Wednesday, August 12, 2015

One family, two families, few more adults...

Curious what the heading is about? I hope so. How many people live in your house? You, your partner or husband or wife, your kids? Maybe parents or one of the kids with his or her family? Most houses/flats hold just one family today. But was it the same in the past? You probably already know the answer: No, it wasn't. I have here one excellent example from 19th and beginning of 20th century which will provide you an idea how our ancestors lived.

Cottage (chalupa) in Pošumaví region
Once upon a time there lived a family in a hamlet about 1 mile (1,5 km) from a village. It was located in Pošumaví region, on the foothills of Šumava mountains. The house was standing in the middle of meadows, forest not far away, just a small field to grow basic food. 

Map of the house from stabile cadaster, 1837. Source: National Archives

The house wasn't large - just stone cottage with two wooden outbuildings. What was the size of the house? Maximum of two rooms, not more.

Detail of the map.

There lived cottager's family - he, his wife and their nine children. Two of the children died in infancy, so there were seven surviving children. Could you imagine living in two rooms with seven children? Yes? Ok. 

But - there also lived cottager's brother's family - he, his wife and their six surviving children. So, there are four adult and 13 children in age 0 to 15 years. In two not-too-large rooms. Hum. Hard to imagine, right? 

Well, add four more adults to the counting - old father of those two brothers and also third, still single brother (who died when he was 30 years old). And in addition old hind and his wife. So, let's count. 13 children - it's still the same. But 8 (eight) adults. In two not-too-large rooms. Could you imagine living like that? 

It wasn't that tough during the summer - children and some of the adults were sleeping in hayloft. But during the winter, which is freezing and long in Pošumaví area? Well, couldn't imagine that, right? Still, the people lived like that, even in the first half of 20th century. 

When we take a look on census from 1900, we see the situation even more clearly. Here is a list of people living there, in this exact house: 
  • Josef, owner, 39 yo
  • Kateřina, his wife, 35 yo
  • František, son, 8 yo
  • Josef, son, 4 yo
  • Václav, son, 2 yo
  • Marie, daughter, 6 yo
  • Františka, daughter, 1 month old
  • Václav, owner's father, 68 yo
  • Anna, wife, 62 yo
  • Kateřina, daughter, 36 yo
  • Antonie, daughter, 26 yo
  • Václav, son, 24 yo
  • Marie, daughter, 22 yo
  • Josefa, daughter, 19 yo
  • František, brother-in-law, 32 yo
  • Anna, wife, 29 yo
  • Anna, daughter, 6 yo
  • Antonie, servant, age not known
So, here we have 11 or 12 adults (last one, Antonie, probably was adult as well) and 6 or 7 children. Was it better or worse than in the first half of 19th century? There probably already were more rooms in the house, but I don't suppose there were more than three or four rooms. Still hard to imagine, isn't it?

The house today from Google Street View


  1. Very interesting to learn how the families lived. Thanks for the photo! Judy

  2. That is how they heated the house?? I wonder if they could all lie down at the same time, or if they took turns sleeping? (And I am so glad to live now and not back then!)