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My four greats grandfather John Hughes was mayor of Carmarthen, magistrate, merchant and shipowner. He married his wife in 1796. However, none of his male children married their partners. All three of them made provision for both their partners and their children in their wills. In the case of my three greats grandfather Charles Henry Hughes (born around 1807) he acknowledged the children and had them to live with him after the apparent death of his partner Mary Jones. He left bequests to them in his own will, in which he acknowledged they were his natural children - five of them, all with the same woman. He was a pillar of society, involved in the local council, borough treasurer, a solicitor, magistrate.

Initially I thought maybe he was married before and unable to marry, but not only have I been unable to find a previous marriage, but he was only about 21 when the first child was born. Also, his brother John had a child with his nurse (he died young in the 1820s) and his brother David Walter Hughes also left money to his partner and children. Both Charles and David described themselves as unmarried on the census, but seem to have maintained a sustained relationship with the same woman, as their children have the same mothers.

A brief look at the births registered in Carmarthen shows that births out of wedlock are not uncommon, despite the picture one might have of a god-fearing population disapproving of sex out of wedlock, but this situation seems to be very unusual. I have consulted experts in Wales of this time to see if there was a religion that required its adherents not to marry, or to marry in a way which wasn't legally recognized. I haven't been able to find anything.

The only explanation I can come up with is the idea that the women were of a lower social class (which they do seem to have been) and therefore considered not good enough to marry? But this doesn't seem to be a good explanation, given that the men seem to have had a sustained relationship with them - At last twelve years in the case of my three greats grandparents. It's been driving me mad for years.

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