Saturday, 18 September 2010

Assurance On Life Of A Child

One of the few original documents I have from my mother’s family is a life insurance policy taken out on my grandmother at an early age and described as ‘Assurance on Life of a Child’. It’s a rather curious survival because (as it seems likely the weekly premium of one penny ceased to be paid long before she died) it apparently has no value, but presumably was kept in the belief that it might do so. 

To us, the idea of insuring a child’s life is an unpleasant one, but to our ancestors it may have been a practical and sensible option. Despite fears in the 19th and early 20th centuries that insuring the life of a child was connected to infanticide (the TNA produced a good podcast on this and the related subject of Burial clubs), it seems to have been commonplace in working-class families. 

Judging from the table below this policy, dated 1922, would have provided little more than the cost of a modest funeral, and in the case of a child dying shortly after birth, probably not even that. 

What surprised me about the document was that it dated not from the time of my grandmother’s birth, but from several years later. However on reflection, the timing may have been significant. 1922 was the year in which her family suffered the death of a child (the second to die in infancy) and also the year in which a new baby was born. 

It seems possible that having already lost children at an early age, the family decided to insure the life of the new baby, and at the same time also took out policies on the older children. 

Happily no further children died young in the family, but the document remains a sad reminder of a time when, despite a fall in infant mortality rates, the death of a child remained a very real possibility for many families.

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