It's common knowledge that children under the age of 5 suffered terrible mortality rates in the 18th and 19th centuries. Recently, I have been wondering whether infants were commemorated with gravestones at a rate proportionate with the frequency of their deaths. I'm still not sure whether they were, but I have been crunching some numbers.
Plymouth's Burial Hill holds 2,161 gravestones/cenotaphs commemorating over 3,000 individuals. The following graphs show the age at death for 2,102 of them (I omitted the records of those who died before 1701, after 1850, as well as records with incomplete information).
Age at Death, 1701-1750 (207 gravestones):
Age at Death, 1801-1850 (1,319 gravestones):
These numbers do not show the age of death for all Plymouth residents, only those residents who received a gravestone robust enough to survive.
It seems that fewer infants received gravestones in the first half of the 18th century than in the second half of that century and the first half of the 19th century. Of course, this may reflect a lower infant mortality rate in 1701 than in 1801, but that seems unlikely. My next step will be to compare cemetery records with Plymouth's death records.
Another trend that needs explanation is the different shapes of graphs 2 and 3. Graph #2 seems to show a fairly flat curve between ages 20 and 80 (with one anomalous bump in the early 40s that compensates for shortfalls in the late 30s and late 40s). Graph #3 seems to show a distinct elevation in death rate in the 20s and early 30s, as well as in the 70s, with a corresponding depression in the 40s and 50s. What does this mean? Is it just a question of insufficient data? I suppose I should run some significance tests to see whether the fluctuations might be random.
In any event, these numbers are clear on one point: early American graveyards are filled with infants and toddlers.