"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

28 August 2012

Vital Statistics

In the morning we built the city
In the afternoon walked through its streets
Evening saw us leaving
We wandered through our days as if they would never end
All of us imagined we had endless time to spend
We hardly saw the crossroads and small attention gave
To the landmarks on the journey from the cradle to the grave
-- "Ballad Of Accounting" by Ewan McColl

Today marks the 144th birthday of my great-great-grandfather, Dr. Charles Lawrence Siegel, though he himself only lived to be 34 years old.  Earlier this year, on the anniversary of his death, I posted a video about him on Facebook.  For those who missed it, here it is again:

His short life started me thinking about lifespans and such in my family tree.

When Pop Pop & Mom Mom were married, they were ages 24 and 16, respectively.  Mom Mom died at age 53, but Pop Pop lived to be 85 years old.  Among their children and children-in-law (my uncles and aunts), the average age when they got married is 22.5 years;  for the men it's 22.9, and the women it's 22.1.  Among the grandchildren (my cousins) who've married so far, the average age is 27.4 years old.

But I wondered, going back in time through my ancestors, how things might have changed.  So I put together a spreadsheet to work out the math.

Of my four great-grandparents, their average age when they first got married was 23.5 years.  Of my eight great-great-grandparents, their average age was 20.9.  And of the fifteen great-great-great-grandparents for whom I have dates, the average age was, surprisingly, 23.  It went back up!

Now, looking at my 3rd-great-grandparents closer, it was the men who skewed the average higher.  For them, their average age was 26.1 years, versus 19.4 for the women.  One of my 3rd-great-grandfathers, Bryan Thomas, didn't get married until 1849, when he was about 35 years old - the oldest of my ancestors.  And that was just his first marriage;  his wife died young, and Bryan married a second time five years later, to my ancestor Leonora Silence.

The youngest to get married was Mary Ann Hammon, my 2nd-great-grandmother, who was just 15 years old when she married John Edwards in 1884.

Now on to average lifespans... of my four great-grandparents, their average age 75.1 years;  three of them lived to be at least 80 years old, but Walter Dotson died fairly young at the age of 42.

Of my eight great-great-grandparents, their average age was 62.8 years.  And, as happened with the marriage age, the average for my great-great-great-grandparents rose, this time to 68.7 years.

Of all of these, Dr. Charles Siegel (from the video above) was the youngest at age 34 in 1903.  My longest-lived ancestor was Lucy Jane Swindall Dotson, my 2nd-great-grandmother, who passed away at the age of 92 in 1949.

The overall average of everyone together was 67.5 years old;  65.3 years for the men, and 69.9 years for the women.  About half died of "old age" (my mother the nurse rolls her eyes whenever that actual phrase is written on a death certificate).

I can't reliably go back to my 4th-great-grandparents for statistics, as I'm missing a few names and many dates for this generation.  Plus, one particular ancestor, Elizabeth Swindle, never married at all.  Of the thirty-two individuals, I have estimated or confirmed birth and death dates for half of them, and accurate wedding dates for only six couples.  But, for whatever it's worth, their average marriage age was 21.8 years, and average age when they died was 73.9.

In conclusion... there is no real conclusion, since it certainly doesn't prove anything.  But I thought it might be interesting.  Food for thought, I guess.  So there ya go!

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