Information about bastardy bonds and maintenance orders in Durham County Record Office.
When a mother was expecting an illegitimate child, parish officials subjected her to an examination to try to determine the name of the father.
They would then attempt to have him sign a bastardy bond which meant he was responsible for the maintenance of the child. The father would then have to pay a weekly sum to the mother to support the child.
If the father refused to pay maintenance an application could then be made, by the mother, her family or parish officers, to the Justices of the Peace for a maintenance order. Bastardy records were, therefore, important documents in providing evidence as to the parentage of a child.
These records were usually kept in the Parish Chest and have been transferred to the Record Office.
Search the catalogue for details of any surviving documents in the Church of England parish collections. Type maintenance in the Keywords box and select Ecclesiastical Parish Records from the Category drop-down list.
After 1839 bastardy cases were heard in Petty Sessions Courts where Justices of the Peace issued maintenance orders. Unfortunately very few of these records have survived.
From the later nineteenth century you will find brief details of maintenance orders in the registers of the Petty Sessions and Magistrates Courts. Search the catalogue and type Petty Sessional Division in the Keywords box.