View Full Version : Children born out of wedlock.How common was this ???

28-03-05, 09:58
I seem to have a lot of children born to parents prior to marriage, or without the benefit of marriage in the late 1800's in Finland. Of course I realise that perhaps some of the information I have been given is not quite so accurate, although much of it came from official records. How common was it in those times for people not to be married and have children?In Anglo Saxon societies this was really frowned upon and would have been such a drama up until around the 1960's or 1970's in Australia at least .Perhaps Finnish people were a lot more relaxed about it all, than the Victorian era English attitudes that prevailed at the same period in both the UK and Australia.
Any information or perspectives appreciated.

Kind regards,

Gita Wiklund
28-03-05, 12:19
Hi Shay,

Well, I believe you will find a more accurate explanation in questioning the social circumstances rather than the moral views.

It would help if you provide more facts about these mothers. Did they live in a city or at the countryside? How did they earn their living? Did most of them later marry the father or not? Are the fathers not known at all?


28-03-05, 13:15
Hi Gita,

This has cropped up with 3 branches of my South West Finnish family, within a 20 year time span. Two of the three did ultimately marry the fathers of their children, one did not, and for that child no father's name is recorded.
The geneaolgical program I use actually highlights children outside of marriage , so as I was sitting here today , my thoughts began to idly wander....

All of the three women were from rural regions, not larger cities. Im not sure what they did at the time in terms of occupation.
I am interested in finding out how common this may have been for two main reasons;

1) If this is not very common maybe I have been given inaccurate information somewhere in terms of dates of birth of children , or marriages of parents.

2) It gives me an insight into the social or prevailing moral attitudes and culture of that part of Finland at the time.

Australia was particularly influenced socially and morally by a number of things, not the least by Commonwealth rule and attitudes from England of the times.

LoriAnn Pawlik
28-03-05, 16:32
Hi Shay & Gita,
I have an incidence of this in my direct lineage - timeframe of the late 1860s/1870s, region Terjarv. The mother was from a rural area (farm) and had 3 children - all with no father listed and it appears that she never married. But, interestingly, her own brothers and sisters do have records of marriage. So, why would she be the only one? And, of her children, 2 were girls & 1 was a boy. Would the boy be named after the supposed father or ??
Have a great day,
Lori :)

ps - Shay, would you know how to follow Finns who went to New Zealand by any chance? I know its not quite Australia... :)

28-03-05, 17:47
In my experience while searching the birth records films, I have seen many occasions of illegitimate births. I have quite a few in my tree as well. In fact, my mother's paternal grandparents were both illegitimate. I found it interesting that they married each other. For one, I was able to identify his father, based on oral history and rippikirjat records. For the other, I have not. It's so frustrating, too, because you realize that there's a whole branch that can't be worked! ;)

I remember when first searching the records, I was somewhat surprised to learn it was prevalent. In my mind, I always felt they were more prudish. But I guess a roll in the hay is a roll in the hay, 200 yrs ago just like today.

Dolores Luczak
28-03-05, 18:39
Just had a discussion on this in my HS class last week. Pre maritial sex is very common, to see if a son can be produced to carry on the family name, so many are preg. when getting married.

So maybe if you had females, they were not married.

Although those who had children out of wedlock were also looked down on.
Many women who came to U.S. were single, came here to look for work, start a new life. Also here most were married first before engaging in sex.
But I would have to say it was not 100 percent who did.

My own Great grandmother, left her children with relatives in finland, divorced from her husband, and started a new family. She never did send for her children in Finland, the grandmother brought them to U.S. and than returned to Finland and died.
Needless to say my Grandmother, was a burden the new family and step-father. And became very independant,eventually marring my grandfather, her brother, joined the service, and never remarried.
I am still having a difficult time finding her family in Finland, Salminen, Lindroos from Tampere.


28-03-05, 19:19
My oldest aunt was born 3 months after grandpa and grandma got "hitched", but that was in 1867 which I believe was the year of severe famine.
A great read is Ilmar Talve's great work "Finnish Folk Culture", especially his chapter entitled, "Life-cycle Rites" which is most -
Grandpa and grandma were serious about the whole mattter and went on to raise nine children, two of whom died in infancy unfortunately.

Talve also has a word or two about "bungling", but you'll have to buy the book.

28-03-05, 19:49
I have a fotocopy of a certificate from the parish priest which indicated the person named is permitted to travel.

The "fee" on that 1911 certificate was 50 p.

Perhaps governmental fees and taxes were so onerous that ppl of modest means were unable to afford the rates.


Jaska Sarell
28-03-05, 19:57
If you encounter illegitimate births among your ancestors, you are not alone :cool:
When president Tarja Halonen's official genealogy was published in GSF yearbook in 2003, both her grandfathers had to be omitted. They were not stated in official church records, and her parents carried the surname of their respective mothers.

:) Jaska

28-03-05, 22:45
My sincere apology. An old retired schol teacher should know better. I stand corrected.

"bundling" was the word, not "bungling"

Gita Wiklund
29-03-05, 00:02
It was not so uncommon that once a couple were engaged to be married that they had a child before the wedding. That was more accepted, and in those cases the priest would make a note "trolovningsbarn" (engangement child) in the book of births.
I guess there could have been economical or other obstacles for entering marriage that caused a delay.
But in other cases - of course it happened from time to time everywhere that love and passion resulted in sex outside of marriage and that a child was the result of that. Despite the fact that it was considered a scandal.
From what I have noticed it seems to me that these pre-marital births most often occur among those who do not own any land or money.
I have also noticed that quite a few maids gave birth to children outside of wedlock in the 1800´s. I remember reading a historical study that conclude that many young women were taken advantage of sexually by their employers and their sons and that there were an increase during the time when the cities grew and young women from the rural areas took employment in the cities.

In my own family tree I have found only one child that was born before marriage during the 1800`s, but the parents later did get married.


01-04-05, 22:23
This is a very interesting subject to me.

My grandfather was born in Helsinki in 1887 to a 21-year-old maid, Johanna Johansdotter Koll. No father is listed on the baptismal record.

Johanna was from Pedersöre. Thanks to June Pelo and Bridget Dahlbacka, I have substantial portions of her genealogy. Her father died in the late 1860s and her mother remarried a Matts Mattson. In 1877, her mother died. In 1880, Johanna was sent to Helsinki, presumably to work.

As a Swedish Finn, she was probably Swedish speaking and I suspect she went to work for a Swedish family.

One tumble in the hay with someone resulted in my grandfather.

My grandfather used the name August Nyman in Helsinki prior to emigrating, then became John Nyman here in the US.

They were somehow connected with Wickstroms in Helsinki (who were from Sweden) and some Nymans. One, Victor Nyman, corresponded with my grandfather for years. Victor's son, Gunnar was somehow affiliated with the Swedish Consulate in Rome during the 1960s. Gunnar and his wife Bruna corresponded with my father. My father told me that he and Gunnar were cousins.

This is a mess, but it has to do with my missing great-grandfather. So of course, I am suffering here from terminal curiousity.

That's my story and I'm sticking too it...until some new evidence turns up.

Best regards.

03-04-05, 11:15
Thankyou everyone for sharing your information about this subject. My curiosity stemmed mainly because in Australia, people would have gone to great lengths to hide an illegitimate birth, and mostly children would have been placed for adoption, or possibly brought up as the children of the actual grandparents. Either that or the unfortunate mother would have moved to another location and passed herself off as a "widow"

Kind regards,

Kaj Granlund
06-04-05, 21:55
The life in the rural areas 100 years ago wasn't easy and simple. That's why the emigration also grew so big. The families were big and there was often land just for the eldest son. The other children had to find their own living. Some as farmhands and as different kind of maids. A maid was easy to have for the boys of the house she was working in as they could promise her to be the housewife some day. Socially it was not good and often a girl with many children "without fathers" couldn't find someone to marry. The young mother (usually just the girls, but sometimes even the father) were senteced for having a child outside wedlock. So if you are lucky you can find a father in the crimerecords. But I don't think it is worth trying.
As there usually in the rural districts were no familynames used at that time but you used the name of the known father ( Anders-son = son of Anders) it was easy to use the name of the mother Maria-son (son of Maria). Not until 1920-ies everyone in Finland was obliged to have a familyname.