The records are transcripts of three types of documents; a warrant, maintenance order or bond. Most of the records will not include the name of the child, but may include a description of the child or birth date. The details in each order can vary but many will include a combination of the following information.
Lincolnshire is a historic county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire in the northwest and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. Northamptonshire is in the south. The county town is Lincoln.
The records are transcripts of three types of documents:
(1) Warrant – an order to the alleged father to appear in court
(2) Maintenance Order – issued by the Justice of the Peace at the Petty Session and orders an individual to pay for the child’s maintenance or face prison
(3) Bond – an agreement to pay for the maintenance of the child
In England, the 1235 Statute of Merton states that “He is a bastard that is born before the marriage of his parents.” The use of the word “bastard” continued through the 16th century, with the Poor Law of 1576 forming the basis of English bastardy law. The Elizabethan Poor Law, 1601, established that the responsibility for the poor, rest with the parish. In each parish the Overseers of the Poor were in charge of setting the poor rate, collecting the rate and administering relief to the poor. Illegitimate children were included in the poor relief. In order to try to keep the children of unwed parents off the relief list, the overseers would attempt to identify the father. If a father could be determined then he was ordered to pay for the maintenance of the child to the churchwardens. If he did not pay, an order was given to sell his possessions for the cost.
Centuries later the laws started to change. In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment stated that a Board of Guardians could initiate a hearing at Petty Session courts to determine the father of a child and impose weekly charges for the maintenance of the child. In 1844 the law was amended, as a result the mother would be able to initiate proceedings and maintenance money would be paid to the mother rather than the parish. Many of these cases were reported in local papers.
The language associated with children born outside of marriage changed in the 20th century, with the introduction of the Legitimacy Act 1926. The act legitimized the birth of a child in England and Wales if the parents later married each other. The act refers to the child of unmarried parents as “the illegitimate person.”