My husband’s Italian family is highly endogamic, meaning that branches of his family intermarried a lot. For example, he has three grandfathers in 5 generations who married women from the Giulianotti family. By the way, my Tennessee family is just as endogamic as his. Almost the only way to really keep a family like that straight is to try to link everyone together, and since his family was primarily from two remote villages up in the Italian mountains, I’ve been creating my own little “village family tree” using all of the records I can get my hands on. For one of the towns, the records I most easily have access to are only a single census, and then death records for about two centuries. Because of that, I was building families first with only their dead children, and then after I had all of the death records placed in the tree, I went to the census and filled in some gaps (the birth records will someday fill in more gaps). It was tough. I was able to piece together some family trees based on death records that might have three generations listed: “Pietro son of Giovanni son of Bartolomeo and Angela Giulianotti, and Maria daughter of Giuseppe and Orsola Zanrè, died on 4 Sep 1703 at the age of 4 months”. Many of the families I was piecing together had 6 to 8 children who died in infancy. Often I would find a death record of a child, next to the death record of his mother. Then came the “asian flu” and dozens of people died within days of each other. What struck me the most, is that the death records were generally children under 5, women in childbirth, and the elderly being struck by epidemic. There were so few records of men in their 20s-50s dying.
I think it is important to look back at these family hardships our ancestors endured. Partly to remember them, and partly to appreciate where we are today. As a woman, especially, I try to honor the lives that the women who came before me were blessed with and sometimes cursed with. We should never take for granted the advancements in medicine and health that we have today. Especially women’s health.
Off my soapbox!