As genealogists research their family trees back in time it’s common to stumble across illegitimate ancestors, who were born out of wedlock, at a time when there was a great stigma attached to births outside marriage. Sometimes the child took the mother’s surname, sometimes the father’s. Sometimes the child’s father is recorded on a marriage or death certificate. In Scotland the kirk session minutes of the Church of Scotland also provide another source, because the kirk session often, especially before 1855, dragged in the mother for interrogation. But not all illegitimate births show up in these records.
A couple in southwest Scotland are currently indexing, with the help of another person, paternity cases in the Scottish Borders sheriff courts. These are cases where usually the mother sues the father for maintenance and financial support for her child. The database is growing all the time, but it already has a Cavers reference. The father was Thomas Cavers (ca1810-1879) from Newcastleton, Roxburghshire, son of John Cavers and Jane Douglas. He emigrated to Lanark County in Ontario, Canada, married twice (firstly to Margaret Lockhart, secondly to Margaret Campbell), and had at least 14 children in Canada. But now we know he had at least one more child, born before he emigrated, in Scotland.
I’m going to paste in the report from the Sheriff Court records. Unfortunately they don’t record the name of the child, just that it was a girl who was still alive when the court case was brought. She may have died in childhood, or adulthood. I will try to find out more. I suspect that the child may have used her mother’s surname, Murray, if she survived, because I don’t recall a likely Cavers candidate I’ve seen before. But I will investigate.
Jedburgh Sheriff Court Register of Decrees
(National Records of Scotland reference SC62/7/4 p48)
Murray q Cavers
2d Apl. 1832
At Jedburgh the 10 & 31 March 1832 Sitting in Judgment John Elliot Esq Sheriff Substitute of the County of Roxburgh in an action raised before the Sheriff Court of Said County at the instance of Elizabeth Murray residenter in New Castleton Pursuer against Thomas Cavers son of John Cavers Joiner New Castleton Defender; the Sheriff found and declared and herby finds and declares the said Thomas Cavers to be the father of the said Elizabeth Murrays female illegitimate child born by her on the 9th of May 1831 and decerned and Ordained and hereby decerns and Ordains the Said Thomas Cavers Defender to make payment to the said Elizabeth Murray Pursuer of the sum of £1.0.0 Stg. of inlying Expences for said Child: Item of the sum of £1. 10/. per quarter for the first nine months from the birth of the child in name of Nursing fee: Item of the Sum of £1 per quarter thereafter in name of aliment until the Child shall have Attained the Age of 10 Years complete, the said Nursing fee and aliment to be paid quarterly and per advance: Item of the lawful int[erest] of Said Quarterly instalments from the period at wh[ich] they respectively fall due and till payment; Item of the sum of £7. 14. 10. of Expences of Pro[ces]s: Item of the farther sum of 6/ as the dues of Extracting this Decr[eet] and of recording the same And after the terms of payment are first come and by gone. Ordains &c.