This Sunday is Easter Sunday, and my research lately has me thinking about Easter in a new way.
One of the facts I've heard repeated over and over again, in school, in genealogy classes, just in general, is that child mortality rates used to be very high in most places (and in some places, they are probably still that high). Modern advances in nutrition, sanitation, and medicine have made me blessedly unfamiliar with this fact in a personal way. I do have two cousins that died as infants, but I was yet unborn when those deaths occurred, and since that time none of my aunts, uncles, or first cousins have lost any babies after they were born.
So this idea of a high child mortality rate has been something that I knew intellectually, but never really had anything to drive it home in an emotional way. Until I started branching out on my Robitzer family lines, that is.
My 4th-great-grandmother, Margaret Robitzer, was the eighth of nine children of Johannes and Anne Catherine Robitzer. Of those nine children, two died as children - Johann Michael at age 10, and Anne Catherine at age 4, both in 1826. I thought these losses were bad enough in Margaret's family, but as I kept searching the records, I found many more.
- Her brother Johann Heinrich Robitzer lost sons Jacob at age 1 and Johann at age 2.
- Her brother George lost three children - Christian, 2 months; Michael, 1 month; and Mathilda, 8 months.
- Her first cousin Jacob Robitzer lost two children - Anne Catherine, 9 months, and Michael, 11 months.
Seven members of the same generation, all gone at age 2 or younger. And though the deaths were many years apart (Johannes's children died in 1826, Jacob's in the 1850s, Johann Heinrich's in 1869 and 1875, and George's in the 1890s), it saddens me to picture this family hit again and again by the loss of yet another little one. This is especially poignant to me because my younger son is just about to turn 2, and we are expecting our fourth child in October. The families were (as far as I can tell) all Lutherans, so hopefully they were able to take some solace in their religious beliefs, particularly the message of Easter - of hope, resurrection, and eternal life. So while I am sad for these little ones whose turn on earth was so brief, I am grateful that records of their lives still exist. I am also grateful for Easter, and what it means for those families and those little ones - that life does not end at death, and that all will be made right for them one day.