PACAMBRI-L ArchivesArchiver > PACAMBRI > 2004-04 > 1083021281
Subject: Re: John and Mary (Duman) Nelen, possible illegitimacy
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 19:14:41 EDT
The illegitimacy solution is a good one. From experience with the German
Records and reading, I have found the following.
Around the1830s and 1840s, the population exploded in Europe, and the
government started regulating marriages, refusing to allow marriages for people
who were not in line for inheriting land, or who had no money.
A sort of underground developed, where inn keepers "loaned" money to
young couples, and provided a "home" in the hotel to fool the authorities so they
could marry, then took the money back, but charged for the entire program.
People can always figure out ways to beat the law.
The government sponsored emigration of young men and women in groups,
with a priest or minister along, to marry them later, probably on the ship. My
Holtz ancestors came that way in the 1830s and the Smith and Werfel families
from New Germany did so in the 1850s. [Dates approximate.]
Laws against marriage are not very effective in preventing illegitimate
births, men and women being what they are. My Kline ancestors had their first
child, a daughter, over a year before they married. He was listed as a
"vagabond" meaning he had no established membership in the village communal farm. He
was listed as "Kociola" or Farmer, when married, meaning he had become a
member, for what reason I do not know, probably inheritance. It specified in her
baptism [added note] and their marriage that she was legitimatize by the
marriage of her parents.
In some cases, which I read about in a social history book, the women had
several children, and the parish had to support them, or at least prevent
them from starving, so the parish paid for tickets for them to emigrate to
America. People had to stay in the same village, because if they left, no other
village would take them in. This is where the large number of poor wanderers
I suspect, from reading and the conditions involved, that my Miller
ancestors were allowed to marry before he emigrated, on the condition that he would
emigrate, and he left her behind, pregnant. She joined him later in America
with the child.
Another Kline ancestor, the first one, came, I think, because he was
illegitimate and had no future in Germany, where he would have no inheritance or
place in the community.
Illegitimacy was important then. Morally, it was considered wrong.
Socially, it was shameful. Legally, it meant that the child so born would not be
able to inherit anything, and so might be a burden on the community. This was
just as important to the poorest person on the edge of survival as it was to
the king, to have a legitimate son to inherit, but not too many children to
share out the inheritance. Illegitimacy threatened the social order.
But it happened, and people developed the ways to deal with it, some of
them would seem very cruel to us. Emigration was probably the most positive