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Bastardy

by George Stevenson, 2006

Bastardy, as a legal term, designates the civil condition of a child born under illegitimate circumstances. Under English common law, children born out of lawful wedlock were classed as bastards. In the eyes of the law they had no parents, no kindred, and no ancestors. They were not, then, entitled to a surname except such as they won for themselves by reputation, and they were heirs-at-law of no one. Although the early history of North Carolina furnishes occasional examples of illegitimate children who achieved fame and fortune, throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the great majority of them were apprenticed at a tender age to a master and condemned to a lowly existence.

In North Carolina, whose legal foundation was in common law, bastards ordinarily assumed the surnames of their birth mothers, but they otherwise suffered all of the common-law disabilities. Bastard children were thus disadvantaged from their birth. Bastardy proceedings were held to determine the probable paternity of an illegitimate child likely to become a charge on the public and to oblige the putative father to support the child. From as early as 1700, the mother of an illegitimate child could voluntarily appear before two justices of the peace and name the father of her child in a sworn statement, or she could be summoned by them and interrogated as to the father. By force of the mother's sworn testimony, the man was usually adjudged the putative father and was compelled to enter into a bond with sureties, called a "bastardy bond," to support the child at a set amount. Or, if the man resisted the nomination, he could be bound over to a full session of the county court, but even there the matter was, for more than a century, summarily dealt with. Many a young man "went west" rather than submit to the proceedings.

In 1814 an amendment to the bastardy law made the mother's sworn testimony prima facie evidence rather than conclusive evidence, granted the putative father a trial by jury, and required the proceedings to be brought within three years of the child's birth. (An act of 1850 strengthened the sworn testimony of the mother by making her evidence presumptive rather than prima facie.) Gradually the minimum age to which the child had to be supported was raised to 10 (the age stipulated by the bastardy act of 1933), then to 14 in 1937, and to 18 in 1951.

In 1917 the General Assembly enacted a provision that automatically legitimated all children of parents who married each other either before or after the birth of the child. Legitimation by private act, by court order, and under the 1917 law entitled a child to the use of the father's surname and made him or her heir to, but not through, the father. By an act of 1955, legitimated children were made heirs-at-law to and through both mother and father, and were thus given complete families. Under the law, children born under illegitimate circumstances whose births are not legitimated by court order or by marriage of their birth parents remain without kindred and without ancestors.

Additional Resources:

Camin, Betty J., and Edwin A. Camin. North Carolina bastardy bonds. Mount Airy, N.C.: B.J. and E.A. Camin.1990. Read digitized version at: https://digital.ncdcr.gov/digital/collection/p15012coll1/id/69415.

"Guilford County, NCGenWeb: Bastardy Bonds." Guilford NCGenWeb http://ncgenweb.us/nc/guilford/bastardy-bonds/ (accessed October 15, 2012).

 

Comments

Comment: 

I am researching bastardy bonds because I have court records from 1809 that refer to a child born in Jan 1800 as bastard.

Transcript and link to original image is here:
Jones County Rhodes Family Court
May Term 1809

18 May 1809 (estimated from page numbering)
"Ordered that Edmund Hazard a bastard of Jane Wheatly(Whitley?) aged 9 years the 8th of January 1809 (DOB 8Jan1800) be bound to Anthony Hatch (esq ?) - and that the reason from his master twelve months schooling"

Images of Court Clerk Notes were found here:
Jones County Rhodes Family Court
May Term 1809
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSLR-63SF-R?i=39&cat=26...

We are assuming that there must be a bastardy bond in Jones County since the court refers to it. Would this court record refer to the bond differently if the bond was not from Jones county.

Would it be safe to assume that since Edmund Hazard does not have his mothers surname (Wheatly) that he took his fathers name and that would have required a Bastardy bond ?
I have read lots of these bonds and none of them have ever explicitly stated the child may or may not take the fathers surname.
In this case it may be possible that Janes married name is now Wheatly and her maiden name was Hazard at the time of Edmunds birth.

Did the bastardy bond records survive for Jones, Onslow, Cumberland county from the 1795-1805 time frame ?
Indexes and/or any reference to original documents/archives from these counties and time frames appear to be noticeably absent.

Bradford Hazzard

Comment: 

Hello! 

You need to look at a few things here, both a bastardy bond and an apprentice bond. This court order is for an apprentice bond - the binding out to another person. There were several reasons children were apprenticed and the 2 most common were that they were orphaned or "bastards". The court order is specifically for the apprentice and there would be a separate apprentice bond created in the month as the court order.  Bastardy bonds are almost always when the mother is pregnant or soon after the child is born. 

The problem you will have with Jones County is that due to courthouse fires during the Civil War, the bonds don't exist. Take a look at the State Archives County Record Guide for Jones County to see what I mean - https://archives.ncdcr.gov/researchers/collections/government-records/co...

Unfortunately, this also means there is no court record of a bastardy bond either since the record you found was for 1809 and the first year of court minutes for Jones County is 1807; however, I suggest searching the court minutes from the 1807 to be sure. Also, with apprentice bonds, the law required children to be bound out until age 21 for all boys non-white girls (essentially free African American and possibly Native Americans who did not live on tribal land, known as free people of color) and age 18 for white girls. In my experience researching apprentice bonds and especially for free people of color, I have found children who were bound out and then came back to court to be bound out again, and the younger they are when they are bound out, the more often they are bound out to someone else. Several reasons for that. For all children, the law required that if the apprentice "master" moved from the county, they need to relinquish the child to be bound to someone else. I've seen court cases where they moved and took the child with them and the parents complained to the court and the court would sent a notice to the sheriff of the county to bring back the person to answer the complaint. For free children of color, they were sometimes treated as enslaved people by their apprentice “master” and parents would complain to the court, the child removed from them and then bound out to another.

All this to say, keep digging through those records.

Thanks,

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

 

Comment: 

In order to complete this thread - the following bonding record was recorded on the same day as the record for Edmund Hazzard (above).

Jones County Rhodes Family Court
May Term 1809

18 May 1809 (estimated from page numbering)
"Ordered that James Rhodes Hazard and Thomas Hazard aged aged 6 years the 21 November 1808 (implied DOB 21Nov1802) be bound to Anthony Hatch (esq ?) for the giving them 12 months schooling."

Images of Court Clerk Notes were found here:
Jones County Rhodes Family Court
May Term 1809
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSLR-63SD-J?i=38&cat=26...

Assumptions that could reasonably be made ?
1) These boys are give the same birth date - Safe to assume they were twins ?

2) The parents of James and Thomas are not referred to but the boys are not referred to as orphans - so safe to assume that this record is tied to Edmunds ?

3) Safe to assume their mothers maiden name was Hazard even though she is referred to in court records as Jane Wheatly. ? Maiden name vs married name ?

Thanks and sorry for so many questions - these records are the only facts we have regarding the parentage of these three boys. We have adna and yDNA
evidence that they shared a mother but Edmund and James had different fathers.

Thanks!

Comment: 

Hello, 

Now that is an interesting apprenticeship. The law required several things back then: apprentice master to teach the wards how to read or write (or hire a tutor to do that) as well as sufficient clothes, diet, and shelter, but it also says that boys were to be bound out until age 21. 

It is possible they were twins, but it is also possible there was human error and only entered the dob for 1 child and not the other.  Also, I would not assume they are tied to Edmund's. As I mentioned in my previous response to you, there were several reasons kids were bound out. Orphans is one, being illegitimate (which often appears in the records as "base born"), having poor parents, and in some cases, people voluntarily became apprentices to receive an education, especially if they lived in a rural area without a school. It is really a shame that the actual bonds were burned in a courthouse fire because the records would tell you more. In my research, I've found that court records will say one thing such as "John Doe age 6 bound to Joseph Smith..." and then the apprentice bond will have more information such as "John Doe, base born child of Betsy Doe, age 6 last instant [last month] bound to Joseph Smith to learn the art and mystery of being a cooper" 

For the mother's name, more research needs to be done. Is there a marriage record for her as a Hazard to a Wheatly, for instance. I also notice all the kids were bound to the same man. I would suggest doing some research on who they were bound to. Was he a relative? Kids could be bound to male family members, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, etc. 

I hope all of this helps and please feel free to contact us at slnc.reference@ncdcr.gov

Thank you,

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

Hello I am trying to track down the mother of my great-great grandfather, JACOB ENNIS, who was born in Stokes County (Bethbara I think) in Nov, 1827. I believe his father was Anderson Ennis (who would have been around 16-17 at the time) I do not know the mother's name. I do know that Anderson Ennis was sued in bastardy court there in 1829 by a woman named Starr (possibly Rebecca or Johanna) over a son named Jonathan T. Starr (Stohr). I believe JACOB was a prior illegitamate child of Anderson. Please advise as to how I can obtain more information. Thank you

Comment: 

Hello, 

You may want to look at Betty Camin's book on Bastardy Bonds at https://digital.ncdcr.gov/digital/collection/p15012coll1/id/69677

The only problem is that Stokes County is not included. If you go to the page and in the "Search this record", put in the surname you are looking for and click "Filtered" just under the search box. 

Hope this helps, 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

Howdy,
I've got a quick few questions regarding a bastardy bond document, potentially about one of my ancestors. The particular document is, what I believe to be, a warrant from Surry county, NC in 1790 for a Margret Turner who was accused of bastardy. On the back of the warrant there are several dates listed on which the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions met, from August 1790 to May 1792, each with "not found" written under them. My understanding is that this means they weren't able to find Margret. Would this indicate that she had left the county or potentially state? Was it typical for people to just not show up and the court to mark them as "not found"? I would think it would be difficult to hide a woman and baby for several years if they stayed in the same county.

Thanks!
Sean

Comment: 

Hello, 

Thank you for your comment. I am sending your comment to our reference librarians who can assist you. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

In my research I have found a bastardy bond for an ancestor. The year is either 1847 or 1849 and the county is Stokes. On it the mother is listed and it states she "refuses to declare the father from becoming chargeable to the said county." There are also two men with a different surname from the mother on it as well and I suspect they were brothers as one is a "Junior" and they don't share the same first name so I wouldn't think they would be father and son. The older one was married and the younger was not. It also appears that the younger moved from NC to Indiana sometime before 1860 as he was on the 1850 NC census and then is on the 1860 and 1870 census in Indiana. The bastardy bond states the mother and both men "are held and firmly bound unto the said state in the sum of five hundred dollars." I suspected that the younger had his older brother help pay the amount. Would it be a safe assumption to say the younger man is the father?

Thanks for any help!

Comment: 

It is a possibility, but possibly they could have been related to the mother. I suggest digging further to see. 
 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library 

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