Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Blogging A-Z - April Challenge - B is for.......

B is for Bastardy Bonds

About twenty years ago I was merrily working my way through my maternal family line and encountered my first Bastardy Bond.

Samuel Harris was born in 1766, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Harris in the Surrey parish of Frensham. The location with the parish is very close to the border with Hampshire, at the parishes of Bramshott and Headley.

As was common practice, the unwed and expectant mother was to report her situation to the officials in the parish of settlement. At this point Elizabeth submitted a Bastardy Examination which "forced" the mother to name the father of the expected child. This allowed the parish to seek the father and request that he pay a contribution for the child's upkeep rather than the parish being expected to.

The Bastardy Bond,which you see here was filed on 10th November 1767. Elizabeth clearly names the father as Samuel Holt with the baby being born eighteen months prior.

Bastardy Bond Samuel Holt & Elizabeth Harris
Surrey History Centre ref 1505/30/1767/BB37 - Page 1
Bastardy Bond Samuel Holt & Elizabeth Harris
Surrey History Centre ref 1505/30/1767/BB37 - Page 2
Baby Samuel had by this time already been baptised and is recorded as a Samuel Harris, he is then named Samuel Holt on the bottom of page one above and then marries in 1787 to Sarah Diggins as Samuel Harris.

Marriage of Samuel Harris to Sarah Diggins 9th April 1787 Frensham Surrey
Image courtesy of Ancestry, although I have a copy obtained from
Surrey Heritage Centre dated 1989

There is something rather wonderful that I an see Samuel Holt's spidery and shaky signature, yet his illegitimate son could only sign with a X. There is no further documentation to suggest that Samuel Holt did not keep good on his promise to pay for his child. 

What is worth noting is that the Overseer to the Poor in Farnham was Richard Avenell. Avenell is a well known surname in the area, linking to a clock making family and the name appears in my one-place study for Puttenham about the same time. A generation further on and there are more instances of relationships and children between members of the Harris and Holt families, but that is another story!

Note - If you want to see a larger image of the documents shown please visit


  1. A thought provoking post.If there was an equivalent today, there would be millions of them.

  2. i love that concept! track those baby daddies down!
    awesome! cool to learn about how they handled the same problems we have today!
    happy c day!

  3. Oh cool it is fun to see the history of your family! : )

  4. One of our students commented, "This is very interesting. I guess it's true you learn something new everyday." Visiting from A to Z Challenge at Learning at Cedar Ridge Academy and Cedar Ridge Academy


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