid the body of the stillbirth and it was found.

Wonder if she was living with the father of the children? Poor couples didn't always marry.

What happened to her later?

I have a 3rd gt aunt married in 1840s, had a baby son then her husband died. 3 yrs later gives birth to a daughter, 2 yrs after that a 2nd son, both with her husband's surname. I have the daughter's birth cert. no father named. 2 yrs after her 2nd son was born she marries and has more children. First 3 children remain with dead husband's surname.

Those who know Ancestry won't be surprised to know several trees have the dead father as the father of the 2 born well after his death.  :o

For years I had the wrong father for my grt grt grandfather.  I had entered the father who was named on his marriage and death certificates.  Took me a few years before I found the death record of the man I had thought to be my 3x grt grandfather that proved he couldn't be.  Does illustrate that it is important to 'kill off' our ancestors though.
Campbell, Dunn, Dickson, Fell, Forest, Norie, Pratt, Somerville, Thompson, Tyler among others

RootsChat is the busiest, largest free family history forum site in the country. It is completely free to use. Register now.
Also register instantly with Facebook or Twitter (and other social networks). Start your genealogy search now.


Offline xinia

  • RootsChat Marquessate
  • *******
  • Posts: 7,878
  • STATIC AVATAR
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #20 on: Wednesday 22 August 18 16:44 BST (UK) »
This is a similar story to my Margaret whos husband was lost at sea.. somewhere between the babes...




I have a 3rd gt aunt married in 1840s, had a baby son then her husband died. 3 yrs later gives birth to a daughter, 2 yrs after that a 2nd son, both with her husband's surname. I have the daughter's birth cert. no father named. 2 yrs after her 2nd son was born she marries and has more children. First 3 children remain with dead husband's surname.

Those who know Ancestry won't be surprised to know several trees have the dead father as the father of the 2 born well after his death.



xin

Offline Maiden Stone

  • RootsChat Aristocrat
  • ******
  • Posts: 1,882
  • Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #21 on: Wednesday 22 August 18 18:05 BST (UK) »
That's a really thought provoking thread, what about illigitemate children who might have been concealed born into society and concealed by higher echelons of society was this rule invoked for just commoners ???

They would have been sent away to be brought up by someone else. The "someone else" would keep quiet about it, either because of loyalty or because they had been paid.

Offline iolaus

  • RootsChat Aristocrat
  • ******
  • Posts: 1,001
  • Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #22 on: Wednesday 22 August 18 18:18 BST (UK) »
I wonder whether part of the lenciency was due to the fact that the baby couldn't have survived due to gestation (as you said she had a 7 month old at the time) - even if she had conceived pretty much immediately the odds of a 30week gestation baby surviving at that point would have been considered nil (and probably were nil)

Offline Claire64

  • RootsChat Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 119
  • Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #23 on: Saturday 24 November 18 13:13 GMT (UK) »
I've only just come across this thread.  I've just posted about my elusive ancestor who appears in hardly any official records (except on the electoral register for a few years after she'd died!) but one of the few references I have to her comes in the newspaper, when she was in court as a witness to her sister concealing the birth and death of a child.  Sheffield 1883)
Louisa Crossley was working as a domestic servant and had given birth to a daughter who was about a month premature. She lived between fifteen minutes and an hour.  There were no signs that an abortion had been procured. Cause of death was found to be suffocation or asphyxia.
The child's body showed no sign of violence and some discussion occurred as to whether her death was the result of being suffocated in the bed clothes through inattention, or whether death could be brought about without there being any visible marks (it could be).   Cause of death was found to be suffocation or asphyxia, and that the child "died from want of proper assistance at the time of birth".
Louisa had to appear before the Coroner at the Rising Sun Inn at Hunshelf [Stocksbridge, about 10 miles from Sheffield], and her sister Elizabeth as well [this is where their parents lived].  Elizabeth told the court that she destroyed all traces of the birth, and wrapped the child in a petticoat and placed it in a tin box.  She said that Louisa was 29 years old and "had never had to do with babies".  Apparently when Elizabeth found the body of the child on the Friday, Louisa sobbed, "oh Lizzie, I don't know what I am to do.  Where shall I go?  I must go home".  She and Elizabeth went home to the Coach House at Hunshelf.  When she got there, her mother took the child out of the box applied to the doctor for a certificate of burial. He refused to give one, and she then gave information to the police. 
There was a lot more information than this in the Sheffield newspapers, but it's worth a read for background information about such cases.  [search October/November 1883]
Pearson (Bradwell Dby & Stocksbridge)
Donkersley
Crawshaw (Bradfield)
Evans (Bradwell Dby and Stocksbridge)
Crossley (Penistone)
Rogers (Nottinghamshire & Stocksbridge)
Bramall (Bradfield/Wadsley)
Walton (Hunshelf)

Offline Eric Hatfield

  • RootsChat Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 174
  • Sydney, Australia
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #24 on: Sunday 25 November 18 09:58 GMT (UK) »
Hi Claire, thanks for that story. It adds to the picture of what happened to the person I am researching, and suggests that miscarriages and suspicion about the cause were not uncommon. Thanks.

Offline brigidmac

  • RootsChat Aristocrat
  • ******
  • Posts: 1,741
  • Computer incompetent but stiil trying
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #25 on: Tuesday 27 November 18 08:52 GMT (UK) »
I would think the possibility of being tried for murder after miscarriages would provoke women to conceal that they'd had a still birth

How long  did the baby under the bed remain 'hidden'  ?
Can't assume it was a sign of simple mindedness could have been initial panic  if she didn't realise she was pregnant again .
Roberts,Fellman.Macdermid MCDERMID McDiarmid Gardner Jones ,Bloch,Irvine,Hallis Stevenson ,McKay

Offline Eric Hatfield

  • RootsChat Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 174
  • Sydney, Australia
    • View Profile
Re: Concealing the birth of a child
« Reply #26 on: Tuesday 27 November 18 09:10 GMT (UK) »
I don't know how long, the newspaper report didn't say.

I wouldn't assume "simple mindedness", but she had spent time in the workhouse which was for people who couldn't work for whatever reason, and she did have at least 3 pregnancies without being married, so she appears to have been a victim.