UK : Bastardy or Illegitimacy in England

Bastard is properly the base child of a father of gentle or noble birth, but more generally any illegitimate child; child born out of wedlock, base-born child; basterino; pack-saddle child; natural child; of natural birth; unfathered, etc.

Percentage of children born illegitimate in three different parishes in three different counties:

1588-1600         None

1601-1650         .69%

1651-1700         1.35%

1701-1750         1.96%

1751-1800         9.97%

1801-1835         6.18%

A child born out of wedlock is legitimated by the subsequent marriage of his parents

1837-1965 about 4-7% of births were illegitimate

It is suggested the increase in illegitimacy in the 18th century was caused by the rapid growth in ale houses 1730s to 1780’s. Peter Laslett in The World We Have Lost (1965) states” Our ancestors, by this test of bastards born and registered as such, were rather more moral sexually than are we ourselves.”

Where to find records of illegitimate children – especially the name and identity of the father:

The first and best place to locate information on illegitimacy, including the name of the father, was in the parish registers.  1538-present

Civil registration (birth and marriage certificates) 1837-present might name father, although note laws referenced below.

A parish Edgmond, Salop has a special bastard register 1797-1828

READ MORE : Bastardy or Illegitimacy in England 

About Price Genealogy

Located one block from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Price & Associates is able to trace
most family histories back four or five generations without difficulty. With additional assistance from our research professionals across the globe, we have successfully traced genealogies back as many as thirty generations—to William the Conqueror, 1066 A.D. and beyond.

Price & Associates professional genealogy researchers have been helping people discover their heritage for more than thirty years. As one of the United States’ largest genealogical firms, we have assisted thousands of families to organize, chart, and verify their ancestral lines.Price & Associates uses the best software andgenealogy resources available, and even provides access to free databases and researching aids to everyone interested in their family history.


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Salt Lake City, UT 84101
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