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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Illegitimate Births in the U.K.

Prior to 1834 a woman would be "examined" to determine who the father of her child was in order to alleviate the parish of its responsibilities to care for the child. During this examination the woman would be expected to name the father of the child. After 1834 the mother was expected to provide for her child until he/she was 16.

There was no shame in illegitimacy (as long as the child was not a drain on the parish). Until the end of the 17th century, illegitimacy was simply viewed as part of life.

From 1837 to circa 1850 there was some confusion as to whether an unmarried father could register the birth of his child, some registrars allowed it, others would not. This situation was clarified by 1850 by which time no unmarried father could register the birth of his child. The 1875 Registration Act changed the situation again by allowing the unmarried father's name to be added to the registration if both were present and signed as informants.