Saturday, 1 May 2010

Antenuptial Fornication

A post by The Professional Descendant reminded me of my own ancestor's indiscretion.

It's easy to think that people were more chaste in the past.  This may be true, but a journey through the parish records shows that people back then also indulged in sex before marriage or as the Victorians preferred to call it, 'antenuptial fornication'. 

Whilst looking through the Dunscore parish records for births and marriages, I found an entry for James BROWN's proclamation of banns, for which he paid 3 shillings on June 10, 1827. (James was originally mentioned in this post).

James BROWN & Janet CURRIE's marriage proclamation - Jun 1827

I believe the next entry for June 16, shows his marriage although the bride's name appears different.  In January the next year, the couple were blessed with their baby girl, Jane.

BROWN, Jane [Legitimate Daughter] of James BROWN & Janet CURRIE, Whitecairn. Born 11th January 1828.

Someone must have done the maths though, because two weeks later James paid 3 shillings and 6 pence as a fine for antenuptial fornication.

James BROWN's fine for antenuptial fornication - Jan 1828

Janet would have been about 2 months pregnant when they announced their intentions to marry back in June.  It is possible that Janet did not know she was pregnant but I think they were both aware when they decided to marry.  I wonder what must have gone through their heads - were they fearful of their secret being discovered?  How did their families react? Apart from the church fine, did they suffer any other repercussions or did it not matter now the child was legitimate?

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