George Hamm’s mysterious father…

hamm_georgeGeorge Hamm, Sr. was baptized 2 days after he was born, as the illegitimate son of Elisabetha Knobloch. His father wasn’t named. I have always assumed that Jacob Hamm was his step-father and the relationship was a close one, only because George took the Hamm surname by the time he was confirmed at the age of 13.

Now, however, I have re-thought this assumption. It is entirely possible that Jacob was his actual father, and Elisabetha and Jacob didn’t marry until after he was born. The reasons for this possible delay in marriage can be seen below:

Sometimes, they didn’t have the money to pay the marriage fee. Other times, the church was far away or the pastor wasn’t easily accessible. Some German states, in an effort to control the booming population, placed legal restrictions on marriage, making it more difficult. And sometimes, the couple simply didn’t feel that much concern about whether marriage or children came first. Peasant society had its own marriage customs apart from the customs of the state church. In earlier times, the community had viewed living together, making a commitment to one another, and especially having children as basically equivalent to getting married. Despite valiant efforts by churches, stamping out traditions and convincing people to first perform the ceremony in a church proved difficult.1

I have heard this information several times over the past few months from different sources. If the birth was illegitimate the mother’s name is the only one that would be listed. Which is why even if everyone knew who the father was, the church didn’t bother to put that information down because they weren’t married.

It has been estimated that illegitimate births may have comprised around 15% of overall births, depending on living arrangements, on laws relating to marriage, on poverty rates, on customs concerning women’s work, and other social factors. Many of these illegitimate births were legitimized by the subsequent marriage of their parents. Christening records may have the abbreviation pmsl, standing for per matrimonium subsequens legitmata (or legitmatus, depending on the gender of the child). This notation indicates that the premarital child of a couple was legitimized by the subsequent marriage of its parents. Generally, the mother’s name was crossed out and the father’s name substituted, a procedure frequent in the 19th century. The Church considered illegitimacy to be immoral, and recorded all deviant behavior. Often ridicule, shame and mockery were aimed at the mother. At times, clergymen recorded illegitimate births/christening upside down in the church books.2

I never saw the initials ‘pmsl’ on any of  George’s records, but, I don’t have his christening record, only his baptismal record. So unless I can do a yDNA test of the known male HAMM descendants of Jacob and his possible son George, I won’t know for sure who his father is. But, right now, I am not ruling out Jacob.

So the two reasons I am leaning to the relationship  as that of father/son, because Jacob and George wrote to each other, and Jacob appeared to covet the letters that he was sent, as indicated by his son Fritz’s letter to George; and because of recent information I have come across regarding marriage in Germany at the time he was born. Fingers crossed.

Source:
1. http://www.understandingyourancestors.com/ar/parishBirth.aspx
2. http://genealoger.com/german/ger_church_records.htm

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