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Does Son/daughter in law actually mean Stepson/daughter

Does Son/daughter in law actually mean Stepson/daughter

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 1:32PM GMT
Classification: Query
Hi
I have found a couple of entries in census returns (1871 & 1891 England Census) in my research that say that a person is a son or daughter in law of the head of the household. However, it also shows the son/daughter in law as being age 6 or 11 in my cases - too young to have married. Also, there is no sign of a spouse to them.

Could this mean that the son/daughter in law actually mean stepson or daughter, possibly put as "in law" to prevent embarrassment of an illegitimate child?

Re: Does Son/daughter in law actually mean Stepson/daughter

Posted: 5 Apr 2011 6:27AM GMT
Classification: Query
The terms "son in law", "daughter in law" etc were used in the 19th century for what we would now call a stepson or stepdaughter. Nothing to do with illegitimacy necessarily.

Re: Does Son/daughter in law actually mean Stepson/daughter

Posted: 5 Apr 2011 7:02PM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 5 Apr 2011 7:03PM GMT
Hi Caro
Thanks for confirming my thoughts, which sort of prove a theory with my wife's Gt Grandmother. Both cases I've found the son or daughter had the same name as the mother's maiden name, which makes me think they were born before marriage. Maybe even getting the birth certificate wouldn't confirm the father?

I put this question on the board and it appeared to disappear, so I sent it in to Ancestry.co.uk's Ask The Expert, and now the original post has reappeared!
Thanks anyway,
Dave

Re: Does Son/daughter in law actually mean Stepson/daughter

Posted: 5 Apr 2011 9:41PM GMT
Classification: Query
If the children in question appear in the GRO birth index under their mother's maiden name then you won't find their father's name on their birth certificate. Until the second half of the 20th century, the actual birth certificate gives only the child's forename, with the index entry being a concatenation of this and the surname of the father if named, (which is very rare in the case of illegitimate births) or the mother if not.

But are you 100% sure that the mother wasn't married? There is always the theoretical possibility that she married a man with the same surname as her. Did she describe herself as a spinster on her marriage certificate?

Hope this helps
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