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A matter of legitimacy Apr 26

Three marriage certificates I ordered online last weekend popped through my letterbox this morning, and all three were curious in their own way.

The first recorded the marriage of my great-great-great-grandfather Henry Beard to my g-g-g-grandmother Sarah Payne in Reading in 1843. I didn’t know the names of Henry and Sarah’s parents, so I was particularly interested in the “Father’s Name and Surname” column on the certificate for each of them. This showed Sarah’s father as James Payne (although gave no occupation), but this box was crossed through for Henry.

A missing father’s name can often indicate illegitimacy. I don’t mind if that’s the case, but the missing father’s name doesn’t help my research.

I moved on to the second certificate, which recorded the marriage two years later of Joseph Gibbs and Eliza Alleway, who were also two of my g-g-g-grandparents. I was surprised to see that Eliza’s father’s name was missing from this certificate. Two illegitimate ancestors in one morning seemed a bit of a coincidence. Although Joseph’s father, James, was recorded, his occupation was again not recorded.

It turns out that both couples were married in the same church – St Laurence’s (recorded as St Lawrence’s) – and both by the same vicar, John Ball. As the early 1940s were the first days of civil marriage registration, my suspicion is that this may have been a case of the vicar having a particular approach to recording the registrants’ parents: he didn’t record fathers’ occupations, and he left off fathers’ names if they had died – as opposed to the usual practice of putting “(Deceased)” after the name.

That practice was demonstrated on the third marriage certificate that came today, from 1902 (and soon enough after the turn of the century that the registrar was still using “18__” cetificate with the 8 crossed out). This records the marriage of my great-great-uncle Frederick Pinnock to Annie Batttison. My previous research suggested that Frederick was born to my g-g-g-grandmother Harriet Pinnock five or six years after the death of her husband Thomas, so I was interested to see who Frederick recorded as his father.

This time, there was a father shown: “Thomas Pinnock (Deceased)”. Frederick’s age is given as 32, which confirms census evidence that he was born in 1869 or 1870. But I have Thomas Pinnock’s death certificate and he definitely died in 1864. Maybe Frederick never knew, but that would mean that none of his eleven older siblings ever spilt the beans.

Next task then is to try to find the four ancestors from the 1840s on the 1841 census – but that may have to wait until after the local elections…

2 Responses

  1. 1

    Hm, interesting. I have definitely seen cases where the father’s *profession* is not recorded if he is deceased, but never the actual name being omitted. One could tell, perhaps, by looking at John Ball’s original register to see whether this really was normal practice, but it’s probably easier to just try and rule out the illegitimacy possibility.

    Have you got around to looking at the 1841 census? I only ask cos I is on if you isn’t… 🙂

  2. 2

    I’ve had a quick look. There are a few Henry Beards, none of quite the right age, and one Elizabeth Alleway not in quite the right place. I could have done with their fathers names on the marriage certificates to help me pinpoint the right families on the 1841…