Claim:   A photograph shows Valentina Vassilyeva posing with her 69 children.


MIXTURE:









TRUE: Valentina Vassilyeva is recorded as having given birth to 69 children.
 
FALSE: A photograph shows Valentina Vassilyeva posing with her 69 children.


Example:   [Collected via Twitter,January 2015]



 

Origins:   Valentina Vassilyeva was a Russian peasant who lived from 1707 to 1782 and reportedly gave birth to an astonishing number of children during her lifetime. The quantity of offspring attributed to her is usually claimed to be 69, a figure that

includes a whopping 17 instances of multiple births: six pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets.

Although there may be some disagreement about precisely how many children Valentina birthed, her prolific uterus has been fairly well documented. Marie M. Clay unearthed several articles from the 1800s about the woman with 69 children for her book Quadruplets and Higher Multiple Births; and while Clay admits there are some “variations to the story,” historians generally agree there is a fair amount of truth behind the claims about the unbelievable number of offspring who issued from Vassilyeva’s womb.

The Guinness Book of World Records found the claim plausible enough to name Valentina Vassilyeva as “The World’s Most Prolific Mother”:



Vassilyev, a peasant from Shuya (near Moscow), Russia, gave birth to a total of 69 children, comprising 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. The case was reported to Moscow by the Monastery of Nikolskiy on February 27, 1782. Only two of the children born to Mme. Vassilyev in the period c. 1725-65 died in infancy.

A photo purportedly showing Valentina Vassilyeva and her 69 children has been circulating on the Internet for years:

However, Vassilyeva is not the woman pictured in the viral photo displayed above. This image, which appeared in an article about polygamy published in the Utah Historical Quarterly, actually shows Joseph F. Smith, the 6th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, posing with his multiple wives and children in 1904.

Valentina Vassilyeva and her 69 children became associated with the photograph in 2012 when the web site Top 10 Lists mistakenly used the image in an article about the “10 Largest Families in the World.” Since then the photograph, along with Vassilyeva’s incredible (albeit unrelated) birthing history, has been shared on multiple blogs and web sites.

Valentina may hold the title of “The World’s Most Prolific Mother,” but her husband, Feodor Vassilyev, can boast of a larger parental achievement. The Russian peasant, who had another six sets of twins and two sets of triplets (eighteen in all) with another woman, fathered a grand total of 87 children.

Last updated:   14 January 2015