Having Children Out of Wedlock…in the 1840’s

Joseph and Margaret were married in 1846, when Peter was already around 5 years old.

Joseph and Margaret were married in 1846, when Peter was already around 5 years old.

I found an entry in the 1850 US Census for a Joseph “Felner” that I believe to be my ancestor. The “v” and the “n” are easy to mix up when transcribing. And, of course, the name could have morphed over the years. The census has them living in Mansfield, Warren County, NJ. I know that Joseph C. Felver lived in this area. “Boatman” is a new occupation for him, but he was young so it’s not surprising that his occupation may change over the years.

Joseph’s wife was Margaret, born around the same time as him, so this seems correct. Joseph and Margaret had a son named Mark born in 1848—also correct.

Then there is the Petty family listed immediately below. Margaret’s maiden name was Petty and this could easily be her family.

But wait! The Felner/Felvers have a kid named Peter who is 9 years old (so born around 1841). Joseph and Margaret are both 24 years old—you do the math. Plus, Joseph and Margaret married in 1846. I’ve never heard of Peter as a child of this family, so maybe he’s not. Could be a sibling’s child, a cousin, etc.

Or Joseph and Margaret did have a child together as teenagers. They did get married in Easton, PA—which has always struck me as odd since they were living in New Jersey and there seems to be any number of churches close by. Perhaps Easton was the closet place they could easily get married due to their out of wedlock child!

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