Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sympathy Saturday: Deaths of 12 Children in One Family

Reading an article last week at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog reminded me of a similar situation in my paternal family tree in which a family lost 12 of their 16 newborn or young children.


Burial record of Adèle Belair (1869-1871)

In the late autumn of 1861, Moïse Belair married Martine Guestier in the picturesque village of Ste-Adèle, north of Montreal, Quebec. [1] The Belair and Guestier families’ relationship went back to 1850, when Martine’s uncle Jérémie Guestier married Moïse’s sister Virginie. [2] The family links were strengthened when newly married Moïse and Martine became godparents to Damase, younger son of Jérémie and Virginie, in March 1862. [3]

Martine gave birth to 16 children between 1863 and 1885, but only the first four children survived to adulthood. Something changed after the birth of her daughter Adèle in December 1869. Martine’s next pregnancy in 1871 (her sixth in eight years) and her subsequent ones all ended in the death of her babies at birth or when very young.

First Children

Moïse and Martine’s first child was a daughter, baptised Martine on the day she was born in April 1863. [4] The next child was daughter Malvina, born in June 1864. [5] Two years later, the couple’s first son, Moïse, was born in March 1866. [6] Another son, Israël, followed in October 1867. [7] He became the inspiration for the French-Canadian fictional literary character “Séraphin Poudrier” in Un homme et son péché, by Claude-Henri Grignon. (See my post Black Sheep Sunday: Séraphin Poudrier, Fact or Fiction?

A Family’s Sorrows

Martine’s fifth child was another daughter, Adèle, born and baptised on Christmas Day 1869. [8] In the summer of 1871, Martine was expecting her sixth child. She was 25 years old, according to that year’s census, when the family was enumerated in May. [9]

On July 23, Martine was delivered of a child of unspecified gender. The infant didn’t live long enough to be ondoyé* and died within moments of its birth. [10] Father Louis-Alfred Dequoy officiated at the funeral two days later. [11]

* The word ondoyé (or ondoyée for a female child) appears in an infant’s burial record. If the child survives and is subsequently baptised, the priest records the event in the baptism register.

Within days of the family’s sorrow, daughter Adèle died on August 1. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning, according to a coroner’s jury; she was only 19 months old. Moïse was present at his little girl’s funeral. [12]

A Pattern of Births and Deaths

The birth and death of this 1871 anonymous child set a pattern (with one exception) that lasted until late 1885.

In October 1872, Martine’s newborn child died within moments of its birth. [13] One year later, her eighth child died soon after birth in October 1873. [14] A little girl was baptised Marie Louise in February 1876, but she died when 15 days old. [15] The next child was born and died in August 1878. [16] With this latest death, Father Dequoy had buried six Belair infants.

In April 1879, Martine’s 11th child died soon after birth. [17] This time, Father F.-X. Sauriol, Ste-Adèle’s new parish priest, buried the infant. He would also bury those who were born and died in August 1880, August 1881, May 1882, March 1883, and November 1885. [18]

Two months earlier in September 1885, while Martine was expecting her 16th child, she and Moïse were present at the baptism of their first grandchild, Marie Rose. [19] The newborn was the daughter of Martine and her husband Calixte Desjardins, who had married the previous year.

Four Surviving Children

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Moïse and Martine to go through these losses year after year. I don’t know how Martine coped and carried on, but perhaps she received comfort from her faith and gained a certain amount of happiness when her surviving children Martine, Malvina, Moïse and Israël married in her lifetime.

Martine died in the spring of 1912 in Ste-Adèle, 27 years after the death of her last child. [20]

Sources:

1. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1861, p. 23 verso, entry no. M.22, Jeanvry – Guétier [sic] marriage, 26 November 1861; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

2. St-Jérôme (St-Jérôme, Quebec), parish register, 1850, p. 21 recto, entry no. M.28, Guétier – Janvry [sic] marriage, 30 April 1850; St-Jérôme parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

3. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1863, p. 10 recto, entry no. B.33, Martine Bélair baptism, 3 April 1863; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 20 November 2013).

4. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1864, p. 14 verso, entry no. B.63, Marie Malvina Bélair baptism, 28 June 1864; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 20 November 2013).

5. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1866, p. 6 verso, entry no. B.21, Moïse Bélair baptism, 15 Mar 1866; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 20 November 2013).

6. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1867, p. 14 recto, entry no. B.63, Israël Bélair baptism, 7 October 1867; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 20 November 2013).

7. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1862, p. 8 verso, entry no. B.27, Damase Guéthier baptism, 16 March 1862; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 15 November 2013).

8. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1869, p. 21 recto, entry no. B.79, Adèle Bélaire [sic] baptism, 25 December 1869; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 15 November 2013).

9. 1871 census of Canada, Ste-Adèle, Terrebonne, Quebec, population schedule, district 99, subdistrict m, p. 61, dwelling 208, family 208, line 15, Martine Janvril [sic]; digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013); citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-10033.

10. When a newborn is in danger of death, he or she can be “baptised without any delay” [Can. 867] by someone present at its birth. The sacrament of baptism is usually conferred by a Roman Catholic priest in the “proper parish church of the parents” [Can. 857], but if a priest isn’t present, “[...] in a case of necessity, any person who has the requisite intention may do so.” [Can. 861] (The Code of Canon Law In English translation, The Canon Law Society Trust, London: Collins Liturgical Publications, 1983, 159-160)

11. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1871, p. 12 verso, entry no. S.17, Anonyme de Moise Belair burial, 25 July 1871; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

12. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1871-1880, p. 13 recto, entry no. S.18 (1871), Adèle Bélaire [sic] burial, 1 August 1871; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Catholic Parish Records, 1621-1979”, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org : accessed 15 November 2013).

13. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1872, p. 17 verso, entry no. S.25, Anonyme de Moïse Bélaire burial, 16 October 1872; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

14. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1873, p. 22 verso, entry no. S.43, Anonyme de Moïse Bélaire burial, 17 October 1873; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

15. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1876, p. 3 recto, entry no. B.6, Marie Louise Bélaire baptism, 11 February 1876; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013). Also, Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1876, p. 5 recto, entry no. S.8, Marie Louise Bélaire burial, 28 February 1876; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

16. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1878, p. 19 recto, entry no. S.27, Anonyme de Moïse Bélaire burial, 12 August 1878; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

17. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1879, p. 11 verso, entry no. S.19, Anonyme de Moïse Bélair burial, 28 April 1879; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

18. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1880, p. 16 recto, entry no. S.16, Anonyme de Moïse Bélair burial, 16 August 1880; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013). Also, Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1881, p. 14 recto, entry no. S.30, Anonyme de Moise Bélair burial, 7 August 1881; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013). Also, Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1882, p. 12 verso, entry no. S.28, Anonyme de Moise Bélair burial, 29 May 1882; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013). Also, Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1883, p. 5 recto, entry no. S.3, Anonyme de Moïse Bélair burial, 3 March 1883; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013). Also, Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1885, p. 21 recto, entry no. S.56, Anonyme de Moïse Bélair burial, 3 November 1885; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

19. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1885, p. 17 verso, entry no. B.51, Marie Rose Desjardins baptism, 14 September 1885; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 20 November 2013).

20. Ste-Adèle (Ste-Adèle, Quebec), parish register, 1912, p. 4 verso, entry no. S.10, Martine Guesthier [sic] burial, 13 April 1912; Ste-Adèle parish; digital image, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 16 November 2013).

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

4 comments:

  1. It still amazes me how many children so many woman had back in those days, and especially when they had to work so hard at the same time! Interesting information you uncovered.

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    Replies
    1. When I first started this research, I almost didn't believe that I kept finding so many burial record after burial record in one family. Thanks for commenting, Karen.

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  2. If I had to guess, I suspect an Rh incompatibility which rarely affects the first pregnancy but with each successive birth the risk of hemolytic disease of the newborn would increase dramatically.

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    Replies
    1. I just read about that condition, Callie, and wonder too if that's not what was affecting Martine. If she had lived 100 years later, some, if not most, of her later babies might have been saved.

      Delete

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