Source Information Dorset, England, Bastardy Records, 1725-1853 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2011.
Original data:

Dorset Bastardy Records (QDK). Dorset History Centre, Dorchester, Dorset, England.

Bastardy Papers (QDK); Records Enrolled, Registered, Deposited or Returned (QD); Quarter Sessions (Q). Dorset History Centre, Dorchester, Dorset, England.

About Dorset, England, Bastardy Records, 1725-1853

This database contains records summarizing applications for maintenance and orders issued in cases of bastardy in Dorset, England, parishes.

Historical Background

Following the Poor Laws of 1601, care of the poor fell to a resident’s parish. In cases of an illegitimate birth, parishes tried to identify the father and make him legally responsible for the child’s maintenance to keep the child off parish relief rolls. Nineteenth-century changes to the law shifted responsibility to the Poor Unions, whose representatives still sought to make father responsible for maintenance. Mothers could also apply to require a father to support his child.

About the Records

This database contains two main types of records related to bastardy. The first is a volume recording orders given to fathers regarding maintenance, most of which date to the 1820s and early 1830s. These records can include

  • child’s name
  • birth parish
  • sex
  • mother’s name
  • father’s name, residence, and trade
  • date of the order
  • amounts and payment terms
  • magistrate
  • name of person who served the order

The bulk of records in the database are returns, which are summary reports of applications for maintenance. They can list

  • mother’s name
  • date of summons
  • date of petty court session
  • results of the application
  • name of the putative father