16 July 2017

Finding Your Ancestor's Lost Babies

When I began documenting my grandfather's Italian hometown—every single birth, marriage and death record between 1809 and 1860—one thing saddened me time and time again.

So many of the babies died within days, months, or a couple of years. I mourned for each one of them. It seemed even sadder that the next baby born was given the same name as the one who died.

Trying to be an optimistic genealogist, I focused on the upside. I was finding previously unknown children. Here's an example. I found that my great great grandparents Antonio and Colomba tried three times to name a child after Antonio's father: Raffaele.

My great uncle Raffaele was the third sibling named after his grandfather.
My great uncle Raffaele was the third sibling named after his grandfather.

The first Raffaele died as a child, so none of my cousins were aware of him. Last night I found another baby! This time it was a girl they named Raffaella. She died, too, leaving that name to the great uncle we know: Raffaele Saviano.

When you're researching a family in the 1800s, expect to find a child born almost every year beginning a year after a marriage.

If an ancestor's family has several years between births, keep looking. There's a strong chance that other babies were born who didn't grow up.

My great great grandfather Nicoladomenico Leone married twice and fathered 12 children. About half of them survived to adulthood. See When I'm Sixty-Four I'll Still Have Only Two Children.

I don't know about you, but I want to know about and appreciate all the lost babies.

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