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Maria Barbara, Anna Magdalena, Sebastian,
and the 20 Bach Children

Compiled by David Gordon


A well-known factoid about Johann Sebastian Bach is that he and his two wives produced 20 children. And for most people today that's as far as the story goes.

But a stark reality of family life in Bach's time was that parents tended to have lots of children because childhood mortality was so high. In 18th-Century Germany one child in four died during their first year, and nearly half of all children — poor and rich — died before their fifth birthday.

Here is what became of the 20 Bach children:
- ten died in early childhood
- one son died of unknown causes as a young adult
- one daughter married a pupil of Bach's
- three daughters remained unmarried and [therefore] died in poverty
- one son was mentally handicapped and required a caretaker
- four sons became successful musicians and composers

The four musician sons mostly ignored their widowed mother/stepmother Anna Magadalena, and she died in poverty in 1760, ten years after her husband.

The numbers 1–20 below indicate the chronological order of the births.


The Children of Johann Sebastian Bach (b.1685-d.1750)

Ten Died as Children

With Maria Barbara Bach

b. October 20, 1684

m. October 17, 1707

d. July 7, 1720  age 35

died of unknown causes
while Bach was away

3. Maria Sophia (twin)

Feb 23–March 15, 1713

4. Johann Christoph (twin)

Died at birth Feb 23, 1713

7. Leopold Augustus

Nov 15, 1718–Sep 29, 1719

With Anna Magdalena Wilcke

b September 22, 1701

m. December 3, 1721

d.February 22, 1760 age 58

died in poverty ten years
after Bach's death

8. Christiana Sophia Henrietta

Spring 1723–June 29 1726

10. Christian Gottlieb

Apr 14, 1725–Sep 21, 1728

12. Ernestus Andreas

Oct 30–Nov 1, 1727

13. Regina Johanna

Oct 10, 1728–Apr 25, 1733

14. Christiana Benedicta

Jan 1–Jan 4, 1730

15. Christiana Dorothea

Mar 18, 1731–Aug 31, 1732

17. Johann August Abraham

Nov 5–Nov 6, 1733

Ten Lived to Adulthood

With Maria Barbara Bach

1. Catharina Dorothea

Dec 29, 1708–Jan 14, 1774

unmarried, lived her life
in the Bach household,
died in poverty

2. Wilhelm Friedemann

Nov 22, 1710–Jul 1, 1784

organist/composer

5. Carl Philipp Emanuel

Mar 8, 1714–Dec 14, 1788

composer & kappelmeister,
the most reknowned son

6. Johann Gottfried Bernhard

May 11, 1715–May 27, 1739

organist
cause of death unknown

With Anna Magdalena Wilcke

9. Gottfried Heinrich

Feb 27, 1724–Feb 12, 1763

mentally handicapped,
required a caregiver

11. Elisabeth Juliana Friderica

Apr 5, 1726–Aug 24, 1781
known as “Lieschen”
married Bach's pupil,
Johann Christoph Altnikol

16. Johann Christoph Friedrich

Jun 21, 1732–Jan 26, 1795

composer & kappelmeister

18. Johann Christian

Sept 5, 1735–Jan 1, 1782

composer
settled in London where
he briefly gave music
lessons to Mozart

19. Johanna Carolina

Oct 30, 1737–Aug 16, 1781

unmarried, died in poverty

20. Regina Susanna

Feb 22, 1742–Dec 14, 1809

unmarried, died in poverty



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Source for childhood mortality statistics in paragraph 2 above:
W. Robert Lee & Peter Marschalck (2002) Infant mortality in Germany
in the 18th and 19th centuries, The History of the Family
,
7:4, 501-504, DOI: 10.1016/S1081-602X(02)00122-7


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