Illegitimate children, or children born out of wedlock, are often excluded from the obituaries of their paternal family members (i.e., father and half-siblings). The situation is further complicated when a child is a result of an adulterous, or extramarital, relationship. The writer (or the person responsible for the finished product) may feel justified not acknowledging a situation that caused him or her conflict. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to include, not exclude, illegitimate children in obituaries when paternity has been established legally or acknowledged. Examples of establishing paternity includes father’s signature on birth certificate, DNA testing, or even the payment of child support.

Meet George Jett, a fictitious character, whose situation will be a demonstration of how illegitimacy can be presented in the obituaries of paternal family members:


George Jett had been married to Martha since February 15, 1975 before his sudden death. The couple had a son, George, Jr., and a daughter, Lisa, before a brief separation early in their marriage. Their separation was a result of an extramarital affair George had with Laura Blank, who played on the same bowling team as George and Martha. George fathered a daughter, Karen, with Laura. Soon after Karen’s birth, a DNA test was performed that did in fact establish George as her father. Martha was devastated; however, she was determined to keep her family together. She and George decided to renew their vows and have another child, Cameron.

All things considered, George felt blessed to have four wonderful children. He was an active father, although the situation surrounding Karen’s birth limited his time with her. Martha tolerated Karen, but she felt that Karen was a reminder of the affair. Therefore, Karen’s visits were limited to holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. Notwithstanding, George always supported Karen financially. The two grew closer when Karen started attending college near George’s office just two year before his death.

Martha and her children decided to exclude Karen from George’s obituary, because they did not want to publicly acknowledge her existence. They felt that Karen represented a fault in their family structure, a crooked branch on the family tree. Ironically, George accepted Karen and introduced her as his daughter to other family members, friends, and colleagues. There was no logical reason to “protect” his legacy. An argument can be made that George’s wife and children actually dishonored his legacy – not to mention deeply wounded Karen.

Under the circumstances, what would be a reasonable presentation of Karen’s birth in the respective obituaries of paternal family members? The answer to the question above is not as difficult as one might expect. Consider the following information:


Biographical Section

George met Martha Salmon, his soul mate, while he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Martha, the beautiful soprano, visited the base with her church choir on a snowy Christmas Eve to spread cheers. George was instantly smitten with Martha after her solo of “Silent Night.” George and Martha married on February 15, 1975 at United Baptist Church. Three children were born to their union: George Jr., Lisa, and Cameron. George is also the father of Karen Smith.

Survivor Section

George leaves to cherish his memories: his wife, Martha Jett; four children, George Jett Jr. (June Ann), Lisa Jones (Jeff), Karen Smith, and Cameron Jett; two grandchildren, George Jett III and Marcia Jones; one brother, Owen Jett; a best friend since childhood, Ernie Cummingsville; and a host of family and friends.


Karen should not be listed in the biographical and survivor sections.

GEORGE’S OTHER CHILDREN’S OBITS (George Jr., Lisa, and Cameron):

Karen should be listed as a half-sister in the survivor section or predeceased section, depending on her status at the time of their passing.


Laura, Karen’s mother, should not be mentioned in George’s obituary.

In conclusion, the recognition of illegitimate children in the obituaries of paternal family members is a choice. The choice starts with the father’s legal connection or acknowledgement – not the survivors in control of his obituary. The fact yet remains that honoring the legacy of any love one should supersede personal opinions about their life choices.

Author's Bio: 

Yvonne Sullivan has a passion for reading and writing biographies – including obituaries. Visit her Blog at She provides tips, tools, and techniques to help non-journalists master the art of obituary writing. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.