Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Duggars of 1937

When the Duggar family began filming for their first TV series, they were "17 Kids and Counting." Now let's take a trip back in time. 

The year was 1937--four years before Grandma Duggar was born, and at the tail end of the Great Depression. A family by the name of Rancourt had just moved to Winterport, Maine, to run a 100-acre farm. The parents' names were Alice and Harry, and the children, well, we won't name them all here. The oldest was Dorthy, the youngest was Geraldine, and there were fifteen in between. Seventeen kids and counting.

While large families were not uncommon 70 years ago, this particular clan bears a striking resemblance to the Duggar family. The children were not homeschooled, but they made up nearly 80% of the one-room schoolhouse that they attended.

Just like Michelle, Alice Rancourt believed that children were a blessing, not a burden. “I have found that a mother can scratch for a dozen just as well as she can for 10,” Alice told Bangor Daily News in 1938. “I wouldn’t swap one of my children for all the money in the world.”

“[Mom] said that having children helped keep her young,” says Geraldine Gavard Rancourt in a recent article. Sound like anyone else you know?

The Duggars also share in the Rancourts' love for service. Mrs. Rancourt was always eager to provide food to neighborhood children who, due to harsh economic times, were often forced to go without. But the Rancourts were by no means rich. They, too, had to make sacrifices, but the kids did not whine about hand me downs, and they took pride in their chores.

Just like the Duggar home, there was no shortage of love around the Rancourt farm. As Jim Bob and Michelle have displayed time and time again: love doesn't divide; it multiplies.

To read more about the Rancourts, visit Bangor Daily News

Aside from the Duggars, what is the largest family you know of?


70 Comments (Click Here to Add Yours):

Anonymous said...

I know a family with 13 childern. but thats about it.

Anonymous said...

We are good friends with a family of 13 kids. :)

alex.d said...

What an amazing story! I'm French and the only "big" family I ever knew of was 10 children before birth control was created .

Anonymous said...

If "love multiplies, not divides," why on the show does the family stress courtship as a way to avoid giving pieces of your heart away through dating to those who are not your ultimate spouse? If there is no limit on how much love one has, it seems that giving away a piece of your heart to one person should never detract from your ability to love someone else equally as well or better. I absolutely do not intend to be disrespectful, but am just curious at how both ideas work together when they seem to contradict each other.

Shannon said...

Growing up the largest family I knew of was my neighbors... They had five children. I myself have five now. My friend that was one of the children in that family just gave birth to her 8th child last week. That makes her family the largest family that I know of in my "real life". Of course, I have made contact with many other large families (much larger) via the iternet. I think it is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Actually, as I recall, I first learned about the Duggars on a show called "Fourteen and pregnant again." I think that was their start.

Bayley said...

We have friends, who have seven children. That's the biggest family I know of besides the Duggars.
How did you find out about this family?

Lisa said...

I have 18! 9 bio and 9 adopted! Only 12 at home right now aged 3 to 17! But I know another mom in my county who has 24! Mostly adopted!

Unknown said...

I think the largest family I know has 15 kids!

Anonymous said...

My grandparents were Irish Catholic and had 17 children!! Actually most if my family on that side several generations ago had at least 10 children in each! I am blessed with two!

junebuug72 said...

There were 15 in my Fathers family. He is number 9. Times were difficult for them, and within the past few years my Dad had his stories published in a book. I enjoy being a part of a large extended family. I have many Aunts, Uncles and Cousins to enjoy. Our family reunions are always interesting and fun. My Grandmother insisted she could not stand my Grandad, I suspect differently:)

Lily and Ellie said...

Hi Anonymous! (at 12:29 on Dec 6)

You are correct, the Duggars were first featured on a documentary called "14 Children and Pregnant Again." That was a TV special. Their first TV series was "17 Kids and Counting."

Have a great day!
Lily and Ellie

Anonymous said...

I come from a family of 16! One father & one mother! 10 boys & 6 girls. No 2 girls together..I have 2 brothers ahead of me & 4 after me. The rest are girl-boy-girl (above said) -girl-boy-girl-boy-girl-boy.
The oldest was born in 1941/youngest in 1964.
Mom is 90 now..doing ok.
My folks put us all through private school. Dad said "God will provide" & He always did! We all had chores & Dad made sure we did them! Mom had some hired help off & on, too. We grew up on a vegetable farm & the boys ALL worked outdoors or in the shop. The girls helped in the house & also in the field or warehouse washing/packing produce.
We were taught early on about salvation (forgiveness of sins) - that it is a Gift of God! We can't earn it. But we can show thankfulness by how we live for HIM!
We didn't give gifts on Christmas because that's NOT what Christmas is all about! The true meaning of Christmas is lost in all the festivities!

Anonymous said...

There are several large families at my Co-op.(6-10 kids i would guess) Thats the biggest I know! I only have 2 siblings, ya small!!

Tehilla said...

Many Jewish families in Israel have many children. 10+ is very common in some orthodox families. The average # of children of an ultraorthodox Jewish mother is 7.
:-)
I've heard there's a family of 23, but I havn't seen them.

Anonymous said...

I know a family with six kids. But that's the biggest I know personally

Anonymous said...

hi

Anonymous said...

My mom is one of 19 children.

Amber said...

I grew up in conservative churches, so feel totally comfortable around families with 10+ children. This is really interesting info on this farming family. Loved reading it!

Also, have you heard of Feodor Vassilyev and his first wife? She gave birth to 69 children! I find that fascinating. Read more about extra, extra large families in times past right here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_the_most_children

Jim Bob Howard said...

We have friends with every number 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 21. Many in the family of 21 are adopted sibling groups.

To Anonymous ("Love multiplies, not divides"): Love multiplies when it comes to brotherly love, parental love, agape (self-sacrificing) love, et. al.

Romantic love is an entirely different form of love, which burns hottest and brightest when shared between one man and one woman, monogamously, for life. The giving of your whole heart in romantic love is the greatest gift you can give your spouse on your wedding day.

The popular saying, "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all," is a half-truth and a false dichotomy. For it is far better to have loved only one that to have loved and lost many times.

Anonymous said...

I know a family with fourteen kids. Two are adopted, and there is one set of twins.

katiesniche said...

We are from Maine :)
My mom was the middle child of 11, born in 1937! She only had 4 children.

Kelly said...

Growing up the largest family in my school or neighborhood that I knew of was six children, but now I know people with 9 to 11 kid families, all Catholic.

Anonymous about Love Multiplies- you bring up a good point but dating is not the same as loving your kids/siblings. I think the Duggars are just trying to stop their kids from frivolously dating around or having intimate relationships with people they aren't committed to. But courtship to me sounds more like really conservative dating - couldn't you technically end a courtship and then enter into one with someone else?

Housetop Shouter said...

I was born in 1949 into a small family. However while growing up I was in school with kids from families of 7,9,11,12. The 12-child family had 11 boys and then their only daughter! Maybe the Rancourts knew some of my Freese cousins in Penobscot County Maine too. My great-great grandfather Jeremiah Freese and his wife Matilda Page raised 10 children, and that was the last large family in my Freese line.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was one of 18 children. There were 2 sets of twins. My grandfather died at 93.

Anonymous said...

My son in law who grew up in Canada, born 50 years ago was one of 7 children and one of twins.

Anonymous said...

i know a family that is big family my babysitter's family she had 5 kids and 17 grand kids and 6 great children the one daughter has 4 kids, the 2nd daughter has 5 kids and got married to someone that has a kid so she has 6 kids and two of her kids has one child, the 3rd daughter has 4 has kids two of her kids has a child, the 4th daughter has two kids and her daughter has two kids now, and 5th one is a son and he got married and he has only one kid. my babysitter, i know she has one brother i dont if she has more and she has a sister and her sister had kids then her kids children, and my babysitter has lots of ninces and nephews so my babysitter's family is big.

-brittani

Anonymous said...

Growing up I was from the largest family around....there are 9 of us. Seven girls, and 2 boys, all from the same parents!

atthelighthousequilting said...

I have one question please ? Dont you already have 20 children , just one is in heaven ? I consider myself to have 3 children but only one is here alive on earth the other 2 are in heaven with God..You said you had one child go home isnt that one number 20 or Josie ? When Kind Davids child died God said David would see him in heaven , does that one not count?

Ginger said...

I don't actually know any families in real life bigger than my own. I'm expecting blessing #9 next week! Can't wait!!

Jenifer said...

I love the Duggar family!!!
I am 11 years old girl and am living with a family of 3 plus me makes 4, my parents are thinking about have about 4 more children, depending on what G-d has planned for us. Right now I have 3 sisters and a handsome 9 month old brother... They are so sweet, and kind... I believe that with the time and wisdom from G-d, you can have as many kids that G-d want's you to have. I have read the entire book of "love that multiplies" and am impressed by what they do!! My family and I watch their show almost every day. And we are so excited that Mrs.Duggar is expecting again!!
The big family that my family and I are close friends with are a family of 5!! G-d Bless

Love, Jennifer

Manon said...

I live in Belgium and the only big families that I know is one of 9 kids same mother but 2 or 3 father but all raised by the same man (the mother left them all after the younghest birth) and one of 14 (this one same mom, same dad). My mother works with some guy who has 15 siblings.

In my family we are 3 children and in my country when you have 3 kids you're called "big family" I wonder how they would call the Duggars :)

Rose said...

I seem to remember the first Duggar show being named...14 Kids and Pregnant Again..

Ginger said...

Rose,
That's what I first thought when I read the post, but she didn't say "tv show", she said "first tv series". 17 Kids and Counting was the first of the tv series. ;)

Anonymous said...

I think 13 is the biggest number I know. They are all Bio too! I am one of those girls who also believes children are a blessing! I can't wait till I have some of my own, and I'm hopin the Lord will bless me with many!

-Anna Rose

Sisters said...

I have some friends with 9 kids and in my family there are 8 of us kids.

Anonymous said...

My Grandmother was the youngest of23 kids.

Heather said...

A woman in my hometown who recently passed away was a mother to 26!! All her children were well adjusted and many became quite successful doctors, lawyers, and teachers. She was always well admired by our small community, and at her death had over A HUNDRED grandkids and great grandkids!! That had to be some Christmas!! :)

Heather said...

Anonymous...Many families stress courtship because they feel that God has one certain person in mind for you to spend the rest of your life with. Therefore, dating would be considered kind of like adultery, in a sense (but not quite). It's hard for me to put it in words, and adultery is kind of a strong word to use, but it's about the closest way I can explain it. The idea is to save yourself for your husband/wife so that your love is pure and untainted. You're not carrying any 'baggage' into the relationship from past relationships.

Anonymous said...

We are good friends with the Bates through ATI. And we know the Duggar's (went to their church a couple of times, ate at their house). Other then that, the biggest family we know of have 17 children. There are 15 children in my family! :)

Anonymous said...

My Dad was #10 of 13 children. There are 7 siblings in our family. We grew up with lots of cousins and Aunts and Uncles. It was wonderful!

Emily said...

Wissmann Family (15) Lattin Family (17) Brian Waller Family (12)

Anonymous said...

I have six children, my dad is oldest of five and my mom youngest of five. We want more children.

My grandma was one of ten. I know a family with 8 children, but that is the only one I know with more than six.

I hear more positive comments about large families than negative.

Anonymous said...

The largest family I personally know has nine children. Several of them take dance at the same studio I take, and I have classes with three of them. Only 4 are still at home, and the youngest 4, two boys and two girls, all dance. They are a Christian family are home-schooled.

San Antonio Rose said...

We have 16 children- 12 living, 3 miscarried and we lost our 15 year old son 3 years ago. Our oldest is 21 and our youngest is 2. We would love to have more children and pray God will bless us again. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Duggar family. We know very well the lose they are suffering.
I have a sister with 17 children. We have many friends with large families as well.

dadwithnoisykids said...

OOPS - WE ACCIDENTALLY POSTED THIS UNDER OUR DAUGHTER'S BLOG. SO HERE WE GO AGAIN:

We have 16 children- 12 living, 3 miscarried and we lost our 15 year old son 3 years ago. Our oldest is 21 and our youngest is 2. We would love to have more children and pray God will bless us again. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Duggar family. We know very well the lose they are suffering.
I have a sister with 17 children. We have many friends with large families as well.

Anonymous said...

My maternal grandma had 7 kids and my paternal grandma had 6 kids, so I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. It is wonderful getting together at the holidays and seeing all of my relatives. When I was growing up we would alternate lunch every Sunday between the two sets of families.

Anonymous said...

My sister has nine children. Ages 4months to 18 years old.

Anonymous said...

I dated a guy in Sydney, Australia who was the youngest of 10 - born in 6 years! In 6 years, the mom (a tiny and cheerful and loving lady) had 1, 1, 1, 2, 3 and 2 kids. That means that when she cam home with the last twins (of which my boyfriend was one), she had kids of ages 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0. That also means that she had 2 2-year-olds, 3 1-year-olds and 2 new-borns. I don't have a clue if the 3-year-old was potty-trained at the time. Let's say he was. In any case, that is SEVEN kids in diapers! As I remember I was told, she had no washing machine and no extra help other than the family. Add to that that the oldest had polio and ended up in a wheel chair at some point. I met this family when the youngest was 20. They were so wonderfully loving and sweet!

Bianca said...

We know a family in Scotland (they go to a congregation of our church) who have 20 children, although another one died very young making the total count 21.

Anonymous said...

My Mom is one of 12 children.

Svetlana said...

Back home in Texas, occasionally I would meet a Mennonite family with 11 children, but since we moved our family of 9, the largest family I know here.

Allie said...

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I know a lot of people with large families. Its quite normal for people of my faith to have 6-8 children. The largest family I have known had 12 children.

Anonymous said...

One mom in my past co-op has 16 children!

Anonymous said...

Well my immediate family has 9 people, but of course the bates and the wissmans. But at my church, their is a family of eleven kids. None of them are adopted.=)

Anonymous said...

My grandmother is the youngest of 11, most of whom passed away long before I was born.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather, who was born in 1917, was in a family with 15 children. They lived on a farm in Texas. They always had food to eat and lots of love.

Anonymous said...

I personally know several large families, including my own, which is 13 kids. My great-grandma was one out of 16 children. And, anonymous from July 12th, I know Wissmann's, also. :)

Anonymous said...

We know a guy who has 16 brothers and sisters, they're from Arkansas too! And we know several familys with 10+ children who are homeschooled. I am homeschooled as well with 5 siblings...

Anonymous said...

I'm annoyed that the tone of this article implies that the Rancourts were an anomaly for their size as well as their view on the world. The was pre-birth control, so most families would have been large except that babies kept dying off (unless mom succeeded in telling dad to keep off her) and especially in rural areas, everyone knew each other and looked after each other.

Now, if they'd been a poor immigrant family living in a 1 room tenement in NYC--that'd be different.

Jamile Toledo said...

I love the fact she gave birth to each and everyone of her children. She is to be admired.

Anonymous said...

am the youngest of 6, 1 boy (the oldest) and 5 girls, I wouldn't change it for anything, we were not rich but our parents gave us so much more than "things", I have so many great memories of a simpler time. I was only able to have 2 children but I cherish them both and now I get to spoil my grandchildren. I love the Duggar family, they are an inspiration in this crazy world

Anonymous said...

I've heard of a family of 24-26 kids but the biggest family that I know personally has 13 kids. I come from a family of 10 and know families with 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13 kids!!! A few centuries back on my Mum's side we come from a family of 16 kids!!!! I loved growing up in a large family and I hope to have one myself one day to give my kids the type of childhood that I enjoyed!!!!!!!! May God Bless large families!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The Duggar's first show was "14 Children and Pregnant Again", not "17 Kids and Counting". Just wanted to let you guys know! I ♥ this blog, thank you for keeping up with it!! God Bless Lily and Ellie!

Anonymous said...

Largest family I know is the Nadya Sulliman aka "OCTO-MOM" lady who has like 14 kids

Anonymous said...

My husband of 53 years had 7 children. 6 are living. All of them went to Christian schools, all attended Bible school-by choice. We never had a "pounding"; nor were we ever on welfare. Our oldest son pastors a Baptist church, all of them know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, and have beautiful families. We have 16 grand children, and 4 great-grand children--so far. All I can say is, Praise the Lord for all the little Olive plants that He has given us to nourish and cherish. To God be the glory!

Anonymous said...

I think we are talking about different kinds of love. Familial love is different than saving your heart to romantically love that one special person that God has for you

Anonymous said...

I know of a town here in the USA of 4,000 people, where the average size of family has 8 children, the largest family having 18 kids (that includes 3 sets of twins), 2 families tied 2nd place with 17; most of the population consists of residents under the age of 18, where elderly are treated with respect, lessons for piano, sports, music, ballet, dance, martial arts are very affordable, most homes have 4-5 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Modesty in clothing and behavior is the norm, even in our local city swimming pool! The rector of our parish is one of 17 siblings. The families are very supportive of each other.... and founded upon love of God and Country. It's the closest to peace on earth.

Anonymous said...

I come from an Irish family and they use to have many children. Not so much any longer.
Very sad. I think as I have gotten older I see the reason behind this slanted bias for frowning on people of european ancestry is calculated. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

We are friends with a family of 10 kids and a family of 9 kids a family of 9 kids again and a family of 6 kids but that is it.

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