“The only treasure we can take with us to heaven is our children.”

This came from a mother of five in Holmes county, Ohio, but it could have been just about any Amish parent.  For the Amish, children are a blessing, not a burden.  Large Amish families are common.

America has gone from being an agrarian to an industrial and now a post-industrial nation. We have seen the birthrate fall by more than half in the last century.

With the recent shift away from farming in Amish society, some have wondered whether the Amish will also move away from big families.

In fact, Amish childbirth has gone down slightly.

Thomas J. Meyers tells us that in Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northern Indiana, for example, families who have switched to factory or shop work have slightly fewer children than those that have stuck with the farm.  According to Donald Kraybill, similar trends have been seen in communities such as Lancaster, PA, perhaps the most land-squeezed settlement of them all.

But big families, at least by US middle-class standards, should remain the norm.  Children will always be treasured in this family-centric culture.

Looking through the most recent Amish Church Directory for northern Indiana, you notice many families with eight and even ten or more kids.  Many former farmers are now business-owners.  From a practical standpoint, children are a big help around their parents’ shops just as they are on the farm.

I recall meeting a few ‘truly wealthy’ families with upwards of fifteen children.  But the record, in Elkhart-LaGrange at least, comes from a couple who married after each of their spouses had died.  Between the two of them, they have had enough children to field both sides of a softball game, plus subs–a total of 24 kids.

Must make for some fantastic family reunions.

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