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Re: [S-R] Illegitimates

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  • Robert Shive
    It is an interesting topic.  My understanding is that there were illegitimate and illegitimate.  I have some of both in my Slovak family.  My great aunt
    Message 1 of 16 , May 17, 2013
      It is an interesting topic.  My understanding is that there were illegitimate and illegitimate.  I have some of both in my Slovak family.  My great aunt married a guy who was born illegitimate; but was later legitimized by his mother marrying someone (not his biological father).  He retained his name (his mother's) though his siblings had the name of the man who married her.  I've no evidence that he or his parents were ever considered anything but upright.  
      The other type of illegitimate involved my grandmother.  Her mother basically had a one-night stand with a guy she barely knew and had no intention of marrying.  (From hearsay, the guy was most probably Jewish or Roma.)   The resultant community displeasure and disapproval was a factor in her deciding to leave the village and come to the US; my gut feeling is that she probably would have ultimately anyway.  Then she got married in the US and ultimately had five children.  She never told her US husband about her daughter back in Slovakland.  And when, after a family death, my GM showed up at her mother's door in the US, the parents just slammed it on her.  In that case, the sins of the mother were definitely visited on the child.
      My current thinking is that Slovak culture handled illegitimacy reasonably well.  But the illegitimate mother had to conduct herself in such a way as not to be an affront to the community to allow that to happen.           

      --- On Wed, 1/12/11, PHILBAER@... <PHILBAER@...> wrote:

      From: PHILBAER@... <PHILBAER@...>
      Subject: [S-R] Illegitimates
      To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 3:16 PM


      S-R Group,

      I am amazed at how much discussion there is on this site on the topic of

      illegitimate children. There seems to be a focus on individuals in a

      religious context rather than a consequence of economic and political ci

      rcumstances of the time. It seems to me that US descendants have a harder time

      accepting that their ancestors were "born out of wedlock" more than their

      European descendants. I have had distant relatives in Europe say, "It happened"

      and didn't lose sleep over it. I am not making a value judgement either way -

      I'm merely saying that the norms of today are not necessarily those of the


      Research into my Slovak and German ancestry found that illegitimacy was

      not all that rare in the 1800's in these areas. Rather than jump to the

      conclusion that the young people were a bunch if sinners, there needs to be

      understanding of how the designation of "illegitimate" was made. My

      understanding is that most of the birth records in the 1800's were kept by the church

      and that children of a marriage/union not blessed by the church were, by

      definition, "illegitimate" and the births were recorded that way. In some

      countries (e.g., Germany and Austria) there still are two ceremonies: civil

      and church. I do not know if A-H had similar laws, but in Germany, marriages

      had to be approved by the government and peasants had a difficult time

      getting approval. Then, there was the matter of common law marriages which were

      a matter of convenience and economic necessity due to the poor economic

      conditions. Of course, children born before their mothers are married occurs

      today. Some women never marry and do not intend to marry. I guess the label

      of "illegitimate" doesn't get used as much today. Maybe this is because

      the church isn't keeping the official records.

      Admittedly, I am no expert on this topic, on history, or on genealogy. I

      am merely saying that applying today's morays to historical data could lead

      to someone conjuring up all sorts of erroneous impressions. I tend to seek

      underlying circumstances whenever I see a record that says "illegitimate"

      rather than judge on a religious basis.

      Philip Baer

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