Author Topic: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries  (Read 1032 times)

Online Maiden Stone

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #9 on: Sunday 23 June 19 18:08 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.

Baptism registers of my home village had a capital B to denote baptisms of illegitimate babies. I noted recurrence of certain surnames in a small area of the parish and several births concentrated in other small areas, over a short time period in 18thC. The parish workhouse was in the first area.
Registers at some other churches didn't have the B word; instead the mother was noted as "Singlewoman".

That's interesting about illegitimate children baptised at Wigan. My earliest identified female ancestor (b. 1760s) in one line in that area had the same names as a woman who seemed to have produced several children out of wedlock. The children were numbered.
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Offline Andy_T

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #10 on: Sunday 23 June 19 18:52 BST (UK) »
Thanks Maiden Stone for the link to the University of Hull thesis by Margaret Oliver.  I look forward to reading >300 pages and this will take some time.

I always assumed that illegitimacy was frowned upon and probably condemned in 16th & 17th centuries. Also that around the time of Oliver Cromwell Puritans not only condemned illegitimacy but criminalized it as well. Therefore at this time puritan influence made attitudes judgemental about illegitimacy and this carried on into 18th century and beyond in protestant churches and communities.

In 1500s to mid 1600s Warwickshire parish records  the information seen gives, name of child and it's father, date of baptism and parish; Kingsbury, Warwickshire for example. Occasionally the wife / mother's name is given.
I also saw many hundreds of baptism records for other family names as well as my mother's family name and illegitimacy is not mentioned. Although I saw some records of births / baptisms  before the child's parents married (cross checking baptism dates and later a marriage date, they were surely born out of wedlock).
This is the reason I was asking if the church in the 16th century was more relaxed about illegitimacy than it was after puritanism in later 17th century going into the 18th century?

Andy_T 
   

   
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Online Andrew Tarr

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #11 on: Monday 24 June 19 11:45 BST (UK) »
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? 

My limited experience of transcribing suggests that it was a matter of hit-and-miss.  While covering several decades in one parish I found sudden bursts of recording 'base-born' or whatever, then all went quiet again.  Maybe the minister changed, or chose not to bother, or the bishop issued an edict which was forgotten or ignored after a while.  I didn't feel able to conclude anything useful about church morals of the time.
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Offline Andy_T

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #12 on: Monday 24 June 19 12:53 BST (UK) »
I think Andrew Tarr is correct and recording illegitimacy seems to be hit and miss.
My research of Beycke / Becke / Beck family in Warwickshire surprised me when I found baptisms before parents married. My assumption before this research was that attitudes of the church would be more strict in 16th & 17th centuries than the 18th century where bastardy was highlighted in about 10% of all parish records. My research has caused me to question my assumptions because it seems that in the 1500's it wasn't important enough to record illegitimacy in these Warwickshire baptism records.

The 16th century was within living memory of the reformation (1537) and the 17th century saw the rise of Puritanism and Puritans wanted the church to be more strongly protestant.
Again this was regional with towns like Cambridge being strongly Puritan. In 1649 King Charles 1st was beheaded. He had a French wife who was a Catholic and he had on occasions attended a private Catholic church service with her.
The Puritan Commonwealth  made illegitimacy a criminal as well as a moral offense and flagged bastard children in their parish records.
Cromwell died in 1658 and the monarchy was restored in 1660 but the legacy of the Puritans was a less Catholic and more protestant Anglican church.

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Online Maiden Stone

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #13 on: Monday 24 June 19 15:56 BST (UK) »
I always assumed that illegitimacy was frowned upon and probably condemned in 16th & 17th centuries. Also that around the time of Oliver Cromwell Puritans not only condemned illegitimacy but criminalized it as well. Therefore at this time puritan influence made attitudes judgemental about illegitimacy and this carried on into 18th century and beyond in protestant churches and communities.

That is my understanding, based on what I've read. Illegitimacy was evidence of fornication. A punishment for fornication in England was public whipping "at the cart's tail" i.e. being dragged through the town/village tethered to the back of a cart.
I came across a list of people summonsed to attend Preston parish church in Lancashire in 1720s to answer charges of fornication.
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Offline Skoosh

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #14 on: Monday 24 June 19 16:02 BST (UK) »
In Scotland those guilty of landing illegitimate kids on the parish were interviewed by the Kirk elders & if guilty had to appear before the congregation on several Sundays to be rebuked, it wasn't a matter of how Protestant the Kirk was, it was a matter of hard cash as the Kirk was the only social security system & had enough to do supporting the school & the poor without paying for the child's upbringing.  Money was always short & whenever possible pressure would be applied to a couple to marry. The poet Burns had first-hand experience of this!  ;D

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #15 on: Monday 24 June 19 16:11 BST (UK) »
Poor Laws in England began in reign of Queen Elizabeth. As Skoosh said, cost had a big part to play in discouraging illegitimacy. Keeping people on the straight & narrow and making them face up to their responsibilities was financially prudent.
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Offline Skoosh

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #16 on: Monday 24 June 19 16:31 BST (UK) »
Offenders had to sit upon the "Black Stool", here the poet mocks his own ordeal as a youth on a visit to Dunfermline Abbey!

https://dunfermlinehistsoc.org.uk/burns-and-the-abbeys-black-stool/

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Offline ThrelfallYorky

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Re: Illegitimacy in the 16th and 17th centuuaries
« Reply #17 on: Tuesday 25 June 19 15:29 BST (UK) »
I did find one area where there seemed to be a load of children born prior to marriage, and also a load of marriages of those very parents - I speculated either that there was no clergyman to hand to marry people, so they got done in a sort of "job lot" when the right chap came round, or that the local church / chapel - I can't recall which - suddenly got itself a "Hellfire" preacher, who frightened all the cohabiting couples into marriage at last.
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