Friday, January 19, 2018

52 Ancestors: Week 3: Longevity

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was created by Amy Johnson Crow and is a series of weekly prompts to inspire genealogists and family historians to think and write about an ancestor and then share it online. The theme for Week 3 is "Longevity".

80 year-old Jane Fonda thinks perhaps the most important revolution happening today is the “longevity revolution”. In her book "Prime Time" Jane Fonda writes,
"... a revolution has occurred within the last century - a longevity revolution. Studies show that, on average, thirty-four years have been added to human life expectancy, moving it from an average of forty-six years to eighty! This addition represents an entire second adult lifetime, and whether we choose to confront it or not, it changes everything, including what it means to be human." (Source: Jane Fonda; "Prime Time" Preface; xi)

I started to review the longevity of my ancestors to see if any of them had lived past 100 years and sadly, I did not find one. The oldest ancestor that I found was my 3rdgreat grandfather Denis Moynahan who lived ninety-eight years followed by his father (my 4th great-grandfather) Matthew Moynahan who lived to ninety years. 

For my female ancestors, my paternal grandmother Rhea (Coughlin) Moynahan had a longevity of ninety-two years followed by my maternal grandmother Dorothy (Moreland) Creighton who lived to be ninety-one years.

In terms of longevity, I stumbled upon a Kerryman who lived to 122 years and I so enjoyed his obituary that I am adding it here:

In Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, died on the 27th Feb, Timothy Sweeny, aged 122 years. 

Mr. Sweeny was born in the year 1737, in Carrhan, parish of Ardfert, county Kerry, Ireland, and emigrated to this country in 1837, being then one hundred years old. The subject of this notice was never known to have had an hours sickness, even up to the very day of his death, but was always remarkably stout and healthy, having the full use of all his faculties to the last, with a delicacy of hearing and a quickness of perception that was really miraculous in one who had journeyed so far beyond the allotted bounds of earthly existence. 

His last day on earth was spent, as usual, at the genial fireside of his daughter, Mrs. Nolan, surrounded by admiring and affectionate grandchildren, and nothing occurred to warn them that in the sleep of the coming night the patriarch was to sink silently and at once into the deeper slumber of the grave. 

To "to sink silently and at once into the deeper slumber of the grave" is exactly how my 2nd great grandfather Jeremiah Moynahan (1837-1922) passed as well. Jeremiah "was about as usual during the day and did not complain of any ailment and retired at 8 o'clock that night. About 10, when Mr and Mrs Jobin (his daughter and husband) retired, they looked into his room and were surprised that he slept away without making a struggle."

Below is a list of my maternal and paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, 2nd and 3rd great-grandparents and their longevities.

Dennis Moynahan 1787-1888

My 3rd great-grandfather is the longest living ancestor in my family tree. Below is a certified copy of his Certificate of Death that I received from the Detroit Department of Health in 1988.

My 3rd great-grandfather Denis Moynahan's Death Certificate

The Men
(Paternal and Maternal Ancestors)
  • 98 years: Denis Moynahan (1787-1885) My 3rd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 90 years: Matthew Moynahan (1770-1860) My 4th great grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 85 years: Jeremiah Moynahan (1837-1922) My 2nd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 84 years: Martin Broderick (1831-1915) My 2nd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 81 years: James Henry Annal (1849-1930) My 2nd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 79 years: William Henry Coughlin (1872-1952) My great-grandfathe (Blog Link)
  • 74 years: Ernest Moynahan (1900-1974) My grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 72 years: Charles Moreland (1858-1930) My 2nd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 69 years: Frederick Creighton (1907-1976) My grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 67 years: John Moynahan (1866-1933) My great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 65 years: Samuel Tomlin (1851-1916) My 2nd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 63 years: James Annal (1813-1876) My 3rd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 63 years: Charles D. Creighton (1846-1910) My 2nd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 60 years: John Moreland (1880-1940) My great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 48 years: William Alfred Curd (1862-1911) My 2nd great-grandfather (Blog Link)
  • 27 years: Charles R. Creighton (1884-1911) My great-grandfather (Blog Link)
The Women 
 (Paternal and Maternal Ancestors)
  • 92 years: Rhea Coughlin (1902-1992) My grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 91 years: Dorothy Moreland (1909-2000) My grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 91 years: Mary Broderick (1869-1960) My great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 85 years: Mary Brennan (1841-1926) My 2nd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 79 years: Elizabeth (Betsy) Wylie (1813-1892) My 3rd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 74 years: Mary Hess (1853-1927) My 2nd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 71 years: Mary Hussey (1842-1913) My 2nd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 69 years: Elizabeth Annal (1884-1953) My great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 66 years: Emily Nickerson (1851-1917) My 2nd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 61 years: Effie Tomlin (1886-1947) My great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 57 years: Jane Storey Dewer (1814-1871) My 3rd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 45 years: Dawn Creighton (1936-1981) My mother (Blog Link)
  • 44 years: Mary Ann Steinbrum (1829- 1873) My 3rd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 43 years: Catherine Power (1856-1899) My 2nd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 41 years: Jane Ann Wellard (1866-190) My 2nd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 36 years: Agnes Bell Hind (1852-1888) My 2nd great-grandmother (Blog Link)
  • 29 years: Florence Curd (1886-1915) My great-grandmother (Blog Link)
My Grandparent Tree

Jane Fonda's reminds us that thirty-four years have been added to human life expectancy!  What a gift we have in our hands that the majority of our ancestors did not!
"We have not added decades to life expectancy by simply extending old age; instead, we have opened up a space partway through the life course, a second and different kind of adulthood that precedes old age, and as a result every stage  of life is undergoing change" (Source: Social Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson; Composing a Further Life", New York: Knopf, 2010 p.12)
How will you make use of this gift?


  1. G'day Cindi,
    What an interesting post with some fantastic information we would probably not include in our normal family history writings. Loved the chart of how longevity has changed over the years.

    But I was most intrigued as to the emigration of a 100 year old Irish man - I assume it was to be with his daughter who must also have lived to a ripe old age.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to post your comments here and I agree! To emigrate at 100 years of age! That was surprising to me too!