Saturday, 13 February 2010

Sepia Saturday: A Baker's Dozen + 3

When our daughter gave birth to identical twin girls almost 11 months ago, we considered ourselves blessed to have three darling granddaughters in total. Speckly Woo! being the eldest. We don’t envisage any further additions, but never say never.

It was a different tale for many of our ancestors. Anyone who has delved into their family history will be only too aware that large families were often the norm. And you don’t need to go back too far to find the evidence. Both of my grandfathers shared their parent’s affections with seven or more siblings. My late step-father was one of thirteen.

Two of my great great grandparents, Thomas Thorne and Annie Jane Longman, had ten children in total, including twins Bertha Beatrice and Frances Lillian.

I have to thank a fellow researcher for this wonderful picture of Frances Lillian (1886-1969). Imagine what a surprise it was to learn that she is pictured here with the six eldest of her sixteen children. Yes, sixteen!

More Sepia Saturday participants HERE

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges  


  1. Women sure were tough in those days!

  2. I suppose it was partly a matter of having enough children to ensure that enough would survive into adulthood. Also they didn't have the internet to surf in those days so they had to come yp with things to do. It is a great picture and based on what you say it must have been taken about 190 something or other.

  3. jinksy said it for me, heh...and Pop had two brothers and four sisters ( not near the 16 here! ) I can imagine a reunion gathering!

  4. Working on the Principle that you stopped once you ran out of ideas for Christian Names?

  5. Sixteen!!! But why am I so surprised? My grandmother had 12 siblings in all, only 8 of whom survived beyond childhood, apparently. That also seemed to be a sign of the times... children passing on at such young ages. Fascinating!

  6. To my mind, more than one is too many, goodness the women of yesteryear must have had strong constitutions to be able to cope with so many children.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. My sepia offering was a trifle early, an on-the-dot post was prevented due to a domestic upheaval.

  7. My great grandparents had sixteen children as well. But only 11 lived.

    High rates of infant mortality being another norm in our ancestor's lives.

  8. That is a fabulous picture, Martin! Imagine having 13 or more children in the house. The advantage of course is that the eldest are able to help with the housework and chores and baby-minding, but the wear and tear on a woman's body must have been awful!

    I use Windows Live Writer (free download) to edit my posts and one of the assets is a photograph sharpener. You might be able to get a more precise image of this photo using that tool. (Of course you could do it on a copy to preserve the integrity of the original.)


  9. Wonderful pictures! I can't even imagine what having a family that size would be like. If one was wealthy and had nursemaids, perhaps . . . but, oh my goodness -- I mix up the names of my two boys at times -- if I had a dozen or more, I'd just have to call everyone 'Hey, you!'

  10. 16 children is just amazing - no matter what time period it was.
    my maternal grandparents were both 1 of 11 children.
    and people think my 4 were too many

  11. wonderful post and through you family story the a brief 'snapshot' of the social history of family size!

    thank goodness for the of all the activists who promoted contraception finally giving women the ability to limit the size of their family. birthing so many children is one thing - but then there is also the nurturing and raising -

    have a super sepia saturday!

  12. The picture is just gorgeous...and so is the mom! It's stunning to think she had 10 more children after this photo was taken! Oh my!

  13. This is really interesting, both for its socio-historical implications and for its personal angle. It has gotten me thinking that my family didn't run to great numbers of children--I think four was the maximum in most cases, with a notable exception of cousins with five children. But then it makes me wonder just how they were able to limit it like that!

    Wonderful, rather haunting photo.

  14. Identical twin girls run in my husband's family. He has identical twin sisters, as well as identical twin couins (his father's brother's daughters). They say they skip a generation. So who knows? Maybe one of my children will have twins.

    16?!! And I thought three was a hand full!

  15. Just imagine the cooking. It would be like a party every single day. And all those shoes in the hall ...

  16. She is so lovely and motherly...I am sure she nurtured each child as if he or she were the only one! Look at those precious little faces!
    I suppopse large families weren't really large as we think of them. My mother was on of nine girls.My father was one of 11 children which included a set of twins. There are two sets of identical twin girls in his great grand children! Wonderful photo!

    WORD Verification for this post! breeded

  17. I have always said in this country that pregnancy was the only form of birth control. My grandfather was from a set of 14 children. Grandpa and grandma had 10 children, one set of twins, and lost two set of twins. In my dad's family the older girls raise the younger children. It was expected and the guys farmed. Great photos!!!

  18. Jinksy

    Yes, they certainly were!


    Blogging would have kept them occupied, wouldn't it? It's a safe bet that this photograph was taken in the early 1900s. Frances was born in 1886. I'm not sure when she was married.


    It would have been difficult to get a word in edgeways, don't you think?


    It does seem that way, I admit.

    Nevine and Barry

    Infant mortality was still high around this time. Although people moan about the way things are today, we have come a long long way.


    A complex combination of attitudes and ignorance didn't help the situation. Women really didn't have an easy time of it by any means.

    Thank you for returning the visit.


    I can just manage to give my attention to three grandchildren around the house, much less thirteen children of my own.

    Women must have gone through all sorts of mental and physical strain in those days. However, Frances lived until she was 83.

    Thanks for the photograph tip. I'll take a look. At the moment, I use Photoshop, which is pretty good, but I'm always open to something new.


    I think Frances must have had a roll-call twice a day!


    Well, there are still exception today. One of our daughter's former coleagues has 12!


    You're so right. Families were really caught in the poverty trap with such large families and no help from the state.


    I know, it makes the mind boggle, doesn't it?


    I think education has a large part to play. And family planning education especially. There may be other, more personal reasons why family numbers were limited of course.


    All children are a blessing, of course. But if you ever you become a grandparent to twins, believe me, it's really something else!


    And rows of toothbrushes in the bathroom!


    Frances does look well suited to motherhood in this picture.

    One set of identical twin girls is hard work. Goodness knows what two sets would be like!

    Sometimes that word verification can be quite spooky.


    Yes, we sometimes forget the role the older children played in raising their siblings. They must have had very brief childhoods themselves.

  19. Well, what do you expect, there was nothing else to do.
    (I expect somebody else has already said that).
    Thank Heavens for TV, sex education, gyms, and birth control. The world has enough people in it already, we'll soon run out of space and resources.

  20. It's stunning to think how different family structures were with that many children--even taking into account the higher rates of infant & childhood mortality--love Tony's comment, btw!

  21. Friko

    Yes, I hate to be a party pooper, but the population can't carry on increasing without something going bang.


    And to think that this was the norm, not that long ago.

    Yes, I'm with you on Tony's comment.

  22. Yikes - 16 children! I can't begin to imagine...

  23. Stephanie

    Neither can I. More than a full-time job, I think!

  24. Can you imagine what life would be like now if you had a dozen children's schedules to coordinate? Or worse yet, an outbreak of something like flu or head lice? The parent-teacher conferences would be weeks long. And they mostly did it with only one bathroom (if they had indoor plumbing, that is).

  25. Meri

    It's hard to imagine, isn't it? And yet, they had little or no choice in the matter, I suppose. I don't think Frances and her family would have had indoor plumbing. Probably a tin bath and a lavatory outside.


    My sentiments exactly!


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