Philoprogenitive ancestors

Rev. Samuel Willard (1639-1707), fourth child of Maj. Samuel Willard. Portrait from the 1915 Willard Genealogy

Recently a genealogical colleague made a Facebook post on his “newly discovered philoprogenitive” ancestor. This was a word I had to look up, with the colleague referring to its definition of “producing many offspring.” This prompted me to explore who in my own ancestry had the most children.

My recent post on my New Hampshire ancestress Mary (Carter) (Wyman) Batchelder noted that her second husband Nathaniel Batchelder (ca. 1630-1709/10) had seventeen children, fourteen of whom  survived to adulthood; Nathaniel is only my “step-ancestor,” and Mary had a mere ten children by her two husbands. For cousins, I have written about my distant relative Warren Gould Child (1835-1906), an early member of the Latter Day Saints movement, who had twenty-five children with three of his four wives.[1]

An early colonial ancestor that came to mind was Major Simon Willard (1605-1676) of Concord, Massachusetts, who sired a total of fifteen children, seven children with his first wife, and eight by his second (the converse of President John Tyler, who had eight by his first and seven by his second). Simon was sixty-five when his youngest child was born.

Simon [Willard] was sixty-five when his youngest child was born.

If you can connect back to royal ancestors during the medieval period, two large-scale progenitors standout, King Henry II of England, who had fifteen children with six partners, and Henry’s grandfather King Henry I, who sired at least nineteen children with more than ten partners.[2]

The above examples are all male ancestors, as they are capable of having children for a longer period of time than women. I know of several female ancestors with at least twelve children (although usually by the same partner), such as my patrilineal ancestress Mary (Bowen) Child  (ca. 1636-1707) and her daughter-in-law, Grace (Morris) Child (1660/1-1723). I am sure I will notice other colonial ancestors with more children. Who is the ancestor you have found with the largest number of children?


[1] Several other early L.D.S. leaders had significantly more children, Brigham Young siring fifty-six children with sixteen of his wives, and Heber Chase Kimball with sixty-six children by seventeen of his wives. Both are distant cousins of mine (Young through the Mixer family of Watertown, Massachusetts, and Kimball through the Kimball family of Ipswich, Massachusetts).

[2] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, 1:8-18, 24-43. See also Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr., “Royal Bye-Blows – The Illegitimate Children of the English Kings from William I to Edward III,” Register 119 (1965): 94-102, “… [Part] II …. Edward III to Queen Anne,” 121 (1967): 185-191, as noted in a previous post.

Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child