Browsing through church books of Central Poland is always giving the impression that the number of baptisms regularly outnumbers the death entries by far.
Can these small numbers of death entries really reflect the number of deaths?
The idea of a considerable number of ancestors that somehow has been "left over" and is now waiting beside the fire place to report about the last 200 years has a tempting charm for each Genealogist - however the idea is unrealistic.
But if the church books are correct, how can the diverging numbers be explained? Is it only a subjective impression gained from viewing a small number of years?
Some examples for periods of 10 years:
Percentage of death entries compared to the number of baptisms (=100%) in period
These numbers confirm the impression that the number of death entries is lower than the number of baptisms. However there are exceptions (Płock 1850-1859) and the percentage varies extremely.
How can the lower number of death entries be explained?
A possible explanation is the steady population growth. In times when a population is growing, the number of births always outnumbers the deaths because the equally increased number of deaths is shifted to a later period (depending on the life expectancy). It doesn't make a difference if the population growth is caused by an increasing number of births or by new settlements.
This tendency is not effected by a high rate of infant mortality because this will increase both numbers by (almost) the same factor in (almost) the same year.
So a somewhat smaller number of death entries seems to be absolutely normal for a time and an area where colonists are spreading.
But what about the much more significant divergence found in Roman-Catholic church books where the colonists were registered before 1800? The percentage of death entries in these church books is sometimes as low as 25%.
A closer look into these church books where in most cases colonist's family names can easily be distinguished from the Polish family names reveals, that there were no death entries for the colonists (or "acatholici") at all.
Was it because the settlers very soon had their own cemeteries, their own Lutheran burial ceremonies and therefore did not inform the Catholic priest?
Or were the church books in these days not so much registry office documents but mere progress reports, where the priests only kept records of the sacraments they administered personally?