Due to these inconvenient timezones (worst invention ever ;)) I couldn’t take part but I took it as an invitation to screen through my notes and stumbled over the following death entry (transcribed from the churchbook Mustin and translated into English):
Day of the Death: December 25, 1857
Day of the Funeral: December 28, 1857
Helene Louise Christine Möller, daughter of the carpenter in Dechow Matthias Gottlieb Möller and his deceased wife Magdalena Dorothea née Bett (or Beck or Beth – I admit, I couldn’t decipher it for sure), not married
cause of death: typhus
age: 38 years, 5 months
You might ask yourself now why I thought this plain entry to be odd enough that I would stumble over it?
Well, it was the “not married” which caught my eye. Because I have six children for Helene and my 3rd great grand uncle Franz Joachim Hinrich SCHAPER from Mustin in my database.
It wasn’t uncommon in the area that time to have one illegitimate child before the wedding, but six?
Everyone who wanted to marry had to apply for a wedding license and something like a right of domicile. Those were granted by the authorities of the duchy. Problem was: without the right of domicile you wouldn’t get a wedding license.
Every magistrate could grant (or not grant) this right at their own discretion. And more than one applicant wouldn’t get it without a bit of money changing its owner.
Just to give you some numbers:
In the duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin every sixth child born between 1849 and 1863 was illegitimate.
1851 there were 260 villages where more than 1/3 of the born children were born to a single mother and 79 villages where ALL children were born illegitimate.
But instead of helping their people to settle down, on May 3, 1856 the grandduchy Mecklenburg-Schwerin passed a law regarding the “punishment of bawdiness”.
Giving birth to a child without being married was one case for punishment. If someone would press charges against a single mother she was a risk to pay a fine between 3 and 20 Thaler. Just a comparison – the price for an average sized bread was 0.04 Thaler. The single mother was the “Stuprata” – the disgraced and she was the one responsible for being dishonored. Therefore she had to face court and pay the fine. The father could go on living his life without any responsibilities of course.
That was a quick excursion into “marriage history” of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. But those rules held true for many other duchies and kingdoms, too.
Coming back to “my” Helene. Could it be that she gave birth to six children between 1844 and 1856, living with their father like a family (which they were of course) and die of typhus and neither the father of her children not the children themselves would be mentioned in her death entry?
So, I checked every single birth entry for the children and yes, it was true. All of them were titled “illegitimate” – and another btw. I think no child in this world should be called illegitimate!
I think it is heartbreaking that not even in her death entry the authorities acknowledged that she had children and that they had a father.