Hundred Year – Olds Give the Genealogist a Long Life: Centenarians Abound!

Most of the ancestors we search for in the 20th century didn’t live to be 100. There were maybe 60 or 70 years of their
life’s records to find. Nowadays, with more centenarians than ever–and even supercentenarians–the genealogist has lots more to do.

If any genealogist has been reading the obituaries or even the sports pages, you’ll see that centenarians abound.

Every genealogist will want to know that the most senior verified-aged American man died this week at age 110, according to Illinois’ Rockford Register Star.  It was Mr. C. Conrad Johnson who was born in Sweden and lived in Rockford, Illinois. According to a gerontology research firm cited, there are still several American women alive with unverified old ages that rival that of Mr. Johnson. These people are sometimes called supercentenarians for living to and beyond 110 years.

Just last week, The New York Times sports pages reported on Evelyn Elliott, a 107-year old football fanatic who has been rooting for the Buffalo Bills team for many decades. In the local paper of this genealogy researcher, there are centenarians listed daily in the obits.

This genealogist knew something was up a few years ago, when I saw that the birthday card section was carrying cards (and not just one!) for your 100 year-old birthday wish. It was in 1983 that Willard Scott began sending TV wishes to the very unique 100 year olders.

It’s been a growing trend. In analysis of the 2010 census, 53,364 Americans were over 100 years old. Most ( approximately 80%) are women. Entertainer and comedian Leslie Townes “Bob” Hope, (b. May 29, 1903, d. July 27, 2003) was one of the approx 20% guys who made it.

What does this mean for the genealogist? It means work, and lots of it.

An increasing percentage of the population is now living past 100. This, they say, will continue to continue.

OK, genealogist: Consider that according to National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Reports and infoplease, the average life expectancy of people both male and female, black and white combined was:

  • 59.7 years in 1930
  • 68.2 years in 1950
  • 78.7 years in 2010

You will now know that we’ve been adding many pages and more documents to the family history research charts and many years of work for the genealogy researcher.

Think of all those many men who died what we now call young in the 1950s  from the sudden heart attack and the women who died from whoknowswhat. Today, with America’s wonder drugs, better food, less smoking, our seniors are living longer. By the way, most of the centenarians alive are in America…

For the genealogist, this means our seniors will live through more recordings of the census. They will have more medical records. They will have more wives or husbands and, therefore, more marriage certificates. They may have more homes with deeds and mortgages to be found. They will have more photographs to collect or sort through. They may even have sports statistics to find. They have on line documents such as Facebook pages and TV clips.

There probably won’t be more military service records, although the Veterans Administration hospital, pension and awards documents may be plenty. They likely won’t have so many more religious ceremonies (maybe a wedding or two and some vow renewals?). They certainly will not have an increase in burials since it is one plot per person. They may have a duplicate plot if they change where they are going…but that’s another story we will be doing next week!

The task for the genealogist increases because of the sheer volume of records for another 20,30,40 years. But if these people are living into today’s world, a bunch more of these records will be available on line.

So, YES! It is a blessing to have our moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and cousins live longer. Every genealogist knows the additional blessings of a real live person brings for the genealogy researcher in us:

  • A brain you get to pick.
  • More in-person interviews.
  • Another person to verify family stories.
  • More stories you get to record and keep.
  • A memory that just might recall who it is in those black and white pix that no one recognizes.
  • A person who may be able to divulge big secrets because everyone else isn’t around to get angry at them…

It is a whole new world at 100 years. Celebrate it, genealogist! Quickly!

A professional genealogist from RecordClick will document the seniors and everyone else in your family for you. We know the process, what to look for, what to ask and where to get the information and documents.