I ran across this list of “bastard cases” while doing genealogy research for a client (my client’s family was not among them).
I was especially fascinated by the ongoing relationship between Abigail Johnson and James Hall. I was reassured to see that Abigail was staying with family when her second “bastard” child was born. I also wonder at the other men within whose homes these children were born (I am assuming that men with the same last names as the mothers are the girls’ fathers).
According to the site, the court tried to identify the fathers of illegitimate children so that they would be responsible for the child’s support.
It is not so different today, where, according to the CDC , almost forty percent of all children are born to unwed mothers. While it does not hold the social stigma it used to, it is still true that almost thirty percent of families headed by a single mother live in poverty.
The UK recently enacted a law requiring single mothers to name fathers on the birth certificates. This is, in part, to make it easier to collect child support as well as “offering official recognition of the importance of fathers in children’s lives.”
I have to wonder how city officials ensured that the following men supported their children (if they truly were) in the early 1800s. The following list dates from 1815 to 1829.
Mary Bridges swore that James Barnett, Jr. was the father
of a female child born 27 Sept. 1814 at the house of Hugh Bannister.
Matilda R. Duning swore that William Galloway was the father
of her female child born 27 Sept. 1814.
Polly Newman swore that Hiram T. Pinell, yeoman, was the father
of her female child born 20 July 1815 at the house of Simpson Newman.