Longevity of our Ancestors

A lot of people seem to think our ancestors lived to be abut 35 but this is largely based on massively high infant mortality. I have come across a lot of people who lived to be al east twice that, and occasional citings of centenarians, usually in country villages. But I think this one takes the biscuit so far. This is from News from the English Countryside:

“We learn from Abbey Laddercost [I can find this on no map], in Cumberland, that a woman called Jane Forester, who lives in that parish, is now in the 165th year of her age. when Cromwell beseiged the city of Carlisle, 1645, she can remember that a horse’s head sold for 2s6d before the garrison surrendered. At the martyrdom of Charles I she was 19 years of age. At Brampton, about 6 years ago, she made oath, before the commissioners in a Chancery suit, to have known an estate, ter right of which was then disputed, to have been enjoyed by he ancestors of the present heir 101 years. she hath an only daughter living, aged 103. [which means she had her when she was 61!] And, we are further informed, that there are 6 women now living in the same parish where she resides, the younger of whom is 99 years of age. – Cambridge Chronicle, 1794

Sounds like a place where there were few men. No wonder I can’t find int on a map.

“In the small parish of Tibshelf … which does not contain 100 houses, there are now living betwixt 70 and 80 persons who are more than 60 years old, amongst whom there are 4 nearly 100 each, 18 betwixt 80 and 90 – and 22 above 70; a circumstance which perhaps cannot be equalled in this kingdom.- the Derby Mercury 1797

Try doing the maths on this one:

There are now living in perfect health at Soulby, near Braugh under Stanmore, in Westmoreland, 2 brothers and a sister, Matthew, Robert and Anne Bousfield, whose united ages amount to 315 years. Robert, the youngest ‘tho 102, is gamekeeper to the Earl of Thanet and will engage to kill 7 shots out of 9.- Chester Chronicle 1792

“At Newmarket, a hearty veteran, 94 years of age, attended the meeting for promoting Mr Dundas’s plan of defence, with a javelin on his shoulder, and signed his name without the use of spectacles. – Nottingham Journal, 798. This was when the French were threatening to invade, so he makes ‘Dad’s Army’a bunch of youngsters.

And here’s a woman who may have a record for producing descendants:

At a village near Shaftesbury, a respectable matron resides, aged 90, who is mother, grandmother, great and great great grandmother to upwards of 300 children, whose ages, added to hers, mount to upwards of 5,600 years, and what is more remarkable, there are not more than 20 of her posterity reside at more tan 4 miles distant from the house her own children were born in, the greatest part of whom live in one manor, and milk upwards of 1,000 cows. Till within these few years she resided on the same farm where all her children were born (and one of her sons still occupies it) and made it a constant rule to dine all her sons and sons-in-law, daughters and daughters-in-law on Old Christmas Day; and the day after to have all the grandchildren, great grandchildren&c. – The Hull Packet, 1800


6 thoughts on “Longevity of our Ancestors

  1. Just finished reading Ian Mortimer’s “Time Traveller’s guide to Elizabethan England” and he makes the same comment, that the age averages are massively skewed by infant mortality. Records he’s found from Elizabethan times suggest that folk were living a lot longer (well into ’60s), and had a good chance of surviving well into adulthood if they got past childhood and managed to avoid epidemics.

    Was surprised to discover how many people managed to survive the plague, but didn’t know that there was a more serious flu epidemic in the C16th than the equivalent Spanish flu outbreak post World War 1.


    • Thanks for this. Not heard of the 16th century plague. Details? The effect may have been aggravated by cold weather or famine. Smallpox seems to have been the really big one, never gets a mention.


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