Children born outside of a Roman marriage followed the status of their mother. So the child of as slave was a slave, but if she was freed before its birth, her child would be freeborn and had all the associated benefits. This did not necessarily include citizenship though. A freedperson automatically got citizenship if they were freed formally. Informal manumission, however, meant that the woman any children she had would be Junian Latins, not Roman citizens, with some of the same rights, but without other significant ones. Marriage was limited to citizens, as was the right to make a will. And since only children born from a marriage were legitimate and illegitimate children followed their mother’s status, any children a woman who was informally freed would be Junian Latins as she was. There were ways to gain citizenship, but it was an involved process and if the woman died before completing it, her property went not to her offspring, but to her patrons.
If, however, the woman was formally freed, whether in front of a magistrate or through someone’s will, she gained citizenship. In that case, if she married, any children she had after that would also be citizens and would be under the potestas of her husband. If she didn’t marry, any children she had would still be citizens, but they would be sui iuris, free from potestas but not necessarily guardianship, from birth.
Gardner, Jane F. “Legal Stumbling-Blocks for Lower-Class Families in Rome.” In The Roman Family in Italy: Status, Sentiment, Space, edited by Beryl Rawson and Paul Weaver, 35-54. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves. New York: Schocken, 1995.
Rawson, 7-30. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Weaver, P. R. C. “Children of Freedmen (and Freedwomen).” In Marriage, Divorce and Children in Ancient Rome, edited by Beryl Rawson, 166-190. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.