False father's names on marriage certificates

+4 votes
Just an observation which might give me some ammunition to confirm various relationships. I have come across several marriage certificates (I'm talking 19c England here) where I'm convinced the father's name is a complete fabrication presumably to disguise illegitimacy. I'm trying to establish how common this practice was and would be grateful to hear from anyone who has come across it or has a view on the subject. I have a feeling it was almost standard practice but need a few more people's opinions before I make a fool of myself...
in The Tree House by Derek Allen G2G6 Mach 2 (22.5k points)
My 2xgreat grandfather had a fake father on his marriage certificate, his mother was unmarried her entire life, I only know that because a second? cousin minus something had a journal which showed that it was a fake father, although no known father yet, and another 2xgreat grandmother on her marriage certificate didn't list anything. So I have seen both.

BTW this is in Leeds born in 1850s/70s, married 1880s/1890s.

3 Answers

+1 vote
I haven't done much to the profile of one of my great grandfathers, Sam Stephen Davies, yet, but he was probably illegitimate (only his mother Elizabeth Davies, is on his birth certificate) and he was adopted or fostered by a couple with the surname Dranfield, but his father is listed as Joseph Davies, occupation - Chemist on his marriage certificate.

I've searched and there is nothing in any other records where Joseph Davies appears, so I'm fairly sure he is a fabrication.
by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (635k points)
This is exactly the kind of situation I was thinking of. I had long suspected that the father on my wife's great grandmother's marriage certificate was bogus as it states simply 'Father - Frederick Jackson - clerk' i.e. telling us almost nothing about him and there is no other record of such a person ever existing. I think I now have the right birth certificate but that gives the father as 'George Stuart Jackson - Journeyman tailor' i.e. a good deal more plausible detail but once again there is no other record of this individual . As the mother is described as Jackson formerly Jackson, this is quite likely an incestuous birth, the lack of any corroborating evidence being possibly explained by the fact that the lady in question was Irish and may only recently have arrived in England. She appears in the 1871 census running a boarding house in London, a description which could cover a multitude of sins... She then disappears never to be heard of again.

What really put me onto the possibility of a widespread issue under such circumstances was while conducting research into the illegitimate children of James Disraeli, brother of the Victorian prime minister, Benjamin. We know that his mistress, Mary Bassett had had one illegitimate child (William) before the relationship with James, the birth certificate simply giving no details of the father but when he marries some 25 years later, his father is stated to be 'William Bassett - deceased' which really does look suspect.

I could quote several other cases in our immediate families too, added to which I have never seen a marriage certificate with a blank in the father's name field although from what we know of Victorian England, this ought to have been commonplace. Perhaps the authorities were actually turning a well-meaning blind-eye to the practice?
+1 vote
Seems like if the father's surname didn't match it was quite common just to change it rather than get involved in explanations.
by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (645k points)
+1 vote

I began to write something out but this link may help.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(family_law)

I have seen in many church birth/baptism records, a column to check "Illegitimate". This selection would indicate the child born to an unmarried woman.  I believe the name of the father would always be the name of the man that legitimized the birth, biological father or not.

I think something similar is used when putting the fathers name on a marriage certificate would be the name of the person legally recognized as the father, at the time of the marriage. 

This is why I don't think that a nonbilogical fathers name on a marriage certificate was or is to cover up illegitimacy.


by Ken Sargent G2G6 Mach 6 (63.1k points)

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