- Illegitimate child: off-springs of a single man and woman (eligible to be married) but not yet married. These children were usually white, and could inherit property from their father if no legal child existed. Be sure to research probate/will records. They could also ask for alimony or attempt to prove parentage. Be sure to look at court records along with wills.
To complicate this issue of legitimacy, a white child “could attempt to prove paternity to a white father, black children could not” under the Civil Code of 1825, since it specifies “free illegitimate children of color may be allowed to prove descent from a father of color only (see SWLR, Volume 1A, pg. 25).
- Natural Child: usually referred to a white father who acknowledged his children born by a slave or free color. This was a way to record a relationship in spite of the laws that against miscegenation (mixed marriages) were not allowed. No law prohibited a white man from acknowledging his “colored” offspring.
A white child may also be recorded in some records as “natural child” if the father acknowledged his illegitimate white child.
As natural children were acknowledged by their father, they were able to request support from the heirs of the father. If there were no legal/legitimate children, a natural child was able to inherit from their father. So be sure to look at deeds, probates and wills.
- Bastard Child: usually referred to a white child that the father did not acknowledge, so there is no formal record of the father with church birth record. Although bastards could not ask for inheritance, could ask for alimony. So be sure to reference court records.
Children resulting from incest or adultery (black or white) could not be acknowledged. You may find alimony payment records for these children but they could not be acknowledged legally. I have been successful in finding notes in deed records, but have not located any as of yet in church records.