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Change of surname

South Africa
Since I started researching my family history recently, I have uncovered a disturbing family secret. My paternal grandmother married in 1899 at the age of 19. In 1902 she gave birth to my father. I was always told that my grandfather had died when my father was three, but I have just discovered a record of his birth to find that my grandmother reverted to her maiden name and my father is registered under her name, with the birth marked as illegitimate.

Mother and child emigrated to America about 1906, but she died there in 1915 at the early age of 33 and he returned to Scotland to be brought up by his mother's married sister. I know that he was known by his mother's married name at this time, with her maiden name as a middle name. I have the same middle name and surname as my father, but I am curious to know how his name was changed from what appears in the birth register, and whether his father was the man his mother married or someone completely different! In the 1901 census my grandmother's husband was living with his mother and siblings while my grandmother (who had already reverted to her maiden name) was in domestic service elsewhere.

I would be extremely grateful for any advice in trying to work out this complicated puzzle. All the members of my father's immediate family who might have explained it are long dead.
Hi Jean,

Umm, you can only assume at things like this. (Putting it in a nutshell) looking at it being in domestic service seems as though she met someone else had a fling and produced your father and her husband wanted more more to do with her. When your father went to live with his aunt and being illegitimate it was probaly easier changing his name to your grandmothers married name to avoid the stigma that goes with being illegitimate and did her husband die? easier to tell people she was a widow.

Thats how its looks to me. It seems strange to revert to her maiden name and have illegitimate recorded on his birth certificate if she was still with her husband and he was the father, so I would think that it would be the opposite.
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Hi Julie,

Thanks for replying to my post. Your theory sounds quite plausible although I think she went into domestic service after she left her husband, who was an articled clerk in a lawyer's office - or he left her! Possibly someone in the house where she was working forced his attentions on her and she did not resist for fear of losing her job. No doubt she was asked to leave when the pregnancy was discovered as she had the baby back in her home town where her address is given at her mother's home.

I imagine my father must have eventually been told about all this as he would have needed his birth certificate, but he never told me so it is all quite a shock to find this out. I dare say my grandmother took him to America where she could call herself a widow and perhaps change his surname to her husband/ex-husband's over there. No wonder there are no photographs of my supposed "grandfather" in the family collection, nor any visible relations!