She was forced to marry the guy. There was no other choice. That’s the way it was done back then. She had to marry him, take his name, and then raise their child in the name of God. It was the right thing to do.
Archaic as the process sounds, this older social order kinda helps modern genealogy research. Bloodlines and family trees are much easier to follow when one marriage and one surname is applied to any search. Back then, there were fewer divorces, re-marriages, stepparents, or blended families to factor in. Women didn’t want to hyphenate surnames or retain their maiden names. Tracking ancestors is simple.
But then there is this unplanned pregnancy at hand. It messes up things. It was a terrible shame to her family. Of course, it was. It had to be. Families received scorn for having an unwed mother in their midst. The two lovers had to marry as soon as possible, to beat the arrival of a baby, and to minimise the shame.
The couple said they’d save themselves for their wedding day but they didn’t do that. They tried hard to be celibate but nature came first. The fear of being shamed came in a close second.
Young mother’s like her who weren’t married and too young to be one, kept their pregnancies hidden. Birthdates were falsified. There were instant weddings, inexplicable missing passages of time, mysterious holidays away, to conceal the shameful truth. Married aunts, sisters and other women, suddenly gave birth to a child they never even conceived, just to protect the guilty parties who did. Who the hell knows who the real parents were. We only know what’s printed on paper records.
Did I say genealogy was easier when people stayed together and lived by a single surname?
Margo’s been researching her family history and tree. One pattern keeps popping up: Young wives often had their babies within nine months of their wedding day. That’s oddly convenient and way too perfect to be natural.
I get it. Let’s say that the young couple were married today. They were super horny, highly fertile and never used contraception. Strict celibacy rules before this time would’ve had them fired and ready to go. They would’ve ripped off each other’s clothes before they closed their bedroom door. It’s no wonder they conceived immediately. How lovely. How perfect. Magical.
And Santa Clause is real too.
More often than not, it’s not the way things go down.
Instead, they probably fumbled around behind the old shed on a warm Spring day, a month or two ago. Half-dressed and afraid of being caught, they did what nature had them do. He promised he wouldn’t impregnate her, but, for whatever reason, that’s not what happened. Bingo. Marriage followed soon afterwards. A baby magically joined them eight or so months later. The romantic story of two fertile, Christian, previously celibate, honeymooners, satisfied family and Church. Everyone smiled and lived by the warmth of a wonderful lie.
Today, we’re not so afraid of shame’s chilliness. An unwed mother isn’t forced to marry anyone to appease her family or Church. Sex and marriage aren’t tied to each other anymore. You can get married and divorced many times. Children can pop up at any time. No problem. No guilt. No handing an unplanned child over to a childless couple to hide the shame.
When it comes to genealogy though, this new way of living will make things awkward. Future generations will have their work cut out when researching today’s historic lineages. That’s only half the challenge. Adding extra space on a family tree for step-siblings and parents is one thing, what about including doner-sperm dad’s, surrogate uteruses, egg donating mothers, and DNA splicing (my prediction), too? Good luck following the branches in that mangled species of tree!
Back to reality and a problem currently at hand.
Margo is finding her family research frustrating because some things just don’t add up. It comes down to her nose and chin. Her Great Great Grandmother Amy doesn’t have the same one, but Amy’s little sister does. It’s as plain as, well, the nose on their faces. There’s a theory we’ve got that turns Mary into a mother, long before records suggest she did.
If it turns out that young Mary was actually knocked up earlier and her family had kept it quiet, the whole story will change, but it’ll make better sense if it goes that way.
If Margo is right, it’s likely that her older sister Amy, and her husband John, took Mary’s child as their own. They were then listed as the child’s biological parents. It means Great Great Grandmother Amy isn’t Great Great Grandmother Amy at all. Mary (with an unnamed, untraceable boyfriend) is actually her Great Great Grandmother. A new line of research has to be done to track every birth, marriage and death that followed her life, not Amy’s. Of course, this narrative is all speculation anyway. There’s no real proof it happened like this at all, not yet anyway.
Speculation isn’t fact, but facts can conceal lies. You either accept the facts or run down a theory until every nose and chin line up the way they should. If we didn’t have photographs, we wouldn’t know to look for theories in the first place. To be honest, who knows how accurate any bloodlines is when it predates photography and the speculation it inspires. We’ll never know for certain why Margo’s chin appears on the wrong ancestor. It just does.
I’d like to believe in one thing though. I’d want to believe that a fifteen-year-old Mary and her mysterious beau did a wonderful thing behind the old shed on a warm day in Spring. Giggles became hot kisses that turned into heavy breathing and the sounds of nervous, but exquisite lovemaking. I hope two female-sized handprints were left somewhere on that shed’s wall that marks the fabulous occasion. But I’m a writer with a vivid imagination. I like to think of the mysterious things that happen behind our human facade, those dates we feel we need to falsify, our shame avoidance, the guilt, the secrets, and the lies we tell to keep the people around us happy.
I like it a lot.
–Michael Forman (Author of Dark Fiction – See Below)
Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.