Post by Peter Moylan
That statistic is, I imagine, because of the large number of unmarried
mothers. (I don't know the answer for my own country, but I should look
it up.) That's not quite what happened in past generations. As I
-- children of serving maids who were impregnated by their employers;
-- children of married women who were having an affair with someone
not their husband.
I have no idea of the relative incidence of those two cases, although I
suspect that someone must have looked into it.
Technically speaking, children of married women weren't bastards, even
if their husband wasn't their father. Historically, at any rate, the
husband was assumed legally to be the father even when it was fairly
obvious he wasn't. There must have been some legal out if the husband
wanted to repudiate the child, but I don't remember reading about that.
A great many historical bastards were children of unmarried women and
their lovers, who were not necessarily their employers. At some times
and in some places no one worried too much if the (usually young) couple
were planning on marrying and actually did so before the birth. Other
times, it was more of a taboo - or the father died, or ran off or
something instead of marrying the mother. In local records it's nearly
impossible to identify the biological father of such children -
birth/baptismal records almost always recorded only the mother's name,
and the child could show up later in census records in a family that
informally adopted him, and listed as anything from "son" to "adopted
son" to "nephew" (or other relationship). Sometimes different
relationships were given in different censuses. I don't think local
families worried all that much about exact relationships in such cases.
Modern genealogists sometimes use DNA to get hints of possible