I know myself that adoption was not legailised until the 1920s, but not being sure of the
exact date I googled "when was adoption legalised in the UK" I found a site
which has the following "Child adoption had no legal status in Britain (including
under the separate legal system of Scotland) until 1926, when the first Act was passed
which regulated this in England and Wales. Until then, child adoption was an informal and
generally secretive procedure which gave the adoptive parents no rights whatsoever: a
biological parent could (and in some cases, did) appear at any time and demand custody of
a child they had neither seen nor contributed to the care of for years at a time."
My grandfather (in North Wales) was orphaned by the time he was 6 or 7, and he was brought
up by his grandmother. However, his 2 younger siblings were "adopted" by 2
families. They always kept in contact but I could not find his sister in the 1911 census
or her marriage record. I tried the census for her adoptive parents address (she lived in
the same house all her life), and there she was they had changed her name from Roberts to
Jones, and this was the name that she married under. Conversely the younger brother was
always Roberts rather than Williams.
All this shows is that there was no hard and fast rules and it does make the search very
From: Jennifer Cairns <jenmathias(a)gmail.com>
To: Dyfed Family History <dyfed(a)rootsweb.com>
Sent: Tuesday, 22 May 2012, 18:37
Subject: [Dyfed] Shame and Scandal in the Family...
I have three missing person problems on the go at the moment - and would appreciate
thoughts on the subject of hiding illegitimate births...
Two are Cardiganshire, and one is Bristol. Two definitely involve illegitimate births -
in one case the mother might have been local (Cardi) minor gentry and in the second case
(Bristol area) the father was of a gentry family (not known if the noble Lord, or his
brother a clergyman). In the third case there is a possibility that there might have been
some scandal which involved the (same) local Cardi minor gentry and a married man - exact
details are not known - but no birth involved, or known of. The missing man might of
course have been sent to prison for some reason.....
.... with the two illegit. births it has proved impossible to track down the
registration/baptism of either of the two children involved. Although both children were
taken abroad, one to Australia having been adopted (possibly by the brother [and his wife]
of the putative father - who had earlier gone suddenly to Australia) - the second
Glos/Bristol child was taken to the USA in the company of the mother who married rapidly
there and ended up in Argentina.
.... in the third case, cause of scandal unknown, the father of the family disappeared,
not findable thereon-in in any census or record.. but it has been suggested that the new
husband quickly acquired by the apparently deserted wife was actually the same chap using
a different name - so might have been a prison related incident.
My question is this
We all know that Parish Registers faithfully record (or apparently faithfully record)
illegitimate births .... but what scenario/template did gentry folk employ to hide their
involvement in "scandals" of this sort. Would children have been registered to
any pattern of surname name choosing, and where would the girls have gone to give birth -
family, or institute. With adoptions dating to around 1910/11 is there any chance of
finding adoption papers - and where? Both the cases where I know of live births that then
emigrated would have surely needed some form of ID to either leave or enter their
countries of choice - but I am ignorant on this matter.
Perhaps there is no pattern - but maybe a Lister has similar experiences in their
researches and can offer suggestions.
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