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  1. #1
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    Default Incest in Victorian England

    Hello. I am wondering how unusual it was to have step-daughters bearing their father's children. I'm afraid that my family tree is a bit twisted! I never imagined that this would happen in Victorian England but my ggggrandmother (Jane Wildman b.1840) was once listed as a step-daughter to William Goodman. Then she was his "servant" and then she was listed as his wife. Many children came as a result of this union, my gggrandfather among them. Just curious how common this was.:confused

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    Super Moderator Lesley Robertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wilddoug View Post
    Hello. I am wondering how unusual it was to have step-daughters bearing their father's children. I'm afraid that my family tree is a bit twisted! I never imagined that this would happen in Victorian England but my ggggrandmother (Jane Wildman b.1840) was once listed as a step-daughter to William Goodman. Then she was his "servant" and then she was listed as his wife. Many children came as a result of this union, my gggrandfather among them. Just curious how common this was.:confused

    When she was listed as his step-daughter, was he married to someone else? Her mother, for example? Was there a large age gap between them?

    I think you need to find the marriage certificate and Jane's birth certificate, and see who her parents were, especially in view of her changing status. I've seen the term "step daughter" used as a sort of honourary title for what looked like a foster child. The children of a spouse were often called son or daughter in law.

    Check the families before you panic!
    Lesley

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    It would not be incest. A step daughter would be the daughter of one's spouse, from a previous marriage of that spouse, therefore no blood relation.
    Tacky, but not incest! Look at Woody Allen

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    Mona is right about the step daughter relationship.

    However incest was common (and still is). It is one of those subjects that no one wants to talk about because "it never happened in our family". It would I imagine be a very difficult subject to research in historical terms. There are villages where it is well known in medical circles that there has been a lot of "in breeding".


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    Default Yes... but

    Yes, I agree that it is not a blood relative, but was this not unusual? Maybe my preconcieved idea of Victorian times is that it was very conservative about things like this. If it makes us uncomfortable, imagine a person from the Victorian Era. Then again, perhaps it was just not out in the open. It was interesting to see that Jane's children seem to retain her last name, even AFTER she married her step-father. Gross.

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    Default Victorians

    Hi Doug,
    The first thing to remember is that Victorians were Human Beings committing the same crimes as those who came before and after. The Victorians are perceived to be modest law abiding citizens as indeed many were. However incest, rape, illegitamate births and the like were just as common as any other time. Many of those Victorian marriages we spend hours searching for just never happened, a lot of people just lived in 'sin' and called themselves 'married' and bigamy was common place. Often too, when a child appears on a census many years younger than its siblings an 'older sister' will be the real mother.


    Jeremy

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    Default Incest in The Past

    I was brought up with the story that the family at the farm down the lane had drowned a baby in the well which had been the product of brother-sister incest. I'm not going to name the village even, but I do remember being taken to the farm as a small child, and my mother pointing out the well (yes, rather a prurient thing to tell a small child, but mother never pulled punches over "things in the woodshed").

    I expect lack of sex education, remoteness, touches of insanity or innate cruelty inherent in many lives led to a lot of horrible goings on in Victorian England. Judging by the 'orrible murders in the Penny Dreadfuls, or the court cases written up in lurid detail in respectable newspapers, they loved a bit of scandal no less than modern society.

    I'm sure it's hard to have to come to terms with something untoward in one's own family though.

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    Hi

    In my family I have the step-father who has his wife pregnant and his step-daughter pregnant at once in the mid-1800s. Then when the wife dies he married the step-daughter (which while it is against Canon law seems to have happened fairly regularly as does marrying your dead wife's sister, also against Canon law).

    With seven young children in the house I suppose he had to marry someone. Unfortunately no comment in the parish register unlike my friend's Scottish family who have the lovely comment on a baptism that teh Vicar did not think it was her husband's child but rather his brother's child!

    Helen

  9. #9
    Guy Etchells
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    No there was a lot of hypocrisy in Victorian times.
    They were like ducks smooth on the top and paddling like mad underneath.
    I.E. The public face of society was prime and proper with the private lives, in many cases, quite sordid.
    Cheers
    Guy

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    Valued member of Brit-Gen. Jan65's Avatar
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    I found this thread very interesting, as census records and marriage indexes suggest that an indirect ancestor of mine married her stepfather after his wife, her mother, had died. I haven't yet worked out which children belonged to which mother.

    There has always been a little niggling doubt in the back of my mind regarding this scenario, I didn't know if I'd misinterpreted the records that I've seen, but having read this thread I now know that I possibly haven't, and that if there were laws governing this sort of thing, then my ancestor and her husband probably told a few porkies when they were getting married!

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