I found two babies today that someone researching that branch of the tree had described as female 1 and female 2...I thought that was horrible.

Des...you know my sort of cousin Des who lives in Dublin...when he comes across a baby who died soon after birth, he puts a little angel near their name...he'd not like to see female 1 and female 2 on our Irish family tree.

Now Des looks like a hard man...he looks like the sort of a bloke you'd sidle up to in a backstreet 'pub and ask...in a roundabout sort of a way...would he be interested in bumping off your business rival or your mother-in-law for a suitable amount of hard cash. But he can't bear the thought of tiny babies dying from some condition which would be easily preventable today...and I know he'd hate the thought of babies who were never given a name to acknowledge their existence, however brief that may have been.

I'm finding more and more babies and little children who died before they reached double figures...there must have been a spate of disease...or a 'cluster' as it's known in modern terms, of Scarlet Fever perhaps or Measles maybe...perhaps they simply died because they were sickly and failed to thrive. It isn't possible to find out the actual cause of death unless someone was born after 1841 because official death certs only came into being then.For dates before then you either have to hazard a guess or rely on someone having possession of an old family Bible which usually recorded the causes of a persons demise. That was how we found out that one of my Gt Grandfathers died of Smallpox...it was written in a family Bible.

If your baby was sickly and underweight and you couldn't breast feed for whatever reason then it was possible...providing you had the money to pay for it...to employ a wet-nurse. A woman who had recently given birth and had plenty of milk for her own baby and for someone elses. If you were from a poor family then your only hope was to feed the child with a bit of rag soaked in cow or goats milk. If your fragile little baby screamed a great deal from hunger or from a pain, then you could lace the milk with opium to quieten it. The Irish peasants had little scruples over leaving such babies out in the haggard or on the dung heap...

We take it for granted that if we have a child who is ill then we'll take it to the Doctors...if it's an emergency, then it is to the nearest hospital. But in the 1700's Doctors were few and far between and would only have attended the rich...the 1800's were little better...Doctors expected their fee paid upfront and they were limited in their knowledge...their patients had birthed thirteen, fourteen children...what did it matter if the lastest baby died soon after it was born. They weren't being cruel nor were they unkindly...it was a simple fact of life during the time they lived that newborns didn't always survive.

And all too often mothers also died. From excessive bleeding and from retained afterbirths which caused infection and resulted in a painful and totally un-neccessary death. But the Doctors and midwives were tied by their knowledge...they understood little about cross infection and were always hesitant to use mechnical means to extract a baby stuck in the birth canal. It's awful sad to see the death records of young mothers and their babies who died on the same date when you know the reasons behind it.

But to leave those children un-named..as though they never really existed...to refer to them as simply numbers because it was two hundred years ago and what does it matter now whether they were given a name or not...I think that was one of the saddest records I've ever read.

Now some parents were quite determined to use a name they'd chosen...they lost a baby they'd named William...so the next baby boy was also called William...he died young...not to be beaten in their first choice, the next baby boy was also named William. This William grows to be a man and gets married and names his first son...William. It has now established itself as a family name so Williams son, William, names his baby boy William. And isn't that grand. Until you are tracing those Willams back and forth and you get into one almighty muddle because for three generations the first born baby boy is named William...and the original William had fourteen brothers and sisters who all named their first born baby sons William...

My eyes begin to cross and I heave heavy sighs as I try to place which William belongs to which couple as the dates span from the late 1700's to practically the present day...

But those Williams...and I've actually been tracing those Williams...they all remember that very first baby boy who didn't live longer than his first week. It might be incredibly annoying to me to place each William in his rightful slot...but I'd much rather that than come across nameless baby girls referred to as female 1 and female 2.