Illegitimate Child

+3 votes
Is there a way to find the real parents for an illegitimate child?  My second great grandfather Simon David Dennis (1845 - 1908) was known as illegitimate and none of those working on the family tree have gotten past that brick wall.
WikiTree profile: Simon Dennis
in Genealogy Help by Jonathan Wilson G2G6 (7.7k points)

8 Answers

+3 votes
Best answer
Did you check if his mother got other children? If so, who is their father? Is it possible the father of the other children is also the father of Simon?

Do you have a baptism entry of Simon? Are there the sponsors named? If so, are there sponsors you cannot connect to your family? Who are they?

Those are questions that I ask myself in my illegitimate case.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (346k points)
selected by Jonathan Wilson
At this point I am at a loss for both mother and father - but will keep looking.  Good points to check.
I can ask my mom.. Simon Dennis is my Mom's Grandfather.. His son David Roy Dennis was Married to my Grandmother Ruby L Dennis (Bradley) My mom (Mary Kathryn Dennis) was 2mo old when he passed.  There was a big age gap between my gma and David she was 38 and he was 68.  Who's child are you??
+4 votes
Probably need to have the descendants do a DNA test...
by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (704k points)
+5 votes

Haven’t an answer for that, but found this census 

: Simon D Dennis Self Married Male 55 1845 Iowa

: Mary C Dennis Wife Married Female 47 1853 Illinois

: Garland Dennis Son Single Male 20 1880 Colorado

: Alva May Dennis Daughter Single Female 17 1883 Kansas

: James Millard Dennis Son Single Male 15 1885 Kansas

: David Roy Dennis Son Single Male 12 1888 Kansas

: Tim Ray Dennis Son Single Male 8 1892 Kansas

Simon D

Last name Dennis

Relationship Self

Marital status Married

Gender Male

Age 55

Birth year 1845

Birth place Iowa

Marriage year (estimated) 1873

Ethnicity American

Race White

Immigration year -

Spouse's first name(s) Mary C

Spouse's last name Dennis

Spouse's birth place Illinois

Head of household's first name(s) Simon D

Head of household's last name Dennis

Father's birth place Indiana

City/township McKinley, North Wichita

County Lincoln

State Oklahoma Territory

NARA series 1241339

Record set Us Census 1900

Category Census, land & surveys

Subcategory Census

Collections from Americas, United States

by Marion Poole G2G6 Pilot (637k points)

And this also from findmypast 

Simon D

Last name Dennis

Year 1903

Signature date 1903-07-01

Place Oklahoma

County Lincoln

State Oklahoma

Country United States

Land description State:OK, Meridian:17, Twp - Rng:013N - 003E, Aliquots:Lot/Trct 1, Section:3, Survey:; State:OK, Meridian:17, Twp - Rng:013N - 003E, Aliquots:Lot/Trct 2, Section:3, Survey:; State:OK, Meridian:17, Twp - Rng:013N - 003E, Aliquots:S½NE¼, Section:3, Survey:

Total acres 159.8900

Entry class Homestead EntryOriginal

Act / Treaty date May 20, 1862

Record set United States General Land Office Records 1796-2013

Category Census, land & surveys

Subcategory Land & Estates

Collections from United States


Simon D

Last name Dennis

Year 1887

Signature date 1887-11-15

Place Independence

County Montgomery

State Kansas

Country United States

Land description State:KS, Meridian:06, Twp - Rng:031S - 017E, Aliquots:NW¼, Section:9, Survey:

Total acres 160.0000

Entry class Sale-Cash Entry

Act / Treaty date April 24, 1820

Record set United States General Land Office Records 1796-2013

Category Census, land & surveys

Subcategory Land & Estates

Collections from United States

Not sure if this is what you already have


Simon D

Last name Dennis

Year 1861-65

State Illinois

Side Union

Country United States

Regiment 43rd Regiment, Illinois Infantry

Company K

Rank in Private

Rank out Private

Film number M539 roll 22

Record set Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865

Category Armed Forces & Conflict

Subcategory Regimental & Service Records

Collections from Americas, United States

Thank you so much!  A lot of this has been hinted at in written out stories but so much of the actual documentation is controlled by Ancestry and behind a paywall.
+1 vote
Working on finding more about Simon David Dennis' origins as he was said to be illegitimate and we have found little so far.   Found today in the 1880 census that one William H. Jones was residing with him and his family in Cherry, Montgomery, Kansas who is described as his brother-in-law.  William H. Jones married Eliza Ann Sharp in Fremont Iowa who is the daughter of Aavry Gibson and Carddia Day.  If she is Simon's sister, then it is possible that her parent's were the one who raised him, but we still don't know if they are biological parents or where the name Dennis came from.
by Jonathan Wilson G2G6 (7.7k points)

Simon L Dennis

 in the 1860 United States Federal Census

Name: Simon L Dennis
Age: 14
Birth Year: abt 1846
Gender: Male
Birth Place: Iowa
Home in 1860: Catlin, Vermilion, Illinois
Post Office: Danville
Dwelling Number: 819
Family Number: 819
Household Members:
Name Age
John I Jones 43
Rachel Jones 36
Mary C Jones 15
Lura Jones 12
Ann Jones 10
John F Jones 4
Melissa Jones 2
Simon L Dennis 14
Mary I Lucas 8

This is the Rachel listed in 1860

John F James

 in the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947

Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 No Image
Text-only collection
Name: John F James
Birth Date: 9 Apr 1853
Birth Place: Oakwood, Ill
Death Date: 26 Oct 1928
Death Place: Oakwood, Vermilion, Illinois
Burial Date: 28 Oct 1928
Burial Place: Catlin, Vermilion, Ill.
Death Age: 75
Occupation: Day Labor Retired 7y
Race: White
Marital status: W
Gender: Male
Residence: Oakwood
Father Name: John Jones
Father Birth Place: Unknown, Penn.
Mother Name: Rachel Acres
Mother Birth Place: Unknown, Ind.
Spouse Name: Anna M Jones
Comments: In U.S. army? no; Length of res. in place of death 75y 6m 18d
FHL Film Number: 1642729

Rachel Lucas

 in the Illinois, Compiled Marriages, 1851-1900

Name: Rachel Lucas
Gender: Female
Spouse Name: John J Jones
Marriage Date: 10 May 1855
Marriage County: Vermilion
Comments: This record can be found at the County Court Records, Film # 1298746 - 1298749.

Simon in Kansas

S D Dennis

 in the Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925

Name: S D Dennis
Census Date: 1 Mar 1875
Residence County: Montgomery
Residence State: Kansas
Locality: Cherry
Birth Place: Iowa
Family Number: 151
Gender: Male
Age: 29
Birth Year: abt 1846
Race: White
Household Member(s):
Name Age
S D Dennis 29
Mary Dennis 22

This person is in Vermillion, Illinois

Simon Downs

 in the 1850 United States Federal Census

Name: Simon Downs
Age: 5
Birth Year: abt 1845
Birthplace: Iowa
Home in 1850: District 21, Vermilion, Illinois, USA
Gender: Male
Family Number: 187
Household Members:
Name Age
William Potter 34
Hester Potter 28
Elizah Potter 2
William H Potter 1
John Brooks 27
Louisa Brooks 24
Matilda Brooks 3
James Brooks 1
Lewis W Thompson 27
Mary A Thompson 24
Orvilla Thompson 5
Rebecca Thompson 1
William Downs 30
Elizth Downs 23
Simon Downs 5
Nancy A Downs 3
Rebecca Downs 1
That is Catlin Township there.

Elizabeth's maiden name was Lloyd

William Downs

 in the Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001

Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 No Image
Text-only collection
Name: William Downs
Gender: Male
Event Type: Marriage Registration (Marriage)
Marriage Date: 15 Jun 1844
Marriage Place: Indiana, United States
Spouse: Elizabeth Loyd
Page: 422
FHL Film Number: 001310208
+1 vote
Highly unlikely in that time frame; the paper trail would never have been recorded as far as the birth parents are concerned.
by George Churchill G2G6 Mach 8 (84.4k points)
+2 votes
Don't forget to check court records, usually, there was some kind of action for support. Also in the same vein, since it's later you can check newspapers for a mention of the same.
by Dina Grozev G2G6 Mach 4 (44.9k points)
0 votes
Thanks for all the help!  Here is my current working theory.

Simon Dennis shows up first as a 14 yr. old in the house of John Jones and Rachel (Lucas) Jones in the 1860 Census in Catlin Township, Vermillion Illinois.  There are a lot of children listed and the dates overlap so my current working theory is that this was a blended family.  John Jones had a first wife through whom he got three children, Mary C Jones 15, Lura Jones 12, and Ann Jones 10.  Rachel Lucas (she also is listed sometimes as Acre) also had two children from previous partners, Simon Dennis 14 and Mary I Lucas 8.  Later on in the 1880 Census another sibling William H Jones is living with Simon and called "brother in law".  I am thinking that this might mean "half-brother" William also has a twin sister Martha Rachel Jones.
by Jonathan Wilson G2G6 (7.7k points)
Son in law, brother in law etc used to mean step or half. Because in the eyes of the law they are related. It’s only in later years that it morphed into present day usage.

As the mother might have been Acres, then Lucas, perhaps a previous marriage ?
0 votes

In my case my great Grandmother registered my grandfather using her Mother's maiden surname. Then she married and  baptised him under her Maiden name. Finally, he adopted his Stepfather's surname. So, he had three surnames and confusing documentation. 

Otherwise, I have seen the father's surname of an illegitimate child becoming a middle name

In cases of unofficial adoption I presume that would also be complex. 

by Anonymous Whiting G2G2 (2.4k points)

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