If anyone tells you that today’s morals are not what they are tell them about my gggg Grandmother Mary Jones. She never married but still had five children by at least three different fathers between 1810 and 1824. It was probably five fathers but I have only been able find records, of fathers, for three. In those days if a child was born out of wedlock then it was the parish’s responsibility to ensure the child was looked after. So I have found three orders of bastardy that name the “Putative father” and the amount of money that the parish will extract from them. The child support agency is nothing new! The other two children were certainly born to different fathers but the records just don’t exist.
There is a remarkable amount of information that you can get on line. Much of the evidence for the above is held at the East Sussex County Record Office. However, much of the information is indexed online at Access to Archives. It provides a start and I was able to find quite a few references to Mary Jones in the parish records of Laughton and some lawyers records, which I was then able to get copies of.
Some people seemed shocked that this sort of thing went on but with no contraception and nothing to do in the evenings it’s surprising it didn’t go on more. That Mary managed to do this five times though suggests she was a free spirit and wouldn’t be tied down. I’m sure the pressure to marry someone must have been enormous and the fact she didn’t shows a lot of gumption on her part. Without it my surname would certainly have been different.
I have never been able to find a record of her after the birth of her final child in 1824 and I have spent many hours over many years trawling through records trying to find what happened to her. Did she marry? When did she die? Were there more illegitimate children?I’d love to know the answers but doubt I’ll get them now.
All her children survived and can certainly be found on the 1851 and above censuses, some even on 1841 census, but so far I haven’t found her. Born in 1791 she wouldn’t have been that old to have survived to the 1841 or even 1851 censuses, after all her father lived till 1846 and the age of 86.