Should I Include the Bio Dad?

Should you include the illegitimate father in your family history writing

When writing about an ancestor, we start by including their parents. Unfortunately, parentage is not not as simple as you provided the biological ingredients to create life. When attempting to record ‘who’s the daddy’ of your ancestor, who should you include?

Being a family history writing educator is such a blessing. The question student present are varied and challenging, as is the case of today’s inquiry.

My father’s biological father was never married to my grandmother. Grandma had two husbands. After her first husband died and before she married the second one, she had conceived and gave birth to my daddy, who was the product of an illegitimate relationship. When I write about my father at the time of his birth, marriage, etc. who do I include? Bio dad or his step-father, who was the only father he ever knew?

When writing about your ancestor, it’s important to include the family context to the narrative. Let’s break this question into parts, because the answer depends upon which life your detailing.

Let’s add some facts and then craft the story around the facts. (FYI… I made these names up, so if I stumbled upon a fact, that’s entirely by coincidence).

Mother: Martha Grassley
Husband #1: Lem Rocher
Unmarried Relationship: Treb Suburio
Son: Joven Grassley
Husband #2: Jean-Scott Moraleno

When we write about Joven’s birth and we know who his biological father was, we can include that daddy.

Joven Grassley was to son of Treb Subrio and Martha Grassley. The couple never married, which is why Joven bares his mother’s last name. The father’s name was recorded in Martha’s personal files but not on Joven’s birth certificate. Treb was never a part of Joven’s childhood.

That takes care of bio daddy. We no longer need to include bio daddy in Joven’s story unless he turns up later, Joven receives and inheritance, or other critical need for Treb’s insertion is necessary. We’ve recorded the genealogical facts, but the family history will no longer include Treb.

When we write about Joven, it’s important to share details about his mother. At that time, we can include that she was married to Lem prior to the Treb affair to give a sense of what Martha was feeling when Joven entered the world. Once that is covered, we don’t have to include Lem further in the story.

When Martha held Joven in her arms, she certainly reflected upon the turns life had taken before this moment. She had been married to Lem Rocher from the time she was 18 to the age of 23. That marriage ended in divorce and without children. At some point, Martha become romantically involved with Treb Suburio. Joven was the product, but no marriage took place. Martha was a single woman in 1921 with a newborn babe. If it were not for Jean-Scott Moraleno offering to marry 24 year-old mother in 1922, Martha would have faced many difficult financial hardships.

This featurette on Martha  covers the details of her relationships with an objective touch without  casting judgement. And yet, we have made Martha relatable by including her trials. We can empathize with the challenges she would face when her out-of-wedlock babe was in her arms.


From this point forward, the events of Joven’s life is intertwined with Jean-Scott not Lem or Treb. When Joven marries, we can write the age of Jean-Scott and Martha and compare the age differences between mother and step-father and Jove and his bridge. We can include Jean-Scott’s death in Joven’s story, as that would invoke certain feelings in laying to rest he father, even if they didn’t share DNA.

Our families don’t always confirm to traditional genealogical forms. Biological contributions does not mean parenting. It’s up to us to record the accurate relationship picture where charts and forms fall short. And yet, those biological and messy marriages help convey the accurate picture of our ancestor’s lives.

Hope that helps!


If you have additional writing questions, include them in the comments section below.


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