This blog post is the results of my investigations into possible cases of premarital sex resulting in pregnancies and weddings. I went through my family tree and compared the documented dates of marriage with the documented dates of birth of their first children. The below examples include just some of the instances when children were born before marriage, or when they were born up to 7 months after the marriage. All of these oldest children listed below were born alive and survived to adulthood (so it is not likely they were premature births).
It is of course possible for a surviving child to be born after only 7 months gestation, although that would have been less likely in the 1800's or earlier. The most likely scenario is that these were all examples of conception before marriage.
|Minnie Thurston Hopkins, mid-1880s|
My great-great-grandmother's sister Minnie Thurston was married to Edgar Hopkins on August 18, 1881 in Chariton County, Missouri. Their first child, Harry, was born two months later on October 17, 1881.
Minnie was from Minnesota, but had moved by herself to Wisconsin in her youth to work as a servant. It was in that situation that she became pregnant by a traveling salesman from a nearby town. They decided to get married and eloped to Missouri, where Minnie had some relatives.
My great-great-grandmother's sister, Mary Kling, gave birth to an illegitimate son on February 27, 1881 in Mankato, Minnesota. The father of the child is unknown. The baby was named Fred Kling, and was raised by Mary's parents, Christian and Dora Kling.
My great-great-great-grandparents William Brown and Amanda Stephens were married on December 15, 1859 in Montgomery County, Tennessee. Their first child, Jesse, was born 7 months later, on July 26, 1860. Then, in the 1860 census, William, Amanda and Jesse were living in the household of William's parents, suggesting that perhaps they were not prepared to be married.
My great-great-great-great-grandparents Jeremiah Tilton and Abigail Freese were married on December 30, 1840 in Deerfield, New Hampshire. Their first child, Austin, was born 7 months later on July 28, 1841. Jeremiah later became a Baptist minister.
My great-great-great-great-grandparents Isaiah Custer and Elizabeth Salehamer were married on June 5, 1825 in what is now Berkeley County, West Virginia. Their first child, Charles, was born 7 months later, on January 10, 1826.
My great-great-great-great-grandparents James Stephens and Nancy Head were married on March 26, 1823 in Sumner County, Tennessee. Their first child, Elizabeth, was born 2 months later, on May 26, 1823.
My great-great-great-great-grandparents Antoni Kling and Maren Damm were married on July 13, 1822 in Rise, Denmark. Their first child, Hans, was born 3 months later, on October 13, 1822.
My great-great-great-great-grandparents Thaddeus Bixby and Hannah Worrick were married on December 6, 1802 in Guilford, Vermont. Their first child, Oliver, was born 4 months later, on April 21, 1803.
There is a story about how their daughter Annis Bixby, came to be married in 1830. One day, she was outside hanging clothing on a line when a laborer was out working the field. His gaze found the beautiful red-headed woman, and he decided on the spot that he would come back and win her. He did. Perhaps Thaddeus and Hannah met in a similar way?
My great-great-great-great-great-grandparents John Hill and Dorothy Allen were married on December 26, 1796 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Their first child, Margaret, was born 4 months later, on April 26, 1797.
My great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Carl Lilienthal and Engel Kahl were married on November 9, 1792 in Lutjenburg, Germany. Their first child, Hans, was already 2 years old when they married.
My great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Manassah Bixby and Elizabeth Dunsmore were married on November 12, 1765 in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Their first child, Manassah Jr, was already 10 months old and Elizabeth was pregnant with their second child, Joseph, who was born 2 months later, in January 1766.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Peter Helm and Christina Schieffer were married on November 17, 1757 in Claverack, New York. Their first child, Elizabeth, was born 4 monts later, in March 1758.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Moses Thurston and Hannah Johnson were married on May 29, 1744 in Andover, Massachusetts. Their first child, Hannah, was born 4 months later, on September 10, 1744.
My ancestors Steven Flanders and Abigail Carter were married on December 28, 1670 in Salisbury, Massachusetts. Their first child, Thomas, was born 2 months later, on February 17, 1670/1.
Things to consider:
1) It is possible for infants to be born alive after a gestation of 7 months or less.
2) It is possible that the documented dates of marriages or births are incorrect.
3) Even if all of the documented dates are correct, it is does not necessarily mean the couples in question were not married at an earlier date. There could have been different civil and religious ceremonies, or they could have lost the documentation of the original marriage and been required to officially remarry.