Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Art of the Memoir, Part Two

Herman, Laura, Vincent and Grandmother around 1898

Eight of the kids and parents around 1915. My Dad is the youngest. Three girls still to come. Vincent, not pictured.
Herman Hildenbrand Nase

Herman Hildenbrand Nase (1874 - 1945)

Herman Hildenbrand Nase
Born in Tylersport, Montgomery County, Pennsylvaniamap
Husband of — married in Bucks County, Pennsylvaniamap
This is my paternal grandfather who I never met. Yes, they had huge families. He supported his family as a cigar maker. He was also a small farmer of sorts. Twelve of his kids survived to adulthood. I believe my father was the last to die in 2010. Herman Nase raised his kids in a three bedroom house at 238 Lawn St. in Sellersville, PA.
If you look for Nases anywhere but in the area of Pennsylvania where he lived, you will be hard-pressed to find one. That is because the spelling of the name changed many times. The earliest spellings in Alsace Lorraine in the 1600s were Nehs and Neys. 
But in Sellersville, there are hundreds of Nases. Not surprising considering how many siblings and children Herman was part of.  

Laura Smith (Reichard) Nase

Laura Smith (Reichard) Nase (1878 - 1928)

Born in Hilltown, Bucks County, Pennsylvaniamap
Wife of — married in Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Laura married at eighteen and had her first child at twenty. She was then pregnant 20 of the next 26 years. Vincent was born in 1896 and Albert in 1922. Seems impossible, doesn't it? Nineteen kids over 26 years. She died when my father was 13. Of the 19 children she gave birth to, 12 survived into adulthood. Vincent died in World War 1 and my father served in World War 2.
Both families came from Germany but in the 1600s.  
They were Lutheran and worshipped at St. Michael's Lutheran Church. They spoke English and a form of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch. 

I never met either of these grandparents. I know almost nothing about them other than they were country folks. What was country then though is suburban today.  

Marion took off as a teenager and someday I will tell her story.  

Hat tip to my brother, Jeff, who researched the Nase family back to the dawn of time. 



Deb said...

I think if you go back just a couple of generations, everyone had families of this size. One of my great-grandmothers had seventeen children; about ten made it to adulthood; when she died (at 95), only six of her children were still living. Back in the days when the only effective method of limiting family size was (to paraphrase Margaret Sanger ) to make your husband sleep on the roof, families this large were common.

pattinase (abbott) said...

To avoic being pregnant that much, I might be indeed willing to sleep on the roof myself.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Wow, those are big families. My father's mother was one of 10 brothers and sisters, all but one of whom survived at least until I knew them. I knew my father's father's mother (my great-grandmother) when I was young, and two great-grandparents on my mother's side (her mother's parents). In fact, my great-grandfather lived until just before I got married, so Jackie knew him too. It helps that my grandmother got married at 17. She was one of six sisters, including fraternal twins, but I never knew until I was an adult that my grandmother had a twin brother who died in an accident when he was a baby.

My mother's father died when she was eight (her sister was two, her brother four months old). He was one of 8 or 9.

In later generations, only my cousin Karen, who got religion and moved to Israel, had a family like that - 11 in her case.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Why do religious people have such big families?

Deb said...

To make sure there are enough "warriors" to fight the good fight. It helps if your God permits polygamy too--then it doesn't fall to one brood-mare of a female to populate the "faith army"!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Most of my "religious" cousins seem to have 3-5, but Karen is an overachiever.

Charles Gramlich said...

One of my nieces did a webpage for our family. It traces things back pretty good ways.

Tim said...

Thanks for sharing. This is beautiful, but I am envious. My family "history" is damaged by bad memories, mysterious "adoptions," and strange relationships. Ain't that a tease for a story!

Richard R. said...

On both sides, going back four generations, it's all single children or two children. So no, not big families. All survived childhood and lived through adulthood. There were never more children than could be well cared for. One of my older cousins had four children. It was considered...unseemly.

seana graham said...

My mom only had one sister, but my dad had eight brothers and sisters, not to mention a cousin that also lived with them. I think it was partly that they were Catholic, but also that they lived on a dairy farm, where a large family was pretty much an asset to keep things going. In the next generation there were a few families in the 4-6 kid range, but mostly twos and threes. Coincidentally or not, none of them stayed on the farm. In my generation, there is only one family with six kids, and a lot of the cousins have none. The average is probably around two.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Once we ceased living on farms, feeding kids became a big problem, I think.

Deb said...

Generally you'll notice a huge drop in family sizes around 1964/1965, which was about the time the birth control pill became generally available. In my own family (and almost all of my parents' siblings' families) the youngest child was born in 1964 or 65.

Tim said...

I think agrarian societies/regions needed larger families (ready-made labor pools), but fewer family farms means smaller families. Yes, birth control options changed things, but religions and family livelihoods are also factors. And I'm not sure if our post-post-modern drop in birthrates (because of many reasons but complicated by extended lifespans and changes in average ages of populations) is really in the world's best interests.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

As far as family trees go, a cousin of my mother's worked for years on a detailed family tree. When he was finished we had a big family reunion - with cousins we'd never heard of, let alone met - in 1990 in New Jersey, over the Labor Day weekend. Everyone got name badges showing who we were descended from, they put up huge family trees so you could trace the relationships, etc. We discovered cousins in Charleston, New Orleans and Houston. We had a blast. I wish they'd done it again. My brother got a prize for coming the longest distance (from Oregon), and two great aunts were the oldest, both at 86.

Sadly, many attendees including that whole generation and a lot of my parents' generation, have died in the ensuing 25 years. I still have the book with the family tree.

Cap'n Bob said...

My father had five siblings, one of whom died when he was about 12 in an accident. My mother had three sisters, one dying of polio when she was 12. Of three three remaining kids, all girls, each had three kids. That's all I know about them.

Margot Kinberg said...

This is really fascinating, Patti!! Thanks for sharing.

Shay said...

My maternal grandmother (b. 1900) had 16 brothers and sisters, my paternal grandmother (b. 1905) had 12.

Unusually for that time, 14 survived from the one family and all 13 from the other. Large families were due not only to the hit or miss 19th/early 20th century methods of birth control but also because of high childhood mortality rates from diseases we now see rarely (e.g.diptheria, pertussis, measles). People had lots of children in part because they knew the chances of many to live past age 13 weren't good.

I have six brothers and sisters, as does the spousal unit. My parents were Catholic, I don't know what his parent's excuse was.

Kathy D. said...

My maternal grandmother's mother had 13 children and married a man with six children. They lived in a part of Poland that was occupied by imperial Russia pre-WWI. In 1907, my grandparents came here. My grandmother and six siblings made it here. The rest died of typhus in Poland/Russia. The family fled anti-Semitic czarist pogroms.
Then my grandmother and her siblings mostly had two children. One had one child and one had three children.

My father's mother had five children in an Irish Catholic family, but she had miscarriages, too, and unfortunately, died of breast cancer at 36. Or I'm sure there would have been more offspring.

It's true about birth control, the pill, but there were other methods, too before that, although the pill made a big difference.

Of course, once people moved into urban areas, there was no way to house big families

Around the world, there are still countries where big families are the norm, as in India's agrarian regions. Also, where women have less education and less access to birth control. Education makes a big difference and low-cost or free, accessible contraceptives.