Author Topic: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries  (Read 1005 times)

Offline Andy_T

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Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« on: Sunday 23 June 19 09:36 BST (UK) »
I read through many pages of Appleby Magna, Leicestershire Parish records in the 18th centenary and I estimate about 10% of births seen in 1700's were described as bastard son or daughter or base born son or daughter etc.
By contrast I recently read many transcripts of Warwickshire parish records from early 1500s to mid 1600s and did not see any births / baptisms describing illegitimacy.
I should add I did see some instances of baptisms coming before parents got married But no judgemental comments were recorded in the parish records seen.

Therefore my question: Was the church more tolerant towards illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuries than in the 18th century. Or were illegitimate births not allowed to be recorded at all?

Andy_T 
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Offline KGarrad

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 23 June 19 09:56 BST (UK) »
I don't think that the terms bastard or base-born were judgmental in 18th Century?
Just factual.

Whether the terms were used at all was at the whim of the vicar writing things down.
Garrad (Suffolk, Essex, Somerset), Crocker (Somerset), Vanstone (Devon, Jersey), Sims (Wiltshire), Bridger (Kent)

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Offline Andy_T

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 23 June 19 10:07 BST (UK) »
I think that the Puritans after mid 1600s made those terms factual from about 1650 to end of 18th century. Imprisonment for Bastardy was not uncommon. 
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Offline hanes teulu

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #3 on: Sunday 23 June 19 10:38 BST (UK) »
https://www.anglican.net/doctrines/1604-common-law/#p1-12

see Chapter LXX re. maintaining register.
S. Wales, Somerset, Devon - Oxenham

Aberavon - Hopkin/s, Jenkins, Thomas
St. Brides/Wick - Jenkins
Llanblethian -  Price
Abergwynfi -  Han(d)ford
Pontardawe -  Lewis.

Offline Andy_T

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #4 on: Sunday 23 June 19 11:56 BST (UK) »
Thanks for the link:
"LXX.Ministers to keep a Register of Christnings, Weddings and Burials" is a standard operating procedure setting out materials needed and responsibilities of clergy and churchwardens for each parish. Like SOP's in modern business, sometimes procedures are followed and sometimes neglected.

In Warwickshire parish records are available from early 1500's although some are faded or damaged many have survived and have transcriptions.
I found my maternal 14 times great grandparents and their 7 children. 2 children were born 1560 & 1562 and they married in 1563.
My 9 times great grandparents had 3 children before marrying in 1685.
There was no mention of illegitimacy in the parish records.
On the other hand in 1780 my paternal 3 times great grandfather was described in Appleby Magna parish records as the "base born (s) of 2 named unmarried parents.

Andy_T
 
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Offline andrewalston

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #5 on: Sunday 23 June 19 12:56 BST (UK) »
The attitude towards illegitimacy has always varied from clergyman to clergyman. No clergyman would decline to baptise an illegitimate child; after all it is not the child's fault. However the parents may have been treated differently.

Some attitudes may have been formed because "the parish" had the responsibility of maintaining the mother and child until the mother was able to work again.

One place I know (Blackrod in Lancashire) only had a chapel-of-ease, so baptisms and burials could be performed, but marriages were supposed to be at the mother church, 7 miles away in Bolton. It looks like some families used Standish, 3.5 miles away, for all their ceremonies. However nearly all illegitimate children from both camps appear to be baptised at Wigan, 4.5 miles away.
Looking at ALSTON in south Ribble area, ALSTEAD and DONBAVAND/DUNBABIN etc. everywhere, HOWCROFT and MARSH in Bolton and Westhoughton, PICKERING in the Whitehaven area.

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Offline Skoosh

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #6 on: Sunday 23 June 19 13:55 BST (UK) »
The parish registers were a source of reference in cases of illegitimacy & inheritance of property & real estate, the laws in Scotland & England differed as regards legitimised children & for example some Scots peerages are descended from illegitimate children of the monarch. This was not the case in England apparently, although controversially, Elizabeth I herself was legally a bastard, which no doubt bolstered the claim of Mary Queen of Scots to that throne & kept her in prison!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(family_law)

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Offline KGarrad

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #7 on: Sunday 23 June 19 14:05 BST (UK) »
Here, in the Isle of Man, mothers of illegitimate births were reported, or "Presented" to the Chapter Court.
They were guilty of transgressing the Ecclesiastical Law of Fornication ;D

They had to present themselves to the Court, or the incumbent cleric, to be admonished and asked to reveal the name of the father. (That's so he could be ordered to pay the costs of upkeep of the child, rather than the parish)

Failure to do so resulted in a fine of (I think) 2s 11d.

These Presentments are very useful to Family Historians, as you can imagine ;D

In my experience, rural parishes had an awful lot more of these cases than the towns?
Garrad (Suffolk, Essex, Somerset), Crocker (Somerset), Vanstone (Devon, Jersey), Sims (Wiltshire), Bridger (Kent)

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #8 on: Sunday 23 June 19 17:30 BST (UK) »
I read through many pages of Appleby Magna, Leicestershire Parish records in the 18th centenary and I estimate about 10% of births seen in 1700's were described as bastard son or daughter or base born son or daughter etc.
By contrast I recently read many transcripts of Warwickshire parish records from early 1500s to mid 1600s and did not see any births / baptisms describing illegitimacy.
I should add I did see some instances of baptisms coming before parents got married But no judgemental comments were recorded in the parish records seen.

Therefore my question: Was the church more tolerant towards illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuries than in the 18th century. Or were illegitimate births not allowed to be recorded at all?


Could one explanation be that early baptism registers were short on detail?
Another is that fornication could be harshly punished in 16th and 17th centuries. This was a deterrent to illegitimacy.
This topic has been discussed before on RootsChat. Search for the words illegitimate, illegitimacy.

This thesis is specifically about East Yorkshire in 18th & 19th centuries but contains information about earlier times and England in general.
"The Incidence and Nature of Illegitimacy in East Yorkshire in 18th and 19th Centuries" by Margaret Sheila Oliver
https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/assets/hull:12306a/content
Appendices include:
Terms denoting illegitimacy in East Yorkshire parish registers. 
List of tables includes:
Recorded illegitimate baptisms before and after 1753 Marriage Acts for selected East Yorkshire parishes.
List of figures includes:
Illegitimacy ratio for England 1538-1754
Rise of illegitimacy 1700-1839
Illegitimacy ratio for East Yorkshire 1538-1750
Comparison of illegitimate ratio England and East Yorkshire 1538-1750

Other studies are doubtless available.
Cowban