Date of Completion

January 1979


Anthropology, Physical




The potential of demographic research within the field of anthropology is just beginning to be realized. The application of classical demographic models will further anthropological understanding of evolutionary change at the population level. The main emphasis of this dissertation was to examine the applicability of several demographic methods to the study of small human populations. Four diversified settlements of early Connecticut were chosen as research areas. This pre-1850 analysis focused on the towns of Windsor, Litchfield, Mansfield, and New London. The research strategy also observed the relationship between historical and biological change in a community.^ Population size, density, and change were shown to be useful demographic measures. New London registered the highest growth rate, largest population density, and lowest dependency ratio.^ Fertility trends were measured through both vital and census records. Vital records yielded birth totals that were fairly accurate before 1820, and very underregistered after then. Crude and refined rates based on vital data were inaccurate due to underregistration. Fertility rates based on census records were very useful, and showed that fertility had declined during the first half of the nineteenth century. Early Connecticut's peak birth season was February to April, and consistent for the four towns. The adverse effect of summer heat on infants and the agriculturalist's yearly work cycle seem related to this pattern.^ Marriage results were also drawn from vital records. Registration was very poor prior to 1821, but due to new registration laws, fairly accurate after then. Litchfield had the most marriages, and coupled with its low fertility, had the smallest mean family sizes. Marriage age was found to be consistent between the four towns, but somewhat higher for the male population. Marriage distances were similar for the towns, especially considering the differences in outside contact. Marriages were highest in October through December, probably resulting from harvest and Christian holiday celebrations.^ Mortality data were derived from both vital records and gravestones. Gravestones were found to be the most reliable indicator of past mortality, especially in the very young populations. August through September was the highest period of mortality, probably relating to the influence of gastrointestinal illnesses killing proportionately more people during these months.^ Several indices were used to measure the biological conditions of the four towns. Reproductive potential and biological state were lowest in New London. Mansfield had the lowest depletion of potential fertility. Selection intensity was highest in New London, and lowest in Windsor and Litchfield. An inverse relationship was noted for the indices of biological state and selection intensity. Index of life expectancy results showed New London had gained the greatest mean lifetime of the towns from 1750-1799 to 1800-1849. It was suggested that New London's earlier discrepancies in infant mortality had been overcome, and thus the existing life expectancy differences had decreased. The decline in autumnal diseases, due to improved living conditions, was a major force in the mortality decline. The use of indices that measure biological change in a population was felt to be very helpful to the consideration of cause and effect relationships in human biology.^ The future of anthropological demography rests upon the continued use and refinement of the techniques of classical demography and population genetics. Only through the continued applications of these methods will come a better understanding of the mechanism of human biological change. ^