Posted by: vip | March 12, 2009

Illegitimacy, adoption issues (illegitimate issues?) in family trees

[To grow up in the 50’s and 60’s is to be bombarded with the “propaganda” that the “old days” had been ones of virtue and moral uprightness. The appearance of the miniskirt c. 1966 did not help any in stemming the self-righteousness but instead fueled the fire as the fashion ran into the most contempt. Not from the menfolk–not by a mile–but from our beatas. “In our days, we never even showed our ankles”– was their usual sigh. At 14, my reaction to this ankle thing was the fertile impression instead: Ankles must be sexy.

[But having sifted through the public records of the “old days”, I can vouch for the eye-opening number of illegitimate children even then. Yes, they were already doing it way back when. And it would be too much to demand of our credulity to be told that illegitimate children were borne then out of pure love–but today they are begot from pure promiscuity? In the contemporary manner of retorting: whatever…]

Indeed, a number of carcarfamilies members have opened up their own illegitimacy issues in their family trees. Yes, just what is one to do?

When sounded off on this, the first question I ask back is: Despite being illegitimate, is the child acknowledged or mutually accepted by both parents and both sets of families? While the ideal family tree, which houses a whole family’s history, like Godel’s theorem must be complete and true in all possible worlds, it also cannot suffer being the cause of a family row that may even result in an entire branch rejecting the whole work altogether. The split would be comparable to Godel’s other theorem, incompleteness.

Thus, while illegitimate children have increasingly come to be accepted by the father and his family, I still feel it advisable to come across with the fact and in the family tree, to observe proper disclosure and to place the appropriate notes regarding the illegitimacy and the parentage of such children.

So, where do you place the children in the family trees? Like I said (there goes the “as I said” again) above, the family tree, even in its outline form still tells the family history, and so to me, chronology is basic. But this also gives rise to formal problems (like how to present multiple illegitimate children from different mothers born at around the same time). But when it involves natural-born children (children when the father was still single), there is usually no problem and even a bride-to-be has usually accepted that her groom already has a child with another woman.

What is an even more awkward situation though, is a father who wants his illegitimate child to be included in his family tree. The question should be put forth to him: But are you accepted by the mother to be the father of her child? What can be more embarrassing than someone claiming to be the father being suddenly disclaimed by the mother: “But he’s not the father of my child.” Wow! Embarrassment-ness.

Culture and religion notwithstanding, historically, illegitimacy has not held back a person from making a shining name for himself, and Cebu has had very famous people who were illegitimate children: Sergio Osmeña and Vicente Rama right off the cuff. There are no others in their own, and even in their supposed fathers’ families, who even come close to Don Sergio and Don Vicente’s achievements, fame and influence. Padres no conocido? None even in the whole of Cebu.

Our own town Carcar itself can vouch for the Villarosa brothers Mariano and Pantaleon, Florencio Noel as well as his wife Filomena Jaen, Felipe Jaen, Timoteo Alfafara, Jose Avila, all the children of Regina Mercado, and the Cui brothers Hilario and Florencio as among its most influential persons, and in Avila whose name is even more renowned in Cebu City where his fortune had been made. Our present day has seen artist Romulo Galicano rise to unprecedented national prominence in the art scene.

All in all, the decision really rests on the family and its genealogist and, I’m sure, their decision will hinge on whether these children are fairly well-accepted by both families.

Here we go about being Spanish again. I keep hearing about some people insisting on some Spanish blood. Actually, our genealogy project can help a little on this. The family trees will show the women in the family who had children by padres no conocido (pnc; unrecognized father). If the offspring(s) showed Spanish features, that pnc may have been a Spaniard or mestizo Español, priest, civil official or settler–in other words, illegitimate. Again, only the del Corro, Silva, Rodriguez and a handful of  other families who really did not stay long in Carcar, are Spanish through the legitimate side.

Adoption, on the other hand, presents a different set of problems. The legally adopted child is legally a member of the family. However, there are genealogists who strictly want only bloodline on his tree and, for that reason, may sooner include an illegitimate child than an adopted one–even if the former only bears his mother’s surname while the latter the very name on the Family Tree itself. And if there was a nobility in the Philippines, I doubt an adopted child could succeed to a hereditary title. Thus, the parents would be discouraged to go ahead with adoption because of this complication.

But then, if an adopted child is not included, this also leads to the first issue with adoption: The adopted child may not know he is adopted. So, to put in or not?

Or even if you decide to include the adopted child who does not know of his adoption, should you insert any note regarding the matter on the family tree, and he would then surely know? We have heard stories of nervous breakdowns of young adults happening right after realizing one was an adopted child—and usually through careless slips of the tongue by his own relations.

And, this one takes the cake: the adopted child who decides to make his own family tree faces the unique dilemma of choosing which tree he is going to take off from–from his biological or adoptive parents. He can always make two trees, of course. I joke about it and call them the nursery tree and the garden tree—where he was pruned from and where he grew in.

From what people tell me, they kind of expect photos of records at my every blog. I’ll accommodate this one time but will not promise anything for future blogs.


In this record, Teodoro Lauat was baptized 24 Aug 1850 at 24 days of age. His father is no conocido and mother, Narena [sic] Lauat. He was married as Ysidoro Laoat in 1877 to Luisa Alfafara. Still father no conocido, his mother in the marriage was Nazarena Laoat. Ysidoro and Luisa’s elder children were baptized Laoats so I don’t know why in the records for later children and grandchildren he was already called Ysidoro Alcuesar. It’s possible Teodoro/Ysidoro’s real father was actually an Alcuesar and he was subsequently–even informally–recognized by the father, it’s possible, we don’t know.Or his mother Nazarena herself had an Alcuesar father, again, we don’t know. But let’s make this clear: When Teodoro was baptized, his Lauat was already a surname and not a second name so that his family later received the Alcuesar surname, no. Again, even a daughter of theirs born 1881 was baptized Laoat.

Anyway, his wife Luisa was the mother of Timoteo Alfafara by, as I mentioned above, padre no conocido also. Timoteo used the middle initial “Y” to his name and that may point to his parentage, so maybe his family may know something about it. Jerry Martin Alfafara who has been religiously investigating and writing Carcar history for the province towns history project is a grandson of Timoteo. Meanwhile, Ysidoro and Luisa are the direct ancestors of Alcuesar, Reyes and Edillon families.

During the Spanish period, women retained their maiden names. (I think they still do in Spain and France and maybe elsewhere, too.) This system is very helpful for genealogists because you can easily search when a particular woman died.

Under the Americans, we followed their system of the wife’s losing her surname to her husband. If anything, in this system, if you did not know who she was married to, you’ll have the hardest time of searching for her death records because she’ll already have her husband’s surname.

Also, even more cosmically complicated things must have arisen because of this system:  If a widow gave birth to an illegitimate child, since illegitimate, that child cannot get the surname of the father, and so uses the surname of the mother. But the mother’s surname was now that of her late husband, so the child gets to bear the surname of a family the child is not related to by blood.



  1. As a fellow genealogist, I run into this a lot. People clam up when asked about children born out of wedlock, but really, what’s done is done. There is a very embarrassing figure in my family tree line who was rumored to have many mistresses and dozens of children out of wedlock (all of whom I’m now curious to know about) since they are my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

    I myself have a child in the family who was raised by her aunt, but who thinks that her father is dead when her true biological father is actually alive. He swore on his mother’s death bed to never tell his daughter his true identity. What an incredible dilemma for a genealogist. Shall I respect the aunt/mother and biological mother/father’s wishes or should I be honest with the child and report the bloodline as it truly stands? I have simply chosen not to reveal that branch (instead stating, data unavailable) until I can straighten this out. I don’t want to cause a problem, but I also don’t think it’s very fair that this young girl not know who her true parents are.

    Another thing to consider is that there are some children that are born of rape that the mother may honestly not know who the father is (often soldiers). It’s a very ugly reality.

    One thing I’ve learned about genealogy is that when people know that their actions are being recorded, they tend to behave more appropriately, well not always. I guess what I’m saying is, I feel your pain. 🙂

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