Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Age - Depends on your vantage point

52nd Carnival of Genealogy -- As family historians, we take time to carefully mark the birth dates of our forebearers. We print out family tree charts including this all-important data. We make it a point to note at what age family members have married, had children and passed away.

Take some time to look over the data that you have collected on members of your family tree, and share a story of age with us for the upcoming edition of the carnival. Do you have a member of the family who went to work to support the family while still of a tender age? Someone who accomplished something that was typically done by others beyond his or her years? A couple who married young? A couple with disparate ages? A family member who accomplished something of note at an advanced age? How about family members that lived many years, outlasting many of their relatives and friends?

With the understanding that "age is often a state of mind", share your family story about someone whose story stands out because of their age, either young or old.

Do you remember when you were a child or even a young adult and you thought that 40 or 50 was old or that if someone reached the age of 70 that they were ancient? Well as I creep or perhaps I should say gallop, virtually, towards 60, my idea of old has changed. Many of my friends are in their 60s, 70s, 80s+. Most have good minds and still remain as active as they can.

When I look at my family tree, I recall few that reached the age of 90 or greater. According to the chart produced by Brother's Keeper for those individuals for whom I have both birth and death dates, the largest number had a lifespan of 70 to 79, followed by 60 to 69 and followed by 80 to 89. I was actually surprised by the number in the 80 to 89 age group.

I haven't figured out how to get a name list from Brother's Keeper for those who died after 90, or statistics of names from Legacy 7 or Master Genealogist, I am going to pull a few names that I can recall.

Those who live beyond 90 years will have experienced many changes from their early years until their passing.

Several siblings of my maternal grandmother lived beyond 90. 

James Johnston ( 1879 - 1973)

From an article in a Manitoulin newspaper, 1969, [no dates or name of newspaper cited] just after his 90th birthday: He remembered the log cabin in which he was born and lived for some years in the community of Big Lake Settlement. He attended school at Silver Bay. He had a farm of his own about 1 1/4 miles from his father's and he and his wife lived there. As a young man, Jim worked sometimes in the bush making railroad ties, and occasionally he helped out at MacDonald's Mills at Sandfield, where his father owned shares. There were two mills, both a flour and a saw mill, both operated by water power. He used to work there mostly on Saturdays which were chopping days, but he usually worked at home.

When their girls were ready for high school, they decided to let the girls live with their grandparents Hutchinson nearer Mindemoya. However it proved too much for the elderly grandparents so they all moved there. Jim kept his farm and travelled back and forth for some years. Around 1954, he sold the farm and used his spare time for gardening. He recalled an experience in 1907 when cattle were taken to Goodwood, Ontario. As a boy, one of his thrills was to get a new straw tick after the threshing each fall.

Walter Lloyd Johnston (1900 - 1996)
Walter began his early days on Manitoulin but moved to Southern Ontario with his work in the bank. In his later years, my mother and I visited him in Windsor. I thought I took photos but unfortunately there was no film in the camera.

My maternal grandfather had a sibling who lived to have her 91st birthday.

Cora Love - Hopkins - McGill (1881-1972)
My great aunt Cora lived until she was 91 years old. She outlived both her husbands. She raised a family of five. She was a sister of my great Aunt Margaret of whom I have written about before.

Both my father and mother had a sibling that lived long lives.

My mother's eldest sister, Bessie, lived until she was 93 (1910 - 2004). She was one week shy of her 94th birthday. She was 11 years older than my mother but lived 8 years longer than her. Although, I did not live close to her, I did visit her in her later years. She was very interested in family history. Over the years, I did ask her many questions. Of course, I wish I had asked her more. After she left the Manitoulin Island, she went to Toronto to train as a psychiatric nurse. She worked hard all her life. She raised three children. When her husband retired as a milkman they moved out to a farm. What amazed me about my aunt was her great memory and the details she could remember about everyone. She remembered what you like to eat. She would apologize for not having skim milk for me but she would always prepare a delicious meal. 

Recently, my dad's older sister died at almost 102 years. Ivy Ella (1906-2008) had a grand celebration for her 100th birthday back in 2006. My sister and I attended. She didn't recognize many of us who were there but she knew it was her special day. She had raised a large family. Her husband died in 1990 after having been married 60 years. Ivy was 10 years older than my father and outlived him by 18 years. She and my dad were the short ones in the family.

I thought she might have been the one who lived the longest in my family tree. There is a person who may have lived longer than her. I note in my files that James Edward Johnston, born 29 June 1884 on Manitoulin Island, according to my aunt Bessie mentioned above, lived to 102 1/2. The last mention I have of him in a source is the obituary of his sister Eleanor in 1928. James Edward Johnston lived in Turin, Alberta. He and his wife had six children. That is all I know about him.

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