How to find the father of an illegitimate child

In most families, sooner or later you will encounter a child born to an unwed mother. Finding the fathers of these ‘illegitimate’ children can be difficult, but not necessarily impossible.

I’ve researched dozens of these cases, both in my own tree and for clients. In four cases, I have been able to prove who the father was. In two other cases, I have developed good theories which I hope to prove through DNA. In the majority of cases, I ended up with a list of possible fathers, but no clear candidates. With the growing popularity of DNA testing and advances in tools for exploring DNA matches, it may be possible to solve these cases in the future.

While working these cases, I developed some strategies that may help you with your own cases too. I will use anonymized examples from my own research to illustrate how you can find out who the father of the illegitimate child was.

10 strategies to find the father of an illegitimate child

Strategy 1: Examine records from around the birth

Many unmarried women tried to hide their pregnancies so a pregnancy may have gone unnoticed in the community until the child was born. At that point, there are several possible records that may have been created:

  • A birth record may reveal the father. Notes in the margin may show if a man later acknowledged the child as his (which does not mean he was the biological father but he may have been).
  • A baptismal record may name the father. In the Netherlands, we often don’t look for baptismal records after the introduction of the civil registration in 1811, but they can reveal important information since churches often took a firmer stance against children born out of wedlock than the civil authorities.
  • Church council minutes may record how the mother was censored and perhaps contain interviews with the midwife to see if the mother uttered the name of the father during labor. The church council tried to make the mothers confess the name of the father so he could be admonished too, or censored for adultery if that was the case.
Birth record with note in the margin

Birth record of a child who was subsequently legitimized when her mother married (note in the margin)

Even if one of these records states the name of the father, this does not prove his paternity as the mother could have been lying or may not have been certain about the identity of the biological father herself. Like all evidence, it must be analyzed for reliability and compared to other records.

In one case, I researched a woman who had eight illegitimate children. The informant on all the birth records was the same man. One of the children was born in another town. In that birth record, the man was not only listed as the informant, but also as the father. According to official instructions, clerks were not supposed to record the names of fathers of illegitimate children, but the clerk in the second town ignored that instruction and wrote it down anyway. Further research showed that they were living together the whole time so it is very likely that he was the father of the other children too.

Strategy 2: Find out where the mother was around the time of conception

If the child lived, the pregnancy was probably full-term or close to full-term. This means conception probably took place around nine months before the birth, but to be on the safe side I recommend using a slightly wider range of seven to ten months. Try to find out where the mother was living and working around the time of conception. Possible records to consult:

  • Population registers (after 1850) and census records
  • Church membership records, which show when the mother came to live in the town
  • Newspapers

Strategy 3: Research the men in the mother’s life

Try to find out who the men in the mother’s life were, especially around the time of conception. Who was she living with? Who was she working for? Who were her neighbors? In one case, I discovered in the population register that the man who later married the mother was already living with her before the child was born.

As sad is it is to say, do not automatically exclude family members as potential fathers. I once found a court case where a stepfather was found guilty of sexual assault of a minor, his 16-year-old stepdaughter. A year after he got out of jail, she had an illegitimate child while still living at home. The stepfather was the informant on the child’s birth certificate. This does not prove that he was the father but the circumstances make him a likely candidate. I recommend that any adult (or at least: teenage) man in the mother’s life be treated as a candidate to be the father, regardless of whether he was related to the mother or not.

Records that can reveal which men were in the mother’s life are:

For each of the men, try to find out where they were in the period seven to ten months before the birth of the baby to see if you can rule any of them out.

Strategy 4: Get to know the mother

To speculate about the situations in which the mother may have gotten pregnant, it is important to try and get to know her. What was she doing for a living? How rich were her parents? How old was she when she got pregnant? What were her circumstances? A teenage servant girl who worked on a farm would find herself in different situations than a 40-year-old widow of an innkeeper.

For one of my ancestors who had two children out of wedlock, I investigated if she might have been a prostitute. To maximize your chances of finding the father, it is important not to make any assumptions or judgments and keep an open mind to all possibilities.

Strategy 5: Analyze the baby’s name

An important clue that the mother may have left you could be the baby’s name. Sometimes, unmarried women named the baby after the father, perhaps in kind remembrance or maybe in an attempt to persuade him to take responsibility. Dutch children were usually named after family members, so if the child has a name that does not occur in the mother’s family, that can be a clue to the father’s identity.

For this strategy, it is important that you know all the people in the mother’s family: parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and any close step-relati0ns. If the child is named after one of the maternal grandparents, that explains the name of the child and it does not help to find the father. But if the mother chose a different name, it may well point to the father’s identity. This is particularly interesting if the name is unusual and there was a man in the mother’s life with that name.

Mother with baby and child

Mother shortly after giving birth. Unknown photographer, circa 1885. Credits: Rijksmuseum

Strategy 6: Understand the community

To understand how your female relative might have found herself pregnant, it is important to understand the community she lived in. A few questions you could ask are:

  • Were there many women who had illegitimate children?
  • What ages were most women who got pregnant out of wedlock?
  • Were there many couples who had their first child within nine months of the marriage? If so, premarital sex may have been common. In some regions and social groups, couples waited until the bride was pregnant to get married, to ensure that she was fertile. It is easy to see how a girl could be abandoned before the marriage.
  • Were there many migrants in the community? The ‘suspect pool’ in a bustling merchant town would look very different from that in a sleeping village in the middle of nowhere.
  • Was prostitution legal and common? During large parts of the history of the Netherlands, prostitution was legal (it is today). Pregnancy was an occupational hazard for these women.

Answering these questions can be difficult. Perhaps someone is doing a one-place-study in the town where she was living in. Genealogists who do one-place-studies often have a good understanding of local traditions. If not, local genealogical societies might be able to help.

Strategy 7: Find out what was going on

Sometimes local events influenced how people behaved, which could result in pregnancy. A good example is the wave of ‘liberation children’ left behind by allied soldiers in World War II.

In order to understand if local events played a role in the conception, find out what was going on in the town about seven to ten months before the birth. Things to look out for are:

  • Presence of soldiers, for example an invading army, liberating army, soldiers quartered in houses.
  • Presence of a carnival or traveling show.
  • Was there an annual market or fair? This brought in people from several surrounding villages and also would have come with festivities and drinking that may have lowered inhibitions. The mother may have brought a local boy to the fair with her so just because there was an annual fair does not mean that the father had to come from somewhere else.
  • Was it harvest time? Often, when the harvest was over, the workers celebrated. The father may have been a fellow farm hand.
  • Criminal behavior, like rapists, in the neighborhood.

Local newspapers are a great source of information for these types of events. Many Dutch newspapers can be found at Alternatively, annual reports to the government by the municipality or police reports can shed light on what was going on. Magazines or books by local historical societies can also be a great source of information.

Painting of a market with two drunk men

Two drunks at Amsterdam market. Peter Paul Joseph Noël, 1821. Credits: Rijksmuseum

Strategy 8: Follow the money

In rare cases, mothers sued the father for child support, for loss of virginity or for breach of promise. These cases can be found in court records.

I once found a 17th century case file before the Court of Gelderland where an unmarried mother sued the father of her child. She details how he seduced her in the garden of the minister for whom she was working as a servant. He did not deny this but brought in a witness who testified that he had also had carnal knowledge of her, casting doubt on her moral character and the paternity of the child. She denied this and produced evidence that the second witness was a first cousin to the father and thus not unbiased. Unfortunately, the verdict has not been preserved but I would say the preponderance of evidence was in her favor. While not all court cases are this informative, they can be helpful to create a list of candidates.

In another court case, a poor servant girl sued the rich farmer she was working for, but the rich farmer said she was involved with the hired hand instead. Without additional evidence it is hard to say who spoke the truth: it is understandable that the married farmer would like to shift blame if he was the father, but it is also possible that the mother chose a richer target to sue than a poor hand who could not provide for her or her child.

It is also worth investigating if the material wealth of the mother improved after the birth, indicating that perhaps she was paid off. I’ve heard several family stories where a poor servant girl is paid off by the rich farmer, who found her a husband to marry and gave them some land or a house. Circumstances that suddenly increase should set off alarm bells that perhaps the biological father may have been rich.

Strategy 9: Research from cradle to grave

If nothing else works, research the entire lives of the mother, child and any potential fathers that you have identified.

Did the potential father ever interact with the mother or the child at a later point? Sometimes fathers remained involved in the children’s lives even if they would or could not legally recognize them. Perhaps the candidate father witnessed records involving the child, or acted as godfather to his (grand)children. I have never seen a case in Dutch records where a father mentions an illegitimate child in his will, but that is easy to check too. Don’t dismiss their earlier lives either. The candidate father may have been named as the father of other illegitimate children, which gives you an idea about his character.

There could also have been an impediment that prevented the father from acknowledging the child at the time of the birth, for example if he was married and was unable to get a divorce. But if he later finds himself a widower, it is possible that he would then marry the mother. He would not be able to legitimize the child, as it was born when he was married, so the fact that he does not acknowledge the child does not say anything about him being the biological father. For any man that the mother marries, it is worthwhile to find out if he was in the picture around the time of conception.

Strategy 10: DNA testing

Anybody who wanted to prove the paternity of a child today would turn to DNA. But DNA can even help solve older cases. There are several options.

If you have a candidate for the father, you can test specific people to see if they match. There are two options:

  • Y-DNA testing. Y-DNA inherits from father to son so you can use this kind of test if the illegitimate child is male and has a strict male-line living descendant. You should then find a strict male-line living descendant of the potential father (or his brother or paternal cousin, as long as they share a ancestor in the strict-male line). If both men agree to test, you can compare their results. If the results match, this is good evidence that your theory is correct. If the results do not match, your theory may be flawed, or there may have been a non-paternal event somewhere down the lines in either of the two men that tested. Y-DNA testing will not help you to determine which of two brothers or paternal cousins is the father but it can help narrow the suspect pool.
  • Autosomal testing. Autosomes are the non-sex chromosomes that get recombined each generation and half of them gets transmitted to a child. After about four generations, there are no guarantees that two descendants will share DNA so this type of test is especially useful if the illegitimate child was just a couple of generations ago. To use autosomal DNA testing to prove the identity of the father, you need one living descendant of the illegitimate child and one living relative of the potential father, who is not also related to the mother. If they share autosomal DNA this is evidence that it is the correct father.
    In these cases, I always research the pedigrees of both test subjects and compare them carefully so I am sure that there aren’t any other shared ancestors that could have contributed to any shared DNA. I want to make sure that any DNA that they share must have come from the alleged father.
    With autosomal testing you want to test the oldest generations that you can, as 50% of the autosomal DNA is lost which each generation.

If you do not have a candidate for the father, you want to test descendants to see which people they match. All major DNA testing companies will give you a list of matches: other people who tested with that company and who share DNA with the descendant. If you do not have a candidate for the father, you cannot actively select the people you want to compare with, but you see which persons just happen to match and work from there.

  • Y-DNA testing. If the illegitimate child is male and you test a strict male descendant, his Y-DNA matches may show several people who share the same surname. This may be the surname of the father too, especially if this matches one of the known men in the mother’s life.
  • Autosomal DNA testing. You want to test the oldest generation of descendants of the illegitimate child (or the illegitimate child him/herself if still alive and willing to test). To eliminate any matches from the mom’s side, you also want to test the mother or relatives of the mother who are not also descendants of the father. Any people who match the mother’s relatives can be eliminated from the list of matches. For the remaining matches, look for clusters of people that match each other on the same segments: those segments may have come from the unknown father. Then compare trees and see if these people share common ancestors. Since you are depending on the willingness of strangers to share information with you, this can be a long and sometimes frustrating process. But the numbers of people getting tested are growing quickly so there is a great potential for matches out there.

For more information about using DNA testing for genealogical purposes, I refer to Roberta Estes’ DNA Explained blog.


Finding the father of an illegitimate child is one of the hardest genealogical puzzles to solve. Often, the identity of the father will remain unknown but in some cases, enough evidence can be found to create a theory or even prove it.

Rarely are these cases solved by applying just one strategy. Developing good candidates for the father is often the result of extensive research into the records of the mother, child and potential father and acquiring detailed knowledge of the community that they lived in. Combining these traditional research methods with DNA testing can help to prove a theory.

Do you have illegitimate children in your family tree? Have you ever been able to find out who the father was? I would love to hear your strategies so please share them in the comments.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 25 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. I was glad to see DNA as one of the possibilities. Thank you for the kind mention:)

  2. Thomas v.d. Klok says:

    The most simple strategy is comparing photos, although it will only help for people living end 19th and 20th century. I matched an illegitimate lined far cousin to our family this way, he got in contact because of vague rumors on descendence from our family. His father was illegitimate but the youth pictures of his father were strikingly similar to those of my full cousin. We descend 4 generations back in paternal line and the father of this man 2 from the same person, my great great grandfather born in 1870.
    Another case is 4 generations back, male, in my mother’s pedigree born illegimate in 1845. I came across the possible father in a genealogical article by incidence. The photo I saw was almost exactly identical! It was the village doctor, born in the same year as the mother in the same village, widowed one year before the birth, remarried another woman in the year of birth. There is no common ancestry between the two that could explain the common traits. Descending from this doctor would explain that I have the same profession! 🙂
    I’d like to investigate both cases molecular in our own lab, the first will be easy. But what Y markers could you recommend me to specifically order primers for? Thanks in advance. Sorry for the length of my comment.

    • Hi Thomas, thank you for mentioning photos, which can also be a great clue. I don’t have any photos of my family from before 1900 and all my illegitimate ancestors were born before that time, so that’s why it did not occur to me.
      I recommend you do a generic Y-test on 67 or 111 markers. You can also start with lower numbers of markers (which are cheaper) and upgrade the test if you have good matches on those lower levels. As far as I understand it, testing specific markers is only useful if you know what you’re looking for, and is always done after a more generic test.

  3. I believe that I have identified the father of my illegitimate 3rd-great-grandmother Amanda Russell. It was a complex process that is too long to explain in the comments, but you can read my blog post about it: Because the identification of a grandparent-grandson relationship was crucial to this process and I had to rule out descent from Amanda’s husband Joseph Tarkington’s side, you may also want to look at the post I wrote about him, which includes my theory about his parentage:

    Thank you for the informative post! 🙂

  4. victoria kelly says:

    i have resolved to never finding the identify of my grandfathers father… great grandmother may have told a few people but the information was not passed was in the early 1880’s….all i know is that she hid my grandfather when ever the father came around in her sisters fruit cellar….the only other information i have is that my great grandmother was the belle of east york(a beauty contest), (now toronto ontario) sometime in the late 1870’s and the name keeler of koehler ?? spelling unknown may be involved…i wish i could find this information as i have always felt closer to this side of my family and i truly wanted to bring a happier ending to my family research for all my cousins so that we could go back even further. i wish everyone here luck to finding their ancestors.

  5. Pat Wilson says:

    Then what do you do when you discover that the father is John Davies in South Wales and that there are 10 in the same street in the nearest census?

  6. Alex Moes [Moeskoecker] says:

    Hi Yvette,

    First off, great site.

    I have a curious case where i am 99 percent certain the named father is not accurate.
    My ggggrandmother, Annigje Oosterhof, was born 19.01.1826.
    When registered her father is listed as Geert Roelofs Oosterhof, but the thing is Geert is actually the eldest brother of her mother Jantje Roelofs Oosterhof.

    Jantje marries a man named Jan Jans Schans just 3 months later. and most trees show Jan as Annigje’s father but when she marries in 1848 she signs her name as “A Oosterhof” and no father is listed!

    The curious bit is that one of the two men who stand as witnesses for Annigje’s birth registration is named “Jan Schans”?,344780001

    Have you ever come across anything similar?
    I assume she is DRC but i have yet to find a baptism.
    Records from after her marriage (children’s births, her death, children’s marriages) always name her “Annigje Schans” or “Annigje Jans Schans”.

    • Hi Alex,
      I checked the birth record of Annigje and Geert Roelofs Oosterhof is the informant because the child was born in his house. Nowhere in the record does it say that he is the father. The law had specific instructions for who was allowed to report a birth: the father, someone who was present at the birth or the person who owned the house where the birth took place. It seems that Jantje went to her brother’s house to gave birth. The fact that Jan Schans witnessed the registration shows that he was already in their lives at that point.
      He did not acknowledge Annigje as his daughter or that would have been noted in the margin of her birth record.
      If he had been the father, it would have been logical for him to acknowledge the child as his when he married Jantje. Since he did not, he probably was not the biological father.

    • Rick Lanting says:

      Jan Jans Schans & Jantje Roelofs Oosterhof are my 4 x great grandparents thru their son Roelof Jans Schans. I am one of those who had the incorrect information in my tree. I’m not sure how I missed this but have since corrected it. Thank you.

  7. I recently discovered your blog, and it has been very helpful in knocking down some of the brick walls of my Dutch genealogy!

    I was wondering…do you know of any good historical resources that might explain more about the religious customs around marriage and premarital sex? Most of my ancestors came from Groningen (and a few from Friesland), and I’ve noticed that in the mid-1800’s the majority had their first child within a few months of their wedding. I’m assuming this must have been fairly normal in their community, but would like to know more. Any ideas for resources would be helpful, thank you!

    • I have the same question as Sara. As far as I know, most of my Fries and Groninger ancestors were religious people, so it surprises me that there were so many babies born out-of wedlock or within a few months of marriage. Were there social reasons such as lack of available housing or multiple marriage dates (church vs state wedding) or poverty or ????

  8. In Australia the father of an illegitimate child is often named in one or more series of Court of Petty Sessions records; and many other kinds of records here are also potentially useful. I like the research *strategies* you’ve outlined, and when I update my mini-guide ‘Researching Illegitimate Children’ I will add a link to this post.

  9. Do you know if it was common practice for an illigitamate son to take his mother’s last name in New Netherlands in the early 1800’s? There is an ancestor to whom all Hawaiian Houghtailings are descended from, but that no one can find his parentage. He was born in New York, but all candidates for a legitimate biological father with the same last name come to a dead end. My hunch is he was born out of wedlock, but am not sure if he would have taken his mother’s last name or if his mother would have given him the father’s last name. It would also explain why he left his ancestral home (New York) to seek his fortune, as he may have been less likely to inherit land etc.

    • Yes, illegitimate children usually took their mother’s last name. But illegitimate children were quite uncommon. Another, andmute likely explanation, is that he went be a patronymic early in life and only adopted a last name later.

      • Thank you, that is very helpful information. In the US, most Houghtailings, Houghtalings and Hotalings can trace their ancestry to one orphan who came to New York in the 1600s and later adopted the last name. It was interesting to see the concept of patronymics in that case. In your opinion, how common is the Houghtailing name in the Netherlands (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being very common, 10 being rare)? I’m wondering if it was likely that other Houghtailings came over to the same area in New York between 1650-1800.

        • 10: never heard it before. It could have been an Americanization of a Dutch name, or the name could have a different origin. Many people from other countries, including the Baltic, settled in New Netherland.
          The archives of the Mayors of Amsterdam at the Amsterdam Court Archives have lists of orphans to be sent to the New World. It might be worthwhile to consult these lists. As far as I know, these lists have not been transcribed yet.

          • Thank you, that is very helpful information. I have found his first and middle name on documents regarding the program to send almshouse children in Amsterdam to the American colonies, and on a ship’s passenger list. It appears he didn’t take up the last name until he was well into his 20s. I will consider the archives you mentioned. Thank you again!

  10. On my ancestor’s birth certificate, no father’s name is given and the mother gives a fake name Thomasina Wilson. Somebody else with the same family tree branch thought this was a hint that the father’s name was Thomas Wilson. My ancestor had the surname Wilson on the 1881 census when she was four years old, though when her mother married when she was seven years old she took the surname of the man her mother married, who may or may not have been her biological father. Both men were seamen, and the mother had lived from childhood near the naval centre of Greenwich, London.

  11. nora douly says:

    Hi, I am an illigatamate child I am 69 years old and would love to find my father or siblings if I have any, I know his name and that he was a pilot of a piper cub plane that’s about the info that I have where would be the best place to start and I know where my mother was when she got pregnant

  12. Thankyou for the article and all the following comments. My family has a rumoured illegitimate son of the crown-prince of a European country. The mother was married off to a palace gardener and ‘removed’ to the country the committed suicide some time after giving birth. Just family lore, but supposedly someone in the family has the written account (who wrote it, I’m not sure). The child, however, was sickly and not strong enough to gain employment as a farmhand, but was educated through out school and university to become a teach, allegedly paid for by the palace. Although there really is no physical resemblance between the current king and my family now we are all in our 40’s – 60’s) there are surprising resemblances of the current king and one of my brothers when they were both in their early teens. How would I go about researching palace bookkeeping records to see if the account of the education and of my great-something-grandmother and grandfathers’ employment?

    • Hi Anna,
      What a fascinating family story, I can understand why you want to learn more. How you would go about researching depends on the country and time. In the Netherlands, the Royal House Archives are open to the public by appointment, but recent records are closed. I cannot give you advice about other countries.

  13. My grandmother had an iligitimate child my uncle. My nan spoke of a robert Irving born Scotland. Abt 1917 give or take 3 yrs plus . Apparently he came to Birmingham looking for work about 1938 /9 . I can’t find him on any cencus or electoral roll where my nan lived. My uncle life ambition was to get this clarified . I read all your article with enthusiasm and will have another attempt to find out . This is good research hints . I find the generation then are so tight lipped and this was neve spoke about. I did ask questions but looked at me in horror that was my late nans sister. Maybe she didn’t know . Hidden secret. My uncle took the surname of her husband who she had separated from after learning of his bigamist ways.

  14. Benjamin says:


    Last year I posted a story about my illegitimate 2xgreat gran but it has not appeared yet on this comments section. About Thomas Roberts and Mary Ann Walder in 1863.


    • I do not see your story in the unpublished comments. I sometimes delete stories about living people, but not for people who were born in the 1800s so I do not know what happened.

    • Benjamin says:

      Oh OK. I shall show the story again.

      On the 31st December 1863, my 2xgreat gran, Kate, was born. She died in 1943. She was the illegitimate daughter of Mary Ann Walder, an unmarried woman, daughter of the village wheelright in Sussex, England. She and Thomas Roberts, her soon to be husband moved away from the area shortly after the birth. The baby was then baptised in November 1864 as daughter of Thomas and Mary ann Roberts. Thos and Mary Ann wed in July 1864 at the same church they baptised the baby. At the time of Mary Ann Walder’s pregnancy Thomas was a servant, footman, and he was still married to his first wife Esther who died on the 14th Nov 1863 of a long illness. The death cert sais “several years”. Seems Thomas was seeing Mary Ann before his wife died. Also Thomas’ mum was into needlework as was Kate and her children. Also there is a good physical resemblance to Kate’s children and Thomas’ daughter Ann (born 1851) by his first marriage to Esther. Ann would be their half aunty. I have yet to find a photo of Kate but a distant cousin has pics of Thomas’s eldest daughter. Also Kate’s younger sister has very good facial resemblances to Kate’s children. Photographic evidence is a good thing.

  15. Sarah Brightbill says:

    I desperately want to find my birth father. I am 24 years old and have a daughter of my own. My birth certificate has my father listed as unknown. I’ve tried talking to my mom about it, but her story keeps changing or she just doesn’t answer me… I’ve tried searching the Internet for answers, but I keep coming up empty… is there a place where I can post my story so that others can read it and perhaps point me in the right direction? Please help me, I just really want to find out who he is…

  16. my biological mother was born illegitimately, as was her elder sibling, and, apparently, they both had different fathers. they were both born in london during ww2. the elder sibling uses the mother’s surname on her birth certificate, eg if my grandmother was called grace morris (she wasn’t) then the elder sibling’s name was put down as baby morris. my mother had the name, “jones” on her birth certificate, and i believe that ‘jones’ was commonly put as a surname for fatherless children. to my knowledge, she never used that surname, and used my grandmother’s maiden name, and then her stepfather’s name, sometimes, after my grandmother (re)married. the family rumour is that she was made pregnant by a visiting american gi, but i don’t know if that’s a romanticised idea – there are a lot of name changes and retelling of the truth in that family, even nowadays. i had three uncles who all used names different to their birthnames…!

  17. Great article with some very useful tips. It has spurred me to re-vist my great great grandfather and see if I can discover anything about his biological father thank you 🙂

  18. Carolle van Someren says:

    My husbands grandfather was born illegitimate in 1883. Although she was from Nijkerk she had the baby in Voorthurien (not sure this is the correct spelling) or why she traveled there. I have managed to get a copy of his birth record filed by the midwife but there is no mention of the father. He was given the name Gijsbert van Someren which was her maiden name and the name of ther first husband who died nine years earlier. Gijsbert was cared for by one of her daughters from the first marriage until 1885 when she married Cornelious Herman ten Hoven. After Cornelious’ death in 1908 Gijsbert left the Netherlands for the United states and never spoke of the Netherlands again. We had my husbands DNA done in hopes of finding a possible birth father but after reading hour posts that seems very slim at best. Is there any hope? My husband is a direct male decendant and there is a genetic disorder called familial tremors which his grandfather, father and aunt all had as well as my husband. He is the last of his line and would love to know his family tree!

  19. My mother was claimed to have been raped when I was conceived. I have a strong feeling she may be lying and I believe my family is helping her keep her lies.. if people can trace your roots from where your family came. Can’t they track to a certain man?

  20. Hello Yvette,

    Thank you for this useful blog post. My 4x greatgrandfather is an unknown father. After her marriage, Trijntje Robijns Lijker, as a widow, gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, who married a Van der Heide (my direct male ancestor). The midwife, Grietje Johannes, her (former) mother-in-law, registered the daughter in the civil registry. She was named after her mother: Trijntje Lijker (*1833, Harlingen).

    Trijntje Lijker her second son is named Melle, and all Van der Heides named Melle (quite a lot) are descendants of this branch. That’s mainly why I want to discover who this man was.

    In her marriage, she had 8 children, the eldest son (*1822, Harlingen) was named Melle as well. I have no clue why, because according to the naming conventions, I’d expect a Melle in the ancestors, but I found none.

    I will use some of your above mentioned tips & tricks as searching the baptism records. Are there any other suggestions you could give?

    Here is my relationship to my unknown 4 x greatgrandfather:

  21. Bob Zimensky says:

    So, here’s one from the other way-round: What if a man were trying to find out if he had a child somewhere that had not been acknowledged. I spent many years as a very promiscuous drunk. Somewhere on the order ot 300 sexual partners, so statistically, there’s a good chance there’s one or more out there. I am a different person now, and would like to find and make those things right, if possible. Any way you can think of to find out? Is there any sort of registry for people in my position?

  22. Annemarie van de Waal says:

    Thank you for the article. Hermen van de Waal, my 4xggfather, died in 1814 in Maurik. The age given means he was born in 1743. The Ingen parish register has:- trouwakte 11-27 Nov 1774 Hermen van de Waal jm geb en won te Ingen Margereta Tukker jd geb te Zoelen won te Ommeren ondertrouwd and getrouwd te Ommeren. There is no surviving baptism for Hermen. His parents are supposed to be Arien van de Waal and Ijda van de Valentijn, but they married 14 may 1747 in Maurik. Although the Dutch naming pattern was strict Hermen and Margereta had no son called Arien. Their first son was named Dirk and Arien and Ijda were sponsors. I also have a document (24 august 1778) which lists what happened to Arien’s messuage when he died and he left his property between Ijda his wife and Jan Willemsen and Jantje van Hoeven, Dirk van de Waal, and Gerrit de Bruine and Geertruyt van de Waal. Nothing for Hermen. Arien’s father was named Willem. There are Hermens in the van de Valentijn family further back. I have tested my brother’s Y-DNA. He is I-M253 but the only matches (2) are very distant indeed.

  23. Michael McCauslin says:

    Thanks for this post. I used several of these strategies by chance as I began researching my family tree in an attempt to identify my great grandmother’s father. My mother had such a close relationship with her grandmother, Retta Epley born in 1884, that I wanted to find out more to share with my mom. Amazingly, a simple Google search of Retta’s mother’s name, Mary Epley, led me to a county court record of a bastardy case she had filed in Mansfield, Ohio against a man named Woods Rose Mitchell. There was no verdict; the record stated that Mary had not appeared on the assigned court date, but checking census records, I discovered that in 1880, four years before Retta’s birth, Woods Rose Mitchell and Mary Epley were neighbors living with their respective families. Further research revealed a great deal about these two families and the further separate lives of Mary and Woods, each of whom married different spouses and raised extensive families. Retta was taken into the Children’s Home at the age of seven and indentured to a local family until the age of 16. (That’s another very compelling story too long to go into here…) The only additional bit of a clue I found that could link Mr. Mitchell as Retta’s father is the name he gave to the last child born with the woman he did marry, a girl who died shortly after birth or was stillborn. That girl was given the name Mary Etta. Possibly a coincidence but perhaps a remembrance to the child he knew he fathered years before. I have had several DNA matches with descendents of the Mitchells, but never a match with whom I didn’t share other possible ancestors, so the quest for certainty goes on. I will try some of the other strategies you describe to see what else I can discover.

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