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4292RE: Natural Child

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  • Xenia Stanford
    Oct 30, 2005
      Please note that your reply will now only go to
      the original sender

      To interpret the meaning of "natural child" you need to know the location
      and date for the record and understand the terminology used by the
      record-makers of a particular type of record.

      Originally the term was used in describing a family formally, where one
      could have a natural (birth) child of the father, a natural (birth) child of
      the mother, a natural child to both and/or an adopted child of either or
      both. A natural child of the father but not of the mother was a stepchild to
      the wife/mother of the family and vice versa. Also on records some children
      were described as "grandchild", another relationship to the head of
      household (e.g. niece, nephew...) or "stray" (if not a direct familial

      Since many women came to a marriage with children born outside of that
      particular marriage (some from a previous marriage or often not from a
      marriage at all), this became used synonymously with illegitimate child -
      since the child was not the child of the husband either as natural, step or
      adopted. Of course, many of these children were born to unwed mothers and
      the term became so "muddied" that it became "recognized" as a child born out
      of wedlock. Because of this, today the tendency is to use "birth child" or
      use "birth" to indicate the natural relationship, just as we say "birth
      mother". The other euphemism used to indicate child by birth in common
      vernacular was "real child" or "real parent" but this was never accepted
      formally or legally because all children are real and all parents are real.
      Their relationship, however, can be a direct familial link or not.

      Since the term "natural" was used in inheritances in some countries at
      various times (and in some still are) to separate those who would directly
      inherit while those who were not related by birth were not considered to be
      legitimate heirs. Again the term became muddied because a "natural" child of
      one parent would not necessarily be an heir, particularly to a throne, to
      the other parent (usually a father). In fact, in some records illegitimacy
      was indicated as an "unnatural child" of the person whose estate was in
      question, while the "natural child" would be a legitimate heir of that

      Also in many records, such as baptisms or birth registrations, a child was
      listed as the child of the legitimate marriage of ... (father) and ...
      (mother) or in the case where the mother only was known as the "natural
      child" of ... (mother). Since very few fathers would step up to the plate
      and have their illegitimate children baptised without listing the name of
      the mother but many women were in this situation where they presented the
      child for baptism or registration but did not name the father, the term
      "natural child" became what was considered a sullied term.

      So it is important to know context to determine the exact meaning. One may
      conclude if it was used in the informal sense in the past few centuries, it
      could mean illegitimate, but in a formal document, such as a census record
      or church record, it may not.

      For example in Australia on most 20th century census records, "natural
      child" is used as the broader sense, i.e. opposite of "adopted" or
      "step-child". This is also true in other countries, states/provinces at
      different periods. "Base born" used to be a term generally used as a true
      indication of illegitimacy and of course from that came the term "bastard".
      Now we just say illegitimate.

      The most recent example where I ran across the situation where it would have
      been a mistake to regard the term "natural" as meaning illegitimate was a
      family in which all 5 children were baptized on the same day. They were all
      listed as the "natural children" of the mother but only 2 were listed as the
      "natural children" of her, then, current husband. The other 3 were listed
      with the natural father as the woman's previous mate. The date and place in
      question was 18th century Quebec. Yet in this same century and location,
      many children who were born out of wedlock are indicated as enfant
      "naturel(le)" of ... (mother) and of ... (father). Again the definition of
      birth as well as legitimacy are in these cases expressed by the one word.

      So my advice is to interpret carefully for each situation by verifying
      family relationships through additional records rather than jumping to an
      immediate conclusion.

      Xenia Stanford (president@...)
      A.G.E. Ancestree Genealogical Enterprises
      Local genealogy book sales, professional research & writing:
      Column: "Nos Racines Francaise" http://globalgenealogy.com/globalgazette
      Scrapbooking & preservation techniques
      Phone: (403) 295-3490; Fax: (403) 274-0564

      -----Original Message-----
      From: owner-dist-gen@...
      [mailto:owner-dist-gen@...]On Behalf Of Sharon
      Sent: October 29, 2005 7:00 PM
      To: dist-gen
      Subject: Re: Natural Child

      Please note that your reply will now only go to
      the original sender

      Perhaps, but in my years of being on the genealogy
      lists, what I've been hearing is it usually refers to

      --- Charles W Aubin <cwaubin1@...> wrote:
      > Hi Sharon:
      > I am sorry I disagree with you. When you say
      > the natural parents or
      > natural child you mean the child is the child of
      > those two parents. You
      > may have a natural mother and a step-father for
      > instance Not
      > necessarily illegitimate, but in this particular
      > case they would be.
      > Just my thoughts Charlie

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