Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bastardy Bonds

Last week I found a record for an individual who might be my ancestor. The baptism took place at St. Mary's in Oldham, Lancashire, England in 1784. While the other baptisms on the page listed the name of the father and his wife, this record read as follows:
       BB Sarah Daughter of Ann Bredbury of Lees Widow by John Beswick of Lees Singleman

Parish Registers for St. Mary's Church (Oldham, Lancashire), Baptisms 1766-1792, ordered by date of baptism, Sarah Bredbury or Beswick baptism, 2 May 1784; online image, "Parish Registers for St. Mary's Church (Oldham, Lancashire), 1558-1968," (www.familysearch.com : viewed 16 January 2018); FHL microfilm 4661303. [See last line of image.]
Evidently, Sarah was born out of wedlock. But, the "BB" notation had me confused. Several other entries on the nearby pages had the same notation; each of those babies was also born out of wedlock. What did BB stand for?

The following day, I happened to be reading about the use of religious records in genealogy. I came across the term "bastardy bond." Could those two letters mean bastardy bond? And, just what was a bastardy bond?

Some research led me to the London Lives 1690 to 1800 site. It explained that a woman who was going to give birth to an illegitimate child had to take part in a Bastardy Examination. The goal of this exam was to force the mother to name the father of the child. Then, the identified father had to enter a Bastardy Bond "to ensure that they paid regular support to the mother and child. If they failed to pay this support, they were legally obliged to pay the parish a substantial sum in compensation."[1]

It sounds likely the BB on this document did mean Bastardy Bond! I need to do more research to see if I can learn more about this particular case AND determine whether or not this baby is my ancestor. If it is my ancestor, I would have two more 5x great grandparents to add to my tree!

[Sadly, on the facing page is another baptism with a BB notation. For this birth, the father is listed as "a stranger." It sounds like a sad story!]

[1] "Bastardy Bonds: Securities for the Maintenance of Bastard Children (WB)," London Lives 1690 to 1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis (https://www.londonlives.org/static/WB.jsp : dated April 2012), para. 1.


  1. Dana, I've heard of a Bastardy Bond but never knew how it worked. I wonder if this baby will turn out to be YOUR ancestor?

    1. I hope so! If not, I don't have any other leads :)


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