Paternity Cases in Denmark

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In earlier times, there was only a paternity case if the mother of an illegitimate child chose to bring up the case. In principle, the authorities were indifferent when it came to the illegitimate fathers, and it was up to the mothers to hold them accountable. It is not always possible to find out who the father of a child born out of wedlock is. Even in modern times it can be difficult. Perhaps there had been more than one who could have fathered the child - perhaps the mother did not have enough information to allow the authorities to be able to locate the correct person.

Duty and oath[edit | edit source]

Early on, a woman was not required to tell who the father of an illegitimate child was. An accused father could take an oath that he had not fathered the child. On the other hand, if he confessed to being the father, he could (after 1763) be required to pay child support. That support would only be paid until the child turns 10. In 1908 the law was changed so that the child support would continue until the child was 18. A man could appeal for the support to be reduced, or completely eliminated after the child reached the age of 14 years. The illegitimate child could receive an inheritance from his mother and from his mother's side of the family. But the children could not receive an inheritance from their father's side until a law went into effect on 1 January 1938. At the same time, it was also decided that the paternity of illegitimate children was determined through blood tests when there was doubt. But even then there may be difficulties, for example if there are two possible fathers and they both have the same blood type.

Money from the parish[edit | edit source]

If the supposed father could not pay the child support, the mother could - after 1888 - get funds from parish authorities. If the child later needed public support, it was not the birth parish who had the commitment. It was the parish where the mother stayed 10 months before birth (or the parish in which the child was conceived). That is why there is always something about "The mother's residence at the ten-month-day" by an entry for a illegitimate child, recorded in the parish register.

Born in The Old Town?[edit | edit source]

In Copenhagen you can - after 1891 - find all "out of town births" that are dependent in Copenhagen in parish 74 - The Old Town. In earlier times, an illegitimate child was sometimes called, "et slegfredbarn" or "frillebarn". You can occasionally find such entries in parish registers.

References[edit | edit source]

Statens Arkiver. Faderskabssager. Denmark: Landsarkivet for Sjælland Lolland-Falster & Bornholm, 2008