Re: Stepchildren #general

Judy Simon

I don't know of any studies, but this would be a fascinating interdisciplinary
topic to research. It would include historical, archival and genetic research as
well as population, life expectancy and mortality studies. I would think the
numbers of step-families in any given generation would be greatly affected by the
occurrence of wars, famines and disease outbreaks, and it would vary by geographic

With a quick search on Wikipedia, I discovered there was a famine in E. Prussia in
1708-1711 that killed 41% of its population. In 1816 there were weather
aberrations due to volcanic eruptions that affected weather conditions in various
locations throughout the world, including a severe freeze, food shortages and a
cholera epidemic in parts of Europe. This weather situation in the aftermath of
the Napoleonic wars probably would have resulted in many spouse deaths and

The large gains in life expectancy during the last century were mostly due to
lowering the infant and childhood mortality rates. For the most part, people who
survived childhood during the 18th and 19th centuries had a life expectancy close
to what it would be today. The big exception here is maternal deaths >from
childbirth. I would guess that these maternal deaths, where a relative of the
deceased woman might take the baby as her own and raise it using her own married
surname rather than the biological father's, account for many of the
"misattributed paternity events" we see in DNA surname projects.

Archival research would create challenging logistic problems. Revision lists might
be of limited value because a second wife, for example, might not be identified as
such. Like Sallyann, I'd be interested to see if any studies of Eastern European
Jewish family composition during the 18th and 19th centuries have been done.

Judy Simon
Stony Brook, NY

Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus wrote:
I have been thinking about the composition of Eastern Europe Jewish families
in the 18th and 19th centuries. The families of three my four great-grandparents
included half-brothers and half-sisters.

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