Validation of Exceptional Longevity
Extreme Longevity in a Family. A Report of Multiple Centenarians within a Single Generation
by L. Alpert, B. Desjardins, J.W. Vaupel, and T.T. Perls
[ References ]
We describe here a family with multiple centenarians within single generations. Family "P" has three centenarian siblings and one nonagenarian sibling. Such a familial pattern of extreme longevity has not been described before. We set out to validate the claims using the family reconstitution method of age verification as outlined by Wilmoth et al. (1996). Family "P" claims a 100 year-old brother and three sisters ages 102, 102 and 93 all of whom are deceased. All were Caucasian and born in Massillon, Ohio.
Skepticism concerning centenarians' reported ages was first stated by Thoms in 1873 (Thoms 1873). United States national census and social security data have long been faulted for exaggeration of ages and underestimation of centenarian mortality (Myers 1966; Rosenwaike 1968; Kannisto 1988); a problem exacerbated by the tendency of some family members to overstate their longevity (Kannisto 1988; Thatcher 1992). This concern is amplified when considering people age 110 and older ("super centenarians") or families in which there are multiple centenarians. Because the probability of encountering such individuals is so small, extra care must be taken to verify their ages (Skytthe and Jeune 1995; Jeune 1995; Bennett and Garson 1986; Medvedev 1974). For example, family reconstitution and obtaining proof of age at multiple times in the person's life has been reported for Jeanne Calment, who passed away recently at the age of 122 years (Allard et al. 1994) and for CM, a man who died recently at the age of 115 (Wilmoth et al. 1996). Because of the potential rarity of encountering families with multiple centenarians within single generations, these methods were used for the family described here.
The "P" family was first brought to our attention when a family member answered an advertisement we had placed in The Torch, a quarterly newspaper for WWI veterans. The advertisement indicated our search for centenarian sibling-pairs whom we were recruiting for a genetics study.
We used the family reconstitution method to verify age at various time points in the probands' lives. The purpose of family reconstitution is to confirm that there are no inconsistencies between the birth dates and ages of family members and that available documentation supports the ages noted. Ideally, multiple generations are investigated. The corroborating documents should represent confirmations of the date of birth and span a significant portion of the centenarian's lifetime (Wilmoth et al. 1996).
We began with the grandparents of the siblings and checked that their birth dates and marriage dates were consistent with the birth dates of their children. We then checked similar dates for the parents, the siblings and the siblings' children. Significant effort was devoted to obtaining copies of birth, church and death certificates, entries in family bibles or records, old and current passports, school records, marriage certificates, employment records, military certificates and town directory listings for different years. The local library staff where the families were based were invaluable in assisting us locate many of the materials we collected. We had unexpected success in locating entries for parents and paternal grandparents in the U.S. Federal 1870 and 1880 censuses and for parents and their children (the centenarian and nonagenarian siblings) in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 U. S. Federal Censuses. Ideally, there were multiple incidences where siblings appeared in subsequent censuses at appropriate ages. The 1870 and 1880 censuses were accessed through the Massillon, Ohio Library and the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census records were accessed at the United States Federal Archives, located in Waltham, Massachusetts. The records list names of family members alive in that year, their birth months and years, current ages, occupations, places of birth and marital status.
The pedigree, which includes the siblings and their children, and the siblings' parents and paternal grandparents is illustrated in Figure 1. Using the family reconstitution method, we considered the consistency of documentary evidence for each sibling (see the "P" Family Reconstitution). The claimed ages of the centenarian and nonagenarian siblings in Family "P" were 94 (REPS), 101 (LMPS), 103 (JGPB) and 100 (WWP).
The "P" Family Pedigree.
The "P" family is a prominent family that has lived in Massillon, Ohio, population size of 33,000, for at least four generations, thereby making the procurement of documentary evidence of age a relatively easy task. A book written about the family and published in 1855 by a publisher in Springfield, Massachusetts was loaned to us by WWP's son. A sibling's (LMPS) daughter provided us with copies of pages from the family bible which had dated hand-written entries from LMPS's father (ENP), indicating the birth dates of all of his children. There are other entries of subsequent births, marriages and deaths by LMPS and her daughter. Most of the family were or are members of the local Presbyterian church and we obtained dated church records of when individuals joined the church or moved away to join another parish. Ages were included in these records. Of note, WWP, who recently passed away, was both the oldest and the longest-standing member of the church. A 1917 town directory was located at the library which listed all of the "P" family siblings and their parents. The library's Genealogy Department provided us with copies of the birth records which were recorded by the Town Clerk between 1889 and 1909. These records were consistent with certified birth certificates obtained from the Ohio State Vital Records Department. The 1880 and 1900 U.S. Federal censuses list the siblings' father and his parents. The 1900 census indicates all of the siblings and their parents. Death certificates were obtained for all deceased siblings (JGPB is alive).
We have attempted to present here coherent and convincing evidence for accepting the veracity of the exceptional joint longevity within this family. However, if one were to consider the extreme odds of encountering families such as this, the evidence may still not be enough to prove the cases beyond a reasonable doubt. As in the case of Jeanne Calment, a great deal of energy was spent on proving her age because her case was so improbable (and still is!).
The "P" family is a prominent family (e.g. affluent, healthy living conditions) with three centenarians ages 103, 101 and 100 and a nonagenarian, age 94. What is the probability that four of eight children born between 1880 and 1890 would achieve such longevity? Since the 103 year old could have been any of the eight children and the 102 year old any of the remaining seven, and so on, and given that males and females are born at roughly similar rates, the probability should equal 8 times 7 times 6 times 5 times the average chance of males and females reaching age 103 times the average chance of males and females reaching age 102 times the average chance of males and females reaching age 100 years times the average chance of males and females reaching age 94 years. Probabilities for this birth cohort reaching various ages are available from the United States Social Security Administration. For the cohorts born between 1880 and 1899, 3.489% reached age greater than or equal to 94 years (males and females combined), 0.577% reached age 100 years, 0.262% reached age 102 years and 0.170% reached age 103 years (Bell FC, Wade AH, Goss SC. SCA 1992). These probabilities correspond closely with those calculated for similar Canadian birth cohorts. The answer is approximately 1.5 families per million families with the generation of note being born around 1880-1899. In 1890, there were 785,291 families in Ohio and in 1900, there were 944,433 families. Such odds could be consistent with "chance" if the "P" family was the only such family in Ohio.
If such clustering of extremely old siblings does not occur by chance, but rather it occurs because of common genetic and/or environmental factors, then encountering such families would be much more probable. This may be the case given that we have poor surveillance methods for the entire country, particularly in Ohio, and there may be more families, at least like the "P" family which we have not detected.
If extreme old age does run in families, as suggested by these findings, such families may be more common than previously thought. Further delineation of other similar families and perhaps searching for discrete genes and environmental factors that may be common among them may yield important determinants of extreme longevity.
We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the following for their invaluable assistance in locating information about the families highlighted in this work: The staff and volunteers from the Genealogy Department of the Massillon Public Library; Kathy Zagray, Church Secretary, Central Presbyterian Church, Massillon, Ohio; the Massillon, Ohio Town Clerk; the Shelby, Ohio Town Clerk; the Ohio State Historical Society; Toledo Lukas County Public Library, the Detroit Historical Society, the Grand Rapids, St. Petersburg and Shelby Public Libraries and the members of the "P" family.
Alzheimer's Association Darrell and Jane Phillippi Faculty Scholar Award, AARP/Andrus Foundation Research Award, and a National Institute on Aging sponsored Physician Scientist Award, AG-00294.
Notes: 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses are all U.S. Federal censuses performed in Massillon in Stark County, Ohio, and obtained from the Massillon Public Library. The 1890 census was destroyed by fire. Birth, death and marriage certificates prior to 1890 are located at the Ohio Historical Society. In 1890 and after, births were recorded in Massillon in a birth registry along with the name of the child, parents, place of birth, and the physician's name. "Family History Book" refers to the " P" family history book printed in Springfield, MA in 1869. Entries into the family bible were first made by the siblings' father, E.N.P.
|Paternal grandparents of probands||Sources of confirmation|
|E.P. (male)||born: 1822||Family Bible, Family History Book (printed 1869). He is part of the seventh generation of the "P" family.|
|at age 50||Listed in the 1870 census from Massillon, Ohio as age 50, male, white, married to E.P., lawyer, combined value of personal and real estate at 15,000, born in Massachusetts.|
|died: December 16, 1896, age 77||Family Bible and a death record from the Massillon Public Library.|
|E.P.P. (female)||born: January, 1819||Family Bible, Family History Book|
|at age 50||Listed in the 1870 census from Massillon as age 50, married to E.P., female, white, keeping house, born in New York.|
|at ages 61,81||1880 and 1900 censuses from Massillon, OH indicates E.P.P. (female) being alive at ages 61 and 81 respectively and her birthday is listed in both entries as January, 1891.|
|died: July 6, 1900, at age 81||Family Bible, death record from Massillon, Ohio (Massillon Public Library).|
|Married: April 6, 1844||Family Bible. No marriage record on file at the Ohio Historical Society.|
|Parents of probands||Sources of confirmation|
|E.N.P. (male)||born: March 12, 1852, Massillon, OH||Family Bible and Family History Book|
|at age 19||Listed in the 1870 census from Massillon as the son of E.P. and E.P., age 19, male, white, no occupation, born in Ohio.|
|at ages 26, 48, 58, 67||censuses taken after his birthday in 1880, 1900, and 1910, and before his birthday in 1920, indicate his being alive at ages 26, 48, 58, and 67 respectively.|
|Listed in Massillon 1917 and 1920 Directories living at 1426 Akron.|
|died: January 30, 1922 at age 70||Death certificate. Obituary in several newspapers. Family Bible.|
|I.M.W.P. (female)||born: June 11, 1855, Massillon, OH||Family Bible.|
|at age 22, 42, 52, 64||1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses from Massillon, OH Public Library indicates her being alive at ages 22, 42, 52, and 64 . Apparently she should only have been listed as age 63 in 1920. Her husband was listed as I.P. with children G.P. (female) and W.P. (male).|
|at age 62||Noted in Massillon 1917 Directory living at 1426 Akron|
|at age 67||Noted as alive in Massillon in her husband's obituary in 1922.|
|at age 77||A Last Will and Testament written by I.M.W.P. on June 28, 1932, age 77, stating her intention to divide her assets equally amongst her children "G (female), J (male), J (female), L.M. (female), W (male), M.H. (female) and R (female)."|
|died: May 21, 1937 at age 81||Death certificate. Obituary in newspaper. Family Bible.|
|Married: June 30, 1881||Family Bible.|
|Siblings||Sources of Information|
|M.H.P. (female)||born: July 9, 1882||Family Bible.|
|at ages 17, 27||1900 and 1910 censuses indicate her being alive at age 17 and single, and 27 and single, living with her siblings in her parents' (E.N.P. and I.M.P.) home, born in Ohio, no profession.|
|at age 40||Listed in her father's obituary as living in Farmersville, Ohio in 1922.|
|at age 55||Listed in her mother's obituary as living in Sycamore, Ohio in 1937.|
|died: 1899, at age 17||Family bible.|
|R.E.P.S. (female)||born: November 19, 1884||Family Bible.|
|at age 3||Baptized at Central Presbyterian Church in Massillon on October 14, 1888.|
|at age 11||Confirmed at Central Presbyterian Church on June 2, 1895.|
|at age 15||1900 census from Massillon, OH indicates her being alive at age 15 and single, with birth date listed as Nov. 1884, living with her parents, E.N.P. and I.P., and her siblings.|
|at age 18||Noted in Massillon High School Yearbook, 1904.|
|at age 37||Listed in her father's obituary as living in Cleveland, Ohio in 1922.|
|at age 53||Listed in her mother's obituary as living in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.|
|at age 86||Moved from Ohio to Wellesley, MA with her husband to live with her daughter, H.R.G.; H.R.G. listed in 1970 Registrars' List of Residents in Wellesley, MA with her husband, M.G. (born 1901), and her sons, A.G. and E.G., born in 1947 and 1948.|
|died: March 11, 1979 at age 94||Family Bible, obituary, Death certificate from Wellesley, MA. Lists her as age 94, residence as 898 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA, the daughter of E.N.P. and I.M.W.P., and the widow of H.V.S.|
|A.D.P. (female)||born: Oct. 14, 1886||Family Bible|
|died: Nov. 11, 1894, at age 8||Family Bible, Death record from Massillon Public Library ("age 8, female, died at 1426 Akron Street"). Also listed in death record in Massillon Health Department (Massillon Public Library).|
|J.A.P. (male)||born: July 9, 1888||Family Bible.|
|at age 13||1900 census from Massillon, OH indicates his being alive at age 11 and single, male, white, with birth date listed as July, 1888, living with parents E.N.P. and I.P. and his siblings.|
|at age 34||Listed in 1917 Massillon Directory, living at 1426 Akron as a "draftsman."|
|at age 39||Listed in his father's obituary as living in Mansfield, Ohio, in 1922.|
|died: 1965, at age 77||Death certificate August 7, 1965.|
|G.C.P. K. (female)||born: June 7, 1890||Family Bible, birth record from Massillon Public Library (born at 120 Akron, lists parents, physician: her uncle, A.P.P.)|
|at ages 10, 19, 28||Census taken after her birthday in 1900 and before her birthday in 1910 and 1920, indicate her being alive at age 10, 19 and 28 ("single, female, white, born June 1890, living with her parents, E.N.P. and I.P., born in Ohio, with no profession").|
|at ages 27, 30||Listed in 1917 and 1920 Massillon Directories, living at 1426 Akron|
|at age 32||Listed in her father's obituary as living in Massillon, Ohio in 1922.|
|at age 47||Terminated membership at the Central Presbyterian Church on March 30, 1938. Listed in her mother's obituary as living in Cleveland, Ohio.|
|died: January 30, 1979 at age 88||Obituary. Death certificate from the Ohio State Vital Records Department.|
|L.M.P.S. (female)||born: February 6, 1893||Family Bible, birth record from Massillon Public Library (born at 130 Akron, lists parents, physician: her uncle, A.P.P.).|
|at ages 7, 17||Census prior to her birthday in 1900 and after her birthday in 1910 indicate her being alive at ages 7 and 17 ("single, female, white, with birth date listed as February, 1893 living with parents E.N.P. and I.P")|
|at age 24||Listed in 1917 Massillon Directory, living at 1426 Akron. Married August 4, 1917 to H.S.|
|at ages 25 and 27||Gave birth to children P.H. September 23, 1918 and M.A., February 21, 1920.|
|died: August 7, 1994 at age 102||Death certificate from the Ohio State Vital Records Department.|
|J.G.P.B. (female)||born: July 16, 1894||Family Bible, birth record from Massillon Public Library (at 142 Akron, lists parents, physician: her uncle, A.P.P.)|
|at ages 5, 15||1900 and 1910 censuses from Massillon, OH indicate her being alive at age 5 and 15 ("single, female, white, with birth date listed as July, 1894 living with parents E.N.P. and I.P., born in Ohio").|
|at age 12||Confirmed, Central Presbyterian Church on October 12, 1906.|
|at age 14||The Senior Yearbook of Massillon High School, 1911. Freshman enrollment includes her name, "J.P.."|
|at age 17||The Senior Yearbook of Massillon High School, 1914.|
|at age 23||Listed in 1917 Massillon Directory, living at 1426 Akron|
|at age 28||Living in Detroit, MI per city directory, Detroit Historical Society|
|at age 37||Terminated her membership in the Central Presbyterian Church on December 4, 1931 to join the Westminster Church in Youngstown, Ohio.|
|at age 43||Listed in 1937 city directory as a stenographer, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Grand Rapids Library|
|at age 71||Listed in 1965 St. Petersburg, Fl directory, St. Petersburg library|
|at age 86||Listed in 1980 Toledo, Ohio directory, Toledo Lukas County Public Library|
|at age 100||A July 19, 1994 article in newspaper celebrates her 100th birthday.|
|died: August, 1997 at age 103||Confirmed with nursing home medical record|
|W.W.P. (male)||born: November 15, 1896||Family Bible, birth record from Massillon Public Library (at 140 Akron, lists parents, physician: his uncle, A.P.P.). Birth certificate from the Ohio Department of Health.|
|at ages 3, 13, 23||1900 , 1910 and 1920 censuses from Massillon, OH indicates his being alive at age 3, 13, and 23 ("single, white, male, born in Ohio, November, 1896, living with parents E.N.P. and I.P. and siblings)|
|at age 9||Confirmed at Central Presbyterian Church on October 12, 1906.|
|at age 21||Listed in 1917 Massillon Directory, living at 1426 Akron as a student. Enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 21 on August 30, 1918. Private at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Described as a bookkeeper with gray eyes, dark hair, fair complexion, and 5'9" in height. Also listed as single.|
|at age 22||Honorably discharged from the Army on November 16, 1918.|
|at age 24||Listed in the 1920 Massillon directory, living at 1426 Akron as a student|
|at age 26||Listed in his father's obituary as living in Massillon in 1922.|
|at age 27||Married to M.L.P. in 1923 (no subsequent children, she died in 1935)|
|at age 39||Listed in 1935 Massillon directory.|
|at age 40||Remarried 1937. Listed in his mother's obituary as living in Massillon in 1937|
|at ages 40 and 42||Children, E.P.L.P., born November 14, 1937 and P.L.P.D., born January 26, 1939|
|at age 89||U.S. Passport for W.W.P., date of birth November 15, 1896, issued on January 29, 1986.|
|Died: age 100, July 24, 1997||Informed by family, newspaper obituary.|
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