53 Years and Counting
Updated: Feb 18, 2018
Week 3: This week’s inspiration for the 52 Ancestors blog is “Longevity,” something I’ve never really thought much about in genealogy. Now I realize how little I knew about how long my ancestors lived. How could I get my arms around family longevity? Maybe there was something interesting to discover ...
I was pretty sure the genealogy database I use would have a tool I could use. Sure enough, several options came in handy. The first was the “problem search” tool which is meant to identify data with issues, like people who marry before they are born. I had no idea if anyone in the family lived to be say, older than 100, so I set that as my upper bound, to identify the "problem." Sure enough, one person (John Bloom, 1772 – 1885) popped up. My database said he died at 112 years old. Some quick checking of my sources and an online visit to Find-A-Grave soon set me straight on this. John died in 1855, not 1885. Ugh. One of my sources contained a mistake and I was set straight by John's tombstone. (Themselves often in error!). Thus, lesson learned on the value of RootsMagic "problem search."
Determined, I tried again and came up with only one ancestor who lived to be older than 100; Bartholomew Thatcher, a Hunterdon County, New Jersey ancestor, who lived to be 101. Then I set the cut-off at 90 years old and discovered another 21 ancestors. This was out of a total number of 442 people for whom I had ages at death. Amazingly, I learned that slightly less than 5% of my ancestors lived to be 90 or older. A pretty exclusive group! The over-80's were a bit better; 21% lived to over 80 and a robust 42% made it to 70 years or above. Today the average life expectancy is about 78 years so the odds are in the family's favor.
My longest living ancestors, hands down, were from Hunterdon County, New Jersey; mostly sturdy German stock with a tough Scotsman thrown in. On the other side of the coin, my "average ancestor" only lived to be 53 years old which makes me feel I'm edging toward methuselah.
 I happen to use RootsMagic, since the demise/sell-off of Family Tree Maker in 2015.
 These calculations are inaccurate in that I did not separate out my direct lines, but close enough. Also, there is no correction for increased life expectancy over the years.
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