Infant Loss in Genealogy and the Family Tree

As a family historian, I get to see a lot of infant loss.

Safrona Short, Infant Loss
Safrona Short, 24 Sep 1859


Infant loss is found in different ways.  First, there are the cemetery and sitings.  Walking, physically or digitally, through a cemetery will reveal marked graves, often without a given name.  When the marker say ‘baby boy’ or ‘baby girl’ with a surname, you know that the parents and siblings had a spoken or unspoken name for the small coffin at the graveside.  After these, you see the stones for children that died, sometimes within days, or up into their teens.  I will not comment on when infant loss becomes something else; the definition is up to others.

Relatives and friends

After I walk the physical world of cemeteries and the cyber world of databases, I’m faced with flesh and blood relatives.  Hushed conversations of couples losing a child, sometimes given to me by the mother, relating something that happened years ago.  Knowing my interest in all things family, people will relate third party stories.  Most of these losses are semi-private.  There is a physical marker on a patch of ground, but it isn’t always part of the annual cemetery visit habits of some families.

Hopefully, the child is near other, older family members, part of an extended family group in the earth.  Often, child loss occurs with young families, and the child is laid in a section of the cemetery reserved for those without deep roots and family plots in the area.  This is often the case in North Dakota, with it’s recent history of immigrant settlement.

Infant Loss and the Family Tree

Infant loss can become lost in genealogy and the family trees.  If the historian finds evidence, he then has to decide when to include it in the history.  For events two or more generations back, the information can be included without the possibility of causing problems with living relatives.  When the infant was a cousin, nephew, or neice, you have to rely on family to determine whether to publish the information.