Our Records: A Victorian Valentine

Sometimes it is possible to find out more about children born to an unnamed father. Take for example the case of Anne Lindsay, born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, on 27 October 1880. Her birth entry recorded her mother as Mary Ann Lindsay, yet her father's details were left blank. Mary Ann knew that the father of her baby was the son of her previous employer - William Steel junior, a student at Glasgow University where he was studying for the ministry.

The previous year, the couple had enjoyed a brief period of courtship. William had sent Mary Ann a festive note in December 1879 and later a pretty Valentine card, expressing his love for her.

Valentine's card, 1880

National Records of Scotland, SC58/22/630

By the time Anne was born, the relationship had turned sour and William refused to admit that he was the father. Mary Ann sought a decision from Paisley Sheriff Court using letters and the valentine card as evidence of an honourable courtship with a view to marriage.

On 19 July 1881 the Sheriff found against William stating '[I] cannot come to any other conclusion than that the defender is the father of the pursuer's child.' He awarded Mary Ann court expenses and the money that she had claimed for the birth and maintenance of the child. William appealed to the Court of Session, but the verdict was upheld. He was ordered to pay Mary Ann a total of £5. 6s. 1d. As in similar cases the father's identity was recorded in the Register of Corrected Entries.


Register of Corrected Entry relating to Anne Lindsay's birth listing William Steel as the father

National Records of Scotland, Statutory Register of Births, 599/3

For further details about the case, please see the article on the NRS website.


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