Genealogy Friday: 8 Tips to Finding an Illegitimate ancestor’s parentage

Somewhere along the lines you may find that you have an illegitimate ancestor or two.  What does this mean?

This means that your ancestor was born outside of wedlock.  Often, this means the parents did not marry one another.

So how do you find the missing parent {usually a father}?_DSC0073-66

  1. Are their family letters or journals that can help
  2. Is there family lore about who the father is?
  3. Was the ancestor given the father’s surname?—I have a case where one ancestor took the father’s surname. I have another case where he used the surname on the 1860 census, but had changed to his mother’s surname by the 1880 census.
  4. Who in that area has that surname?—are they near the age of mother {this may not always be the case, but often times can be}, is there a reason for the parents to be in contact {one case showed the mother was a widow and the father was the sheriff and they worked on her deceased husband’s estate together}.
  5. Are their clues in the child’s name that can be used?—for example one ancestor was named for his father {the Sherriff}.finding missing person
  6. Who are their neighbors and friends—often the clues can be found in who lives nearby.
  7. Records—does an obituary, birth certificate or death certificate contain the parent’s name? I have one case where the woman had 2 children out of wedlock while her husband was in prison.  The father to both sons took the sons and raised them with his wife.  However, the biological mother was listed on the birth certificate and her children were listed as siblings in the obituary.
  8. DNA—DNA test can provide a lot of information these days. These test are even proving that ancestors thought to be legitimate had an illegitimate person at some point in the line.
  9. Bonus: Sometimes you may be able to find a Bastardy bond for the child. Don’t forget to check county records for these.

How have you found an illegitimate ancestor’s parentage?

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