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Father Unknown  (Severn House)

 

Suzie meets an American woman looking for her Dissenting roots. Prudence is upset to find instead an illegitimate baby. Suzie joins her in a search for the truth behind the story and the reality of unmarried mothers in the 18th century.

     But the question comes closer to home when Suzie fears that her fourteen-year-old daughter Millie may be

pregnant. The truth turns out to be darker still. The whole Fewings family, and Phoebe, become involved in a search for a missing pregnant teenager. Who is the man responsible? Can they find her before worse happens to her?

 

                                                         

        I'm scared, Millie. I'm scared he'll find me. You have to burn this letter as soon as you've read it.

        Don't tell anyone about it. I'm taking a risk even writing to you. The person I'm staying with didn't

        want me to, but I couldn't bear thinking about my best mate wondering why I'd do a thing like that

        and not tell you. I wish you could write back, or ring me, but I daren't give anything away.

 

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Sampsonís enjoyable fourth mystery featuring British amateur genealogist Suzy Fewings. Sampson does a nice job of offering multiple candidates for the mantle of bad guy, and the twists will keep most readers wondering whatís actually been going on. Publishers Weekly

Genealogical researching tips combine nicely with a fast-paced mystery in this latest saga of the Fewings family. Kirkus Reviews.

Genealogy buffs will appreciate the research techniques shared and the information about the plight of unwed mothers and illegitimate children in England in the 1700s that is woven through the story. Booklist

Why Did I Write This Book?

I was checking through the IGI Family Search programme when I came across the baptism of Jane Nosworthy of Moretonhampstead. I already had her on my files, but I checked it out. To my surprise she was entered as daughter of John Nosworthy. I knew that wasn't true. I'd seen the parish register and the only parent named was an older Jane Nosworthy. To underline the fact that she was born out of wedlock, the register entry added "a base child". Clearly, someone had not wanted to believe the evidence of their eyes, They had not known, or would not accept, what a base child was.

     People differ in their reaction to finding an illegitimate birth in the family. For some, it is frustrating, because you can rarely find out who the father was, and one line of the family tree terminates. For others, it adds colour to the story. But some people are genuinely shocked and would prefer not to share the truth with others in their family.

     Like most family historians, I have found numerous instances of illegitimate births among my ancestors. And a lot more brides who must have been pregnant at the altar. There was a superstition that, if the banns were not called on three successive Sundays, the child in the bride's womb would be born physically or mentally disabled. That says a lot about people's expectations of a virgin bride.

     So my story starts with Prudence from Pennsylvania coming across just such a baptismal entry, and struggling to come to terms with it. Suzie steps in to help.

     As always in the Suzie Fewings series, deeds from the past find their mirror in dark happenings in the present. So, as Prudence and Suzie explore the human story behind Joane Clayson's baby, a pregnant girl goes missing in the present, in alarming circumstances. Two stories of detection become entwined.

     It's an opportunity for me to mine the rich seam of colourful stories in my own ancestry concerning unmarried mothers. It also deals with the abuse of children within seemingly respectable families and by high profile people whose work with children makes the truth all the more shocking.