Transgenerational Effect on Reproduction Based on Parish Registers from the 17th–19th Century Bohemia

Alice Velková, Faculty of Science, Charles Univeristy

Previous research indicates that grandmothers may be contributing significantly to the reproductive outcomes of their offspring. According to so-called “grandmother hypothesis”, the reproductive lifespan in women is limited by menopause which should enable women to support of their own grandchildren (Hawkes, 2003). Some researches showed that the presence of a grandmother coincided with the lower age of her daughter’s (or son’s wife’s) first pregnancy and shorter inter-birth intervals and had the effect on lowering of grandchildren´s infant and child mortality. Consequently, the women who survived into their post-reproductive age had more grandchildren reaching adulthood than those who did not (Beise & Voland, 2002).

The paper will test the “grandmother hypothesis” on historical population of Bohemia. It will be compared the possible effect of maternal and paternal grandmothers. Should this be the case, the effects mentioned above might not be specific to grandmothers only, other family members may play a similar role compensating for the grandmother’s absence (e.g., the presence of other relatives such as aunts, older siblings etc. may have similar effects). Further, it is not clear whether such effects are restricted to biological relatives only or whether other non-reproducing, biologically unrelated women, such as step-grandmothers, may act in a similar way. All these questions will be studied on data created on the family reconstruction based on excerptions from the Bohemian parish registers (several selected regions, 18th and 19th centuries).


Beise, Jan, & Voland, Eckart (2002). A multilevel event history analysis of the effects of grandmothers on child mortality in a historical German population. Demographic Research, 7(13), 469-498.

Hawkes, Kristen (2003). Grandmothers and the evolution of human longevity. American Journal of Human Biology, 15(3), 380-400.

Presented in Session 24: Persistence of the Past