It's a few months since we launched our Find the Father service, where we try to identify the father of children where he's not named on the child's birth or baptism entry. In that time, we've searched through literally thousands of baptisms, most of which noted both parents. However, many of these indicated in one way or another that the parents were not, in fact, married. Some of these are fairly obvious, but some are not so obvious, so we thought we'd list them.
Some phrases or markings in registers definitely show that the parents aren't married, while others may just be hinting as much. The following phrases/abbreviations are unambiguous:
Other phrases or markings are less clear - they may or may not indicate that the parents are unmarried:
One important and unusual characteristic of Scots law which distinguishes it from English law is the concept of legitimisation. A child born out of wedlock whose parents subsequently marry becomes legitimate provided that his or her parents were free to marry at the time of his or her birth.
In the first twenty years of civil registration in Scotland, around 140,000 children were born with no father named on their birth certificates. Our initial research suggests that at least one in three of these fathers can be identified from various historical records. If you have an illegitimate Scottish ancestor in your family tree, why not try our no-win, no-fee Find the Father service to see if your ancestor is one of them?
Genealogy and Family History - A mix of our news, curious and intriguing discoveries. Research hints and resources to grow your family tree in Scotland from our team.