One child can be a handful, and each additional one adds more responsibility and even stress on even the most even-keeled of parents. Families can come in all sorts of sizes, but eventually, a lot of parents ask themselves “How many kids are too many?”.
For the Vassilyev family, the answer was quite unique. For the Vassilyevs, 70 children would have been too many. So Feodor Vassilyev and his wife decided to stop at 69 children.
This might sound unbelievable, but there is some evidence that Russian peasant Feodor Vassilyev really did father 69 children with his wife. In this article, we’ll look a little deeper into this seemingly impossible claim.
Feodor Vassilyev and the Mysterious Mrs. Vassilyev
Feodor Vassilyev was born in 1707 and was a peasant in the town of Shuya, Russia. Not much is known about his early life because his fame came much, much later.
The prolific Feodor was a humble farmer, and if it hadn’t been for the large number of children that he sired, his name would be lost to history. But Feodor made a legacy unlike any other–a legacy of almost seventy children.
One might think that Feodor’s wife should be the one whose name is remembered in history, but unfortunately, her name has been lost to time. Some sources suggest that her name may have been Valentina, but there is no concrete proof of this.
Since we don’t know the first name of Mrs. Vassilyev, all the information we have about the family comes from what we know about Feodor.
That doesn’t diminish the record that Mrs. Vassilyev holds, though. If she truly had 69 children, then that means she holds the world record for the most children born to a single woman. Mrs. Vassilyev lived to be 76 years old.
How Many Children Did Feodor Vassilyev Have?
Despite Mrs. Vassilyev holding the record for the most children before, she was actually the first of Feodor’s two wives. Once she passed away, Feodor remarried and had a large number of children with his second wife as well.
Still, even the number of children he had with his second wife pales in comparison to how many he had with his first.
Feodor Vassilyev’s First Wife’s Children
Feodor and his first wife were said to be actively having children between 1725 and 1765. The first Mrs. Vassilyev gave birth to 69 children, 67 of whom survived childhood.
Mrs. Vassilyev managed this feat by having many births of multiples–twins, triplets, and even quadruplets. She and Feodor had:
- 16 pairs of twins
- 7 sets of triplets
- 4 sets of quadruplets
Mrs. Vassilyev the first had 27 pregnancies, resulting in a total of 69 children. This is incredibly odd considering that there are no singleton children in the mix. The odds of having multiple children are slim on their own, but only giving birth to multiples is basically unheard of.
To put this into perspective, 1 in 250 births on average are twins. Even rarer are triplets, which are every 1 in 1000 births. The rarest of them all is a quadruplet pregnancy, which occurs in only 1 in 700,000 pregnancies!
These incredible statistics call into question the veracity of Mrs. Vassilyev’s record as the woman to give birth to the most children, but there are some sources to back this claim up that we will look into later.
Feodor Vassilyev’s Second Wife’s Children
Even less is known about Feodor Vassileyv’s second wife. We definitely don’t know her name, or how long she was married to Feodor, but we do know that there must have been a significant age difference between the two of them.
If the first wife of Feodor was 76 when she passed away, it’s easy to imagine that Feodor was similar in age. His second wife had to be young enough to bear children, and not just one or two. In typical Feodor Vassilyev fashion, he and his second wife had 18 children.
- 6 sets of twins
- 2 sets of triplets
His second wife had 8 pregnancies and births, resulting in 18 children in total.
The Most Children Ever Born-Is it Even Possible?
Now that we know how many children Feodor Vassilyev supposedly fathered–87 in total–we come to the question of possibility.
A man could technically impregnate a woman many more times than a woman could become pregnant, so when looking at possibilities, we have to look at whether the first Mrs. Vassilyev could have actually had 27 births.
Adam Hadhazy of the BBC did some quick math to answer this question. Shockingly, it seems, on paper at least, that Mrs. Vassilyev could have produced 69 children.
The BBC took into consideration the shortened pregnancy time that usually comes with twins, triplets, and quadruplets. With that in mind, it all averaged out that Mrs. Vassilyev had been pregnant for a mind-boggling 18 years.
Since it’s claimed that the Vassilyevs were producing children for 40 years, this means she would have been pregnant for nearly half that time. Possible, but unlikely.
Another factor that would make it unlikely that this married couple produced 69 children is the fact that surviving birth in the 1700s was a feat in and of itself. Surviving it 27 times, all of those births being for multiple children, is unheard of.
Mrs. Vassilyev would also be in the upper limits of childbearing age by the end of the 40-year period, and her body would be clearly affected by so many births. So with all of this information against this record, what proof do we have in support of it?
Records of Feodor Vassilyev’s Children
There are some contemporary records that give credence to Feodor Vassilyev having the number of children claimed, pertaining mostly to his first wife.
The 1783 edition of The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 53, p. 753, wrote about the Vassilyevs, saying their information had come directly from “an English merchant in St. Petersburg to his relatives in England.”
Vassilyev and his children were also mentioned in the Saint Petersburg Panorama in 1834. Their source is said to be from the Nikolskiy monastery.
Lastly, a study done by The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical publication, mentions the Vassilyev case in a study done about twins. No one from The Lancet was able to speak with Feodor’s family directly or view any evidence proving once and for all that his first wife truly had 69 children, but the inclusion of the family in the studies proves that even serious publications had reason to consider the case.
The Lancet is quoted, “Apropos of the enquiry, the Committee of the Academy recall an account of a quite extraordinary fecundity…for Fedor Vassilet [sic]. . . who, in 1782, was aged 75 years, had had, by two wives, 87 children.”
“Did one woman really give birth to 69 children?”
“Most prolific mother ever”