1    Oct 20126 comments

Poll: Larger families in days gone by?

In times gone by, were families so much bigger than today?

My grandmother was one of eight and my grandfather one of seven. Many of my ancestors also came from large families. I used to wonder whether people tended to have bigger families.

According to UK statistics, the 1900 birth rate was 3.5 children per family;  by the end of the century (1997), the rate fell to 1.7 children.

Why do you think people had larger families back then?

What about your family? How many siblings did your grandparents have?

Let us know in the poll below.

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Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Larger families were probably due to lack of birth control plus greater infant mortality made survival of enough children to support parents less likely, so more children may have been felt to be needed to allow for likely deaths.

    My 4 Grandparents had 4, 9, 9, and 11 siblings
  2. Families were larger because of a lack of contraception, children were seen as assets (worked and could care for the aged later), and women saw it as their duty, function and life's purpose, to reproduce offspring.

    It's interesting in researching my family history, how much closer and more loving these large families were. Notices were published annually for years after a death in remembrance of lost loved ones, and the loss and heartbreak expressed is palpable in the writings.
  3. larger families were needed to work the farms
  4. The families was larger due the high mortallity and due the the wars. In war time there is an increase in the birth rate.

    My four grandparets had 12, 10, 4, 6 siblings, six of them past away as infants
  5. Larger families were the norm due to spiritual beliefs, childhood mortality rates, disease, and the fact hat there was much labor required to do most everything including a large segment being rural based.

    My family had 14-20 children easily and my own mother had 8 of us. As the economy stagnates, the birthrate typically drops.

    I remember one ancestor who had 12 of his own children and worked to be successful in agriculture to be sure that each son had an equal amount of farmland and each daughter a suitable dowry. He then got news that his sister and brother-in-law died and he adopted all of her kids and worked harder to assure that they had the same inheritance as their cousins.

    Family bonds were stronger and there was greater familial support for the aged.
  6. I agree with all the comments thus far. A number of my grandparents and great-grandparents had many siblings. The further back, the more spouses with children. Disease and accidents took the lives of children and parents. Being from a New England background, with all its Puritanism, relations were strictly for reproduction. As with everything else, it was work; and we have a very strong work ethic.

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