This obituary tells of an Amishman named Jonas A. Nisley who passed away late last month in Ohio. Jonas had 310 living descendants. If you add his step-descendants, you get an additional 70 individuals, for a total of 380 souls. Here’s the tally of his family, in addition to his twelve children:

96 grandchildren; 11 step-grandchildren; 201 great-grandchildren; 57 step-great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and two step-great-great-grandchildren.

At some point the patriarch also suffered the loss of a grandchild, and two great-grandchildren. Once you reach your 90s, and you’ve had a sizeable Amish family, odds are decent that your living descendants number in the hundreds. Jonas had a family larger than the Amish average at 12 children. And by those numbers it’s not unlikely that an older Amish person might have experienced the death of a loved one decades younger. In this man’s case, it happened three times over.

Photo by David Arment

Though there is always the risk of that loss, there are also many blessings that come with such large families. It’s nothing new at this point, but I still marvel at the size of Amish families, especially when I come across an example like Jonas (here’s another example). It’s one of the areas where the Amish come into most stark contrast with “English America”, where three children is now considered a sizeable family. Though no family in any culture is perfect, Amish follow the Biblical instruction to “be ye fruitful and multiply”, and are rewarded for it here on Earth, and they would hope in the afterlife as well.

Condolences to Jonas’ family.

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