Most families have a few skeletons hiding in their cupboards so it was only natural that I should uncover some family secrets
when I began my research. When I first received my Grandfather's birth certificate I had no knowledge that he had been born
illegitimate. At first I was a little shocked, not by the illegitimacy itself, but by the fact that I was no longer certain that I WAS a
At the time, I was sent BOTH certificates, the original birth certificate in the name Ernest Henry Tune, and the amended
certificate in the name Ernest Henry Hickson, issued under the Legitimation Act. That certificate alone suggested George
Hickson considered himself to be Ernest's birth father, a sentiment that spoke volumes about their relationship.
However I was left with a nagging doubt when I remembered a story my Grandmother had told me several years before.
Although at the time I did not know about my grandfather's illegitimacy, she told me that there had been a rumour in his family
that his real father was actually his UNCLE, Ernest Arthur Love who had married Sarah's sister, Catherine. My grandmother
went on to say Ernest had been named after this man.
My research revealed that Catherine Love married Arthur Ernest Henry Love, who, according to other family rememberances
was indeed known by his middle name, Ernest. They married in 1886, the same year as their first child was born and the year
before Sarah married George Hickson.
So, is there any truth to this rumour? There seems to be arguments both for and against it being true. I have listed the two sides
of the debate below:
My Grandfather does share the names Ernest Henry with Love.
Ernest Love was born in Paddington in 1874 to John and Mary Love. It is likely that he was still living in the Paddington area at
the time Sarah fell pregnant.
Ernest Love was the same age as Sarah. It would seem that their families knew each other since he later married Sarah's sister
I am unsure of how much weight to give a rumor that is now over 100 years old, however it can not be discounted, especially
since someone saw fit to tell my Grandmother, Ernest's wife and she gave it enough credit to remember and pass on to her
granddaughter 70 years later!
Although George Hickson formally acknowledged his paternity, he waited until 1919, seventeen years after the Act was
introduced! As Ernest and Jean Thomas married within a few months of 'legitimation' I can not but wonder if it was done to
remove any impediment from the minds of Jean and her mother who were Roman Catholic.
When Ernest's Aunt Catherine writes to him during WW1 she refers to 'George Hickson', not your father or dad.
My father recounts the story of his 16th birthday when his father, Ernest Hickson, took him along to buy a rilfe. Ernest Love
[Uncle Ern] accompanied them and possibly helped pay for the gift. It should be noted that George Hickson was dead by this
George Thomas Hickson DID apply to be included on Ernest's birth certificate, as his father. His signature appears on the
amended copy. At that time, The Act only allowed for the inclusion of the natural father on the birth certificate if the couple later
married and had no impediments against marriage at the time of the birth of the child. It would have been unlawful for George to
claim he was the father, if he knew he was not.
The long delay in applying may be explained by the fact Geroge and Sarah were ignorant of the introduction of the law. An
interesting aside is that Alice Houlihan, Jean Thomas' mother had a brother who applied to legitimise his daughter born out of
wedlock at about the same time. Did they pass on information on how to do this to George and Sarah? Oral history says the two
families lived opposite each other.
Ernest Henry used the surname Hickson prior to the formal change on his birth certificate. His WWI records appear in the name
Although George Hickson was born in the Macleay River area, the family later moved to Paddington where several of his brothers
and sisters were born. The sand's directory shows that Peter Hickson was living at 27 Gipps Street Paddington in 1893.
The past is the past and my Grandfather used the name Hickson and certainly considered he had a right to do so. George Hickson
thought enough of his 'son' to apply to have himself included on his birth certificate as his father.
The truth will probably never be known.