The demographics of gentry families in the light of the latest genealogical research
The article is a demographic analysis of medieval gentry families based on the results of genealogical research. Thus the information contained mainly in town and court registers is used here indirectly. These sources make it possible to determine two demographic issues: family longevity and number of children surviving till adulthood.
The author has collected information about 168 marriages (first and subsequent marriages). A gentry marriage concluded in the late 14th century and in the 15th century would last on average 18 years (median — 16). Among those relationships, 138 were first relationships for both partners; they lasted 19 years on average. Subsequent relationships lasted on average about 13 years (median — 11).
The studied couples had 571 children who survived till adulthood. Among them there is a clear preponderance of sons (311) over daughters (260), meaning 120 boys for 100 girls, a ratio resulting from the fact that girls were not so diligently recorded in sources. The offspring per gentry family was calculated in two ways. First, the author counted the children registered by the sources. On average there were 3.4 children (median — 3) surviving till adulthood per one gentry family, with the average in first marriages being 3.6 (median — 3.5) and in subsequent marriages — 2.3 (median — 2). Then to the total number of children the author added 51 daughters, potentially not registered by the sources. Thus he obtained a gender balance characteristic of this age group. After the daughters were added, on average there were 3.7 children per marriage (3.9 in first marriages and 2.9 in subsequent marriages).
In the 15th century, marital relationships among the gentry lasted on average several years longer than relationships among the aristocracy, townspeople and peasants in the 16th century. On average, gentry women bore at least 6–8 children in their fecund period. 3–4 children survived till adulthood, a number no greater than that in other groups in society.