My daughter Jo has spent a good deal of her career working in the health and social care sector on the prevention of teenage pregnancy .
The phrase conjures up a picture of single mothers in council flats, claiming benefits and living a chaotic lifestyle. There is also a perception that this is a modern phenomenon due to television or the welfare state, communism or drugs and rock’n’roll – whatever your personal prejudice may be.
In fact teenage girls – and older women – have got pregnant outside of marriage since at least 1707, the earliest I’ve found so far in our family tree. I’m sure we’re no different to any other family. In 1766 Mary Baldry was not afraid to name her baby after his father and four months later, they were married. Probably the best option at the time.
But marriage wasn’t always the solution. In 1808 Jane Gibson named Jos Ferguson as her daughter Betsey’s father but she doesn’t seem to have married either him or anyone else and Betsey took her mother’s name Gibson.
In 1858 another Jane pursued a slightly different course, or perhaps her husband Barnabas Fenton was just a lovely man who accepted her son William as his own when they married three years later. In census returns he is described as Barnabas’ son, but he kept his mother’s surname Bell.
Jane and William Bell, I hasten to add, are far away from the Bell Shearers, a quite different branch of the family tree.
There are also “near-misses” of course, marriages followed rather too quickly by the appearance of the first baby: perhaps this might open up a whole new area of research!
Oh yes, the plates … I was in my forties when my Mum gave me these plates as she was clearing out her stuff prior to moving away. “They’re your Grandma and Grandad‘s wedding present”, she said “October 1912”. Now my mum was born in March 1913 … I looked at her and she looked at me and she said “Yes…”