Quick tip – Investigate gaps between children

If you are researching a family before in the period before modern birth control methods, a gap in children is worth investigating further.

Possible reasons for the gap include:

  • You may not have found all the children yet. For example, the family may have lived elsewhere, and you have not consulted the birth or baptismal records there.
  • There may have been stillbirths or miscarriages. Since the introduction of the civil registration (1811 in most parts of the Netherlands), stillborn children will have a death record. Miscarriages early in the pregancy rarely leave records.
  • The father may have been absent, for example if he worked as a sailor, if he was in prison, or if he emigrated before the rest of the family.

For example, one of my ancestors had sixteen children. The first was born when she was 21, the last when she was 44. Most children were born less than 18 months apart, and three children were born less than a year after the previous child. The only two times where there were more than two years between two children was after her first husband died, and when her second husband was in prison.

Researching unexpected gaps between children can turn up new records for your family and help you to discover previously unknown stories.

Mother with baby and child

Mother shortly after giving birth. Unknown photographer, circa 1885. Credits: Rijksmuseum

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Another excellent tip, Yvette. I’ll include a link to this post in my next genealogy newsletter.

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