Author Topic: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children  (Read 1338 times)

Offline Forfarian

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Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« on: Tuesday 18 February 20 09:13 GMT (UK) »
It can sometimes be difficult to find out who the parents of an illegitimate child were, because the baptisms of such children are often missing from the parish registers.

The best chance of finding about more about them, at least until the middle of the 19th century, is in the records of the Kirk Sessions.

Every Church of Scotland parish has a Kirk Session, which is a committee nade up of the minister (usually referred to in the KS records as 'Moderator' or 'Modr') and elders. This committee manages the business of the parish kirk, including maintaining the kirk and manse, appointing minister and elders, sending representatives to the higher tiers of the kirk (Presbytery, Synod and General Assembly), collecting money, providing mortcloths, distributing money to the poor of the parish (until 1845 when the new Poor Law established Parochial Boards to look after the poor), and so on.

However almost every KS spent a lot of time on 'discipline', which was dealing with fornication and its consequences. If the KS learned that an unmarried woman was pregnant, she would be summoned to a KS meeting and asked who the father of the child was. The father would then also be summoned and the couple confronted with one another at a KS meeting. If he admitted paternity, and accepted responsibility for supporting the child, the couple would be rebuked, and often made to stand on the 'stool of repentance' in the kirk during up to three services so that the entire congregation would see them doing penance. They would them be fined, 'absolved from the scandal', and 'readmitted to church privileges'.

If the alleged father failed to appear, or absconded, or appeared and denied being the father, the KS would take various steps to try to determine the truth. Some of these processes can contain a lot of detail about the people involved and their circumstances and relationships to others. (They can also be extremely entertaining - I have not infrequently found myself stifling a giggle or a gasp of astonishment while perusing a case in a KS minute.)

Sometimes a recently married couple would be summoned to answer for the sin of antenuptial fornication, and dealt with in similar terms.

If it was a case of adultery rather than simple fornication (or might be - have found one where the KS decided to wait until the baby was born before they could work out whether it had been conceived before or after the death of its father's wife), the matter would be referred to the Presbytery, who rarely did much more than talk about it and then refer it back to the KS to deal with.

Note that the practice was dying out by the second half of the 19th century, so the KS records often don't help with illegitimacy after the start of civil registration. Also they are, as one would expect, more comprehensive in rural than in urban parishes.

So where does one get hold of all this information?

The KS records were almost all collected by the Scottish Record Office, which then became the National Archives of Scotland and is now the National Records of Scotland. They have all been digitised, and some of the original books have been returned to local archives where the NRS is satisfied that they will stored in the right conditions and well looked after.

To find out whether the particular KS records in whch you are interested have survived, go to the online catalogue at https://catalogue.nrscotland.gov.uk/nrsonlinecatalogue/search.aspx, type the parish name in the 'Search for' box and 'CH2' in the 'Reference' box. You can also search for dissenting kirks' KS records by typing 'CH3' in the 'Reference' box. You will need the full reference to look up the digitised version in the Virtual Volumes.

All the digitised versions are available to consult in the Historical Search Room in General Register House in Edinburgh, and in those local archives which have made an appropriate agreement with the NRS (Aberdeen, Alloa, Glasgow, Hawick and Inverness that I know of; there may be others).

Scotland's People has stated its intention of making the digitised KS records available online, but there are still some technical hurdles to be overcome. In the meantime, you either have to go in person to one of the archives which has access to the digital images, or get someone to go on your behalf. If you want to hire a professional searcher, see https://www.asgra.co.uk/.

Researching

AITKENHEAD, Lanarkshire; BINNY, Forfar; BLACK, New Monkland; BRYSON, Cumbernauld; BURGESS, North-East Scotland; CRUICKSHANK, Rothes; DALLAS, Botriphnie; DAVIDSON, Oyne; GUTHRIE, Angus; HOGG, Larbert; LESLIE, Rothes/Mortlach; MENDUM, England; MOLLISON, Lethnot; PATERSON, Larbert; RHIND, Forfar; SANG, Scotland; SCOTT, East Kilbride; STOR(R)I/E/Y, Shotts; THORNTON, Shotts; WADDELL, New Monkland; WILKIE, New Monkland; WILKIE, Tannadice; WYLLIE, Angus; YOUNG, Keith

Offline oldfashionedgirl

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #1 on: Tuesday 18 February 20 09:24 GMT (UK) »
Thank you Forfarian for such a clear comprehensive guide to accessing these records, I knew they were available but Ive always wondered exactly how to go about it. I'm going to be busy for a while !
OFG

Online brigidmac

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #2 on: Tuesday 18 February 20 10:50 GMT (UK) »
Thank you for posting this very clear and useful to lots of people

Have you come across any examples of obvious rape ? How were the men dealt with ?

Also were any really young children ever before the sessions
Roberts,Fellman.Macdermid MCDERMID McDiarmid Gardner Jones ,Bloch,Irvine,Hallis Stevenson ,McKay


Offline Forfarian

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #3 on: Tuesday 18 February 20 11:25 GMT (UK) »
Thank you for posting this very clear and useful to lots of people
I hope so.

Quote
Have you come across any examples of obvious rape ?
No.

Quote
Also were any really young children ever before the sessions
I have not found any record of children being in front of a KS.
Researching

AITKENHEAD, Lanarkshire; BINNY, Forfar; BLACK, New Monkland; BRYSON, Cumbernauld; BURGESS, North-East Scotland; CRUICKSHANK, Rothes; DALLAS, Botriphnie; DAVIDSON, Oyne; GUTHRIE, Angus; HOGG, Larbert; LESLIE, Rothes/Mortlach; MENDUM, England; MOLLISON, Lethnot; PATERSON, Larbert; RHIND, Forfar; SANG, Scotland; SCOTT, East Kilbride; STOR(R)I/E/Y, Shotts; THORNTON, Shotts; WADDELL, New Monkland; WILKIE, New Monkland; WILKIE, Tannadice; WYLLIE, Angus; YOUNG, Keith

Offline Foreversearchingforanswer

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #4 on: Saturday 22 February 20 10:16 GMT (UK) »
Have you come across any examples of obvious rape ? How were the men dealt with ?

The men were hung. There was a case involving my uncles wife in the 1830s were she accused a man of raping her, he was sentence to be hung for rape and hamesucken  ("the felonious seeking and invasion of a person in his dwelling house.")

It went to retrial, turned out she had had an affair with this man, and was pregnant by him. He was still sent to Australia, and my uncle stuck by his wife and they are buried together.  (see post below for details)

On a more interesting note, my 4th great grandfather was paid by Traquair parish for looking after my 4th great grandmothers illigitimate child. Only thing that exists regarding this child is 4 notes in the parish register regarding the payments. Who the father was, what the childs name was, what happened to the child, thats a mystery.

Two of my fourth great grandfathers sisters also had illigitimate children, found from parish registers. The name of one father is know, but not the other. No childrens names exist.

Offline Foreversearchingforanswer

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #5 on: Saturday 22 February 20 10:21 GMT (UK) »
Reference:
HO 17/22/13
Description:

2 individual petitions (the prisoner and B R Bell, counsel) and 7 collective petitions (13 people, Jury members; 34 people, Jurymen of the assize; 6 people, magistrates of Glasgow; 2 people, William Scott Brunston and Jennet Brunston/Janet Brunston; 6 people of Airdrie, including Hugh McCulloch captain of police and procurator fiscal; 266 people of Kirkfield Bank 'being nearly the whole male inhabitants thereof', most trades professions given; and 96 people of Lanark, including the provost and magistrates, some trades/professions given) on behalf of Richard Hill, weaver, convicted at the Circuit Court of Justiciary held at Glasgow on 17 September 1834 for hamesucken, rape, assault and ravish on Janet Inglis/Janet Brunton, the wife of William Scott Brunton on 27 May 1834 or 28 May 1834. The prisoner is held in Glasgow Jail/Glasgow Tollbooth. The date of execution is given as 8th October 1834. There is a letter from D [David] Boyle, Lord Justice Clerk, requesting a respite for the prisoner for 14 days so that an enquiry can be made and a report submitted in due course (Boyles letter also mentions John Boyd convicted of murder at the same circuit and suggests that a respite may be required in this case but leaves it to the discretion of T [Thomas] Spring Rice); 2 reports from D Boyle recommending transportation for life; a note from Boyle stating that there are no grounds for Mr Young's complaints against the Sheriff Substitute; a printed 'Indictment'; a 'Declaration' of Richard Hill; a 'Special Defence' for Richard Hill; an acknowledgement of a respite for 14 days from William Mills, acting chief magistrate; a copy of 'Lord Meadowbank's notes'; a copy of a report (long and detailed) by Alexander Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank - no mercy; a covering letter from W P Gilham, stating that the victim is of bad character; a statement of good character for the prisoner from 6 people of Airdrie including Matthew Forsyth, Provost; a statement of bad character of the victim from, Alex Fowler, 'Sakman' of Selkirk Mills; a covering letter from William Gilmour, acting chief magistrate of Glasgow; letters from William Monteith, J P Colquhoun; John A Murray; George Chenytoun[?]; Daniel[?] Vere and Walter Moir, sheriff substitutes and James Ewing; a covering letter from Mr Maxwell; a letter on mourning paper [mostly illegible]; 2 part letters [pages or signature wanting]. There are affidavits from Daniel French; Robert Gardner; John Gilchrist; Ann Simpson; James Simpson; Janet Steel and Isabella Whitten and bound depositions in two groups:

(first group: Sophia Thomson; Alexander Binning; Archibald Young; Margaret Thomson; James Craig; William[?] Maddel; John Buchanan; James Annan; William Black; John McGarva; Alexander Brown; John Currie; James Burnside; Grizzell Thomson; Janet Inglis (or Brunton); Bernard Blaney; Eleanor Jackson (or Kirk); Margaret Morrison; John Russell; James Hill; James Thomson; Matthew Forsyth; William Watson; Gavin Watherspoon; Hugh McCulloch; Thomas Main and William Miller;
(second group: John Gilchrist; Isabella Whitton; Daniel French; Janet Steel; Ann Simpson; James Simpson; George Scott Gillethe; James Capie; Ann Reid; John Sherridan Robertson; James Wilson; Agnes Romine (or Fairfield); James Cochrane; David Steel; William Gray; James Martin; Alexander Gillespie; William Scott Brunton; Janet Ingles (or Brunton); Robert Harkison; Marion Whittam and Elizabeth Bannatyne (or Cleland-widow of John Cleland).

Further depositions are from Alexander Fowler; the Reverend Andrew Lawrence; William Blair; James Walker; Robert Gardner; James Kennedy; William Fairley; John Dodd and Thomas Adamson.

Grounds for clemency: the victim is of bad character, had 'criminal intercourse' with the prisoner before, this renders a conviction for rape unsound, a child the victim is carrying is the prisoners, the jury recommended the prisoner to mercy before sentence was passed, the jury was 8 to 7 for a guilty verdict, had claimed rape to protect her reputation, the prisoner believed the victim would not commit perjury in court, prisoner did not call witnesses in his favour as he thought the trial would not take place. Initial sentence: death. Annotated: 'sees no reason for recommending any mitigation' and 'Pardon prepd [prepared] on condition of Trans [transportation] for life - 22 Oct 1834'. Bg 13 [Scot].

Date:
1834 Sept 22
Held by:
The National Archives, Kew
Legal status:
Public Record
Language:
English

“Richard Hill, one of 306 convicts transported on the Mary Ann, 06 July 1835″     Convicted at Glasgow Court of Justiciary for a term of life.

Offline Forfarian

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #6 on: Saturday 22 February 20 10:28 GMT (UK) »
Very interesting, thanks.

Not from the Kirk Session records, however.
Researching

AITKENHEAD, Lanarkshire; BINNY, Forfar; BLACK, New Monkland; BRYSON, Cumbernauld; BURGESS, North-East Scotland; CRUICKSHANK, Rothes; DALLAS, Botriphnie; DAVIDSON, Oyne; GUTHRIE, Angus; HOGG, Larbert; LESLIE, Rothes/Mortlach; MENDUM, England; MOLLISON, Lethnot; PATERSON, Larbert; RHIND, Forfar; SANG, Scotland; SCOTT, East Kilbride; STOR(R)I/E/Y, Shotts; THORNTON, Shotts; WADDELL, New Monkland; WILKIE, New Monkland; WILKIE, Tannadice; WYLLIE, Angus; YOUNG, Keith

Offline Craclyn

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #7 on: Saturday 22 February 20 10:40 GMT (UK) »
Very informative. Thanks.
Does anyone know where the Coldstream Kirk Sessions might be held? I am trying to find information about an illegitimate birth there in 1861.
Crackett, Cracket, Webb, Turner, Henderson, Murray, Carr, Stavers, Thornton, Oliver, Davis, Hall, Anderson, Atknin, Austin, Bainbridge, Beach, Bullman, Charlton, Chator, Corbett, Corsall, Coxon, Davis, Dinnin, Dow, Farside, Fitton, Garden, Geddes, Gowans, Harmsworth, Hedderweek, Heron, Hedley, Hunter, Ironside, Jameson, Johnson, Laidler, Leck, Mason, Miller, Milne, Nesbitt, Newton, Parkinson, Piery, Prudow, Reay, Reed, Read, Reid, Robinson, Ruddiman, Smith, Tait, Thompson, Watson, Wilson, Youn

Offline Forfarian

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Re: Tracing the parents of illegitimate ("natural") children
« Reply #8 on: Saturday 22 February 20 10:54 GMT (UK) »
Very informative. Thanks.
Does anyone know where the Coldstream Kirk Sessions might be held? I am trying to find information about an illegitimate birth there in 1861.

To find out whether the particular KS records in whch you are interested have survived, go to the online catalogue at https://catalogue.nrscotland.gov.uk/nrsonlinecatalogue/search.aspx, type the parish name in the 'Search for' box and 'CH2' in the 'Reference' box.
Researching

AITKENHEAD, Lanarkshire; BINNY, Forfar; BLACK, New Monkland; BRYSON, Cumbernauld; BURGESS, North-East Scotland; CRUICKSHANK, Rothes; DALLAS, Botriphnie; DAVIDSON, Oyne; GUTHRIE, Angus; HOGG, Larbert; LESLIE, Rothes/Mortlach; MENDUM, England; MOLLISON, Lethnot; PATERSON, Larbert; RHIND, Forfar; SANG, Scotland; SCOTT, East Kilbride; STOR(R)I/E/Y, Shotts; THORNTON, Shotts; WADDELL, New Monkland; WILKIE, New Monkland; WILKIE, Tannadice; WYLLIE, Angus; YOUNG, Keith