Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sometimes A Family Has More than One

So much of family history seems to focus on the men in families. I suppose it's primarily because America and the lands of my ancestors were and are patronymic societies. The women sometimes -- well, often -- seem to get short shrift, which is sad because we all know that there wouldn't be genealogy or family history without the women: they are fully 50% (or more) of the means and methods by which we have families.

There is one woman - plus four more - in my family who gave birth to 13 or more children. They come from four different family lines and two are mother and daughter.

These women are amazing to me for many reasons. With children born about two years apart, imagine sleep-deprived nights and the continuous stream of dozens of diapers to be washed. These ladies all lived at a time when clothes were washed by hand and hung to dry on clothes lines. Clothing would have been made by hand. Cooking would probably have been done in a fireplace or on a wood burning stove. How did they keep the children safe? As far as I can tell, they all lived fairly rural lives, which means there were care-giving responsibilities in addition to tending and teaching children (such as livestock and feeding farmhands). And for this reason more than any other one I hold these ladies in high esteem: a woman who had 13 children would have spent 117 months (or 9 3/4 years) pregnant, and as many months nursing babies (assuming that she nursed a baby 9 months)! I am in absolute awe of these five women who are my foremothers.

Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen was the mother of 15 children.
Born August 24, 1852
Died June 26, 1920
She was 17 years old when her first child was born in September, 1870.
She was 46 years old when her last child was born in May 1898.
There are 29 years between the oldest and youngest child.
Elizabeth is my mother's paternal grandmother.

Susan Holmes Bickerstaff was the mother of 13 (possibly 14) children.
Born 1812-1814
Died January, 1894
She was 17-19 years old when her first child was born in September, 1831.
She was 43-45 years old when her last child was born in 1857-58.
There are 26 years between the oldest and youngest child.
Susan is my mother's maternal great-great-grandmother.

Elizabeth Jane Laws Doyle was the mother of 14 children.
Born October 28, 1845
Died August 30, 1910
She was 17 years old when her first child was born in March, 1863.
She was 43 years old when her last child was born in January, 1889.
There are 26 years between the oldest and youngest child.
Elizabeth is my father's paternal great-grandmother.

Elvira Bartley Gerner was the mother of 16 children.
Born May 12, 1854
Died February 3, 1943
She was 18 years old when her first child was born in May, 1873.
She was 43 years old when her last child was born in April, 1898.
There are 25 years between the oldest and youngest child.
Elvira is my father's maternal grandmother.

Rebecca Smith Bartley was the mother of 13 children.
Born ~1820
Died December 29, 1899
She was ~19 years old when her first child was born ~1839.
She was ~47 years old when her last child was born ~1867.
There are 28 years between oldest and youngest child.
Rebecca is my father's maternal great-grandmother and mother of Elvira Bartley Gerner.

Because of the time in which our ancestors lived, I'm sure there's at least one mother among every family's ancestors who had a dozen or more children.


This post was written to participate in the 100th Edition of Carnival of Genealogy, hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene. "There's One in Every Family" is the topic for the carnival. Jasia suggested we write about special individuals and said, "Interpret as you like." If you'd like to participate in this carnival and you're reading this before December 1, 2010, go to the link at the beginning of this paragraph where you can read full details.

Thank you to Jasia for creating and maintaining this carnival. Thank you to footnoteMaven for the poster.

5 comments:

  1. I guess you do what you have to but I can't imagine having that many children. By the time they were done the grandchildren had already started arriving. I can only think of one ancestor off the top of my head that had more than a dozen but there were several that had 9 or 10.

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  2. My husbands mother birthed 12 children and all grew to adulthood. I don't know of any women in my direct line who had more than 9 although some of their sister's did.

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  3. What a creative take on this carnival's topic! You really put it in perspective when you say, "a woman who had 13 children would have spent 117 months (or 9 3/4 years) pregnant". That simply is amazing.

    One of my gr gr gr grandmother's had 13 children and probably lived a similar life to yours so this topic really hit home.

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  4. You know, I mutter those things under my breath every time I add another child to the ever burgeoning clan, but I never did the math that you did.

    Excellent post...

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  5. My great grandmother Mary Byrd Markham had 16 children, including two sets of twins. Her first was born in 1872 when she was 15-17, and the last was born in 1903 when she was 46-48.

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