In last year’s lecture on researching the poor, I included a somewhat lengthy discussion of bastardy records. One question someone posed, either during the lecture or afterwards (I cannot remember which), was whether or not a man who had been singled out as the father of an illegitimate child had recourse if he was not, in fact, the father.
Why, yes, he did, and here’s a great example of that from the 25 December 1861 minutes of the county court for Macon County, North Carolina.1
State & Harriet Sellers vs W C Kimzey } Bastardy
W C Kimzey comes into court and by leave of the court he denies that he is the Father of the child charged to him in the proceedings in this case, and leave is given to make up an issue, ordered by the court that the case be Transmitted under the late law to the Superior Court in this county for trial
W. C. Kimzey pr bond $500
H. R. Kimzey Dr bond $500
T. J. Kimzey Dr bond $500
There are a ton of clues contained in this tiny recording that a family member could follow up on, from the mention of a previous record (he couldn’t dispute a charge if one had never been levied against him, could he?), to the “late law,” to the bond he gave, to the eventual Superior Court trial. And that’s not even taking into account the two individuals who may have posted security to his bond, H. R. and T. J. Kimzey. Shouldn’t research be conducted into their relationship, if any, with the other individuals involved?
So yes, the named father often did have recourse under the law to dispute false charges of fathering an illegitimate child. But here’s what I want to know: if W. C. Kimzey wasn’t the father of Harriet Sellers’ child, who was? Back to the court records we go…
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1. Macon County, North Carolina, County Court Minutes Vol. 4: 230; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh; NCSA microfilm publication C.061 30001.