The Youngest Among Us

“I will lend you, for a little time,
A child of mine, He said.
For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he’s dead

Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

It is always difficult to comprehend the deaths of the youngest among us. All of us have come across sad family stories. When they involve the death of a baby or young child, we mourn a little with our ancestors. Such is the story of Isabel Bowes Bruce, my second great-grandmother. Isabel married John Bruce in 1864 in County Durham, England.  Isabel was 19 and John was 21. They began their married life in the small mining village of Tudhoe where a new coal mine (Tudhoe Colliery) had opened in 1864. John began work there as a miner.

On 4 May 1866, Isabel gave birth to their first child, a baby girl they named Margaret. Between 1866 and 1876, Isabel and John had six children. Sadly, within that same time period, they buried four of their children, three of them were less than a year old. Isabel was often heavily pregnant at the time she was burying one of her babies.

  • Margaret Bruce, born 4 May 1866. She died 13 months later, aged 1 in 1867. Isabel was about 8 months pregnant with their second child.
  • Thomas Bruce, born 23 July 1867. He died 7 months later in February 1868.
  • Margaret Bruce, born 14 May 1869. (My great-grandmother, she died aged 80.)
  • John Thomas Bruce, born 3 Jan 1873. He died at 2 months old in March 1873. Isabel was pregnant again within a month or so of burying John.
  • William Bruce, born Oct. 1873. (My great grand-uncle, he died aged 85.)
  • John Bruce, born 1876. Died, aged 11 in 1887.

Isabel herself died before she was 40 years old, by 1884. Her husband John remarried in March 1884. The marriage certificate states he was a widower. I am quite sure that burying so many of her babies must have taken a toll on Isabel.

In what seems a sad coincidence, Margaret Bruce (born 1869), my great-grandmother, would have the same experience her mother had. She would bear 6 children between 1889 and 1899, four of which she would bury before their second birthdays.

MargaretBruce1869_photo-croMargaret Bruce Thomas (1869-1949)


This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 32 prompt: Youngest

13 thoughts on “The Youngest Among Us

  1. I have included your blog/s in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

    Always the most poignant section of the older cemeteries is that which has been devoted to infants, many unnamed, or even unmarked. Like so many others, I am still uncovering ‘lost’ babies, lost to the rest of the world perhaps, but never to their parents..
    I was able to find out the name and then get a death certificate for a brother that my father had barely heard of. He wasn’t even sure of his name..we shared many tears, but that 13 month old boy now lives on, with all the others of his family, all now passed, in the hearts of those who came later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do feel strongly about honoring these young one’s whose very lives are sometimes completely unknown. It is always sad when we make the discovery but I also like to think that it is bringing their names to our awareness. Thanks so much for stopping by!


  2. Good that you have done the research to find these young ones. They can be hard to find. I wonder if these two women had a genetic issue that affected the health of their babies or if it was just typical illnesses and accidents of the times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eilene, I have been wondering about the same thing. Was it a genetic issue or was it just the usual high infant mortality of that time.
      Not only did my great grandmother bury 4 of her 6 children but her brother, my great granduncle, buried his only child at 11 weeks old. They were both the only surviving children of my great great grandmother. I am going to do some more research and see what I can find out.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is difficult to imagine dealing with the grief of the losing so many babies and children. Although it is a sad story to share, I am glad these children are not forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my motivations for researching my family history is to discover those children whose lives were cut short too soon. Even as recently as the mid 20th century mum says her mum (my nana) took great pride in saying she’d had 8 children, all still living. Unimaginable to our 21st century eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is unimaginable to us for sure. Until I started researching the family I thought there were only 3 children. Finding out there were 6 and 4 died so young was very sad. But like you mentioned, I feel strongly that we need to find and remember these tiny ones. Thanks for your comment, Jane!


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