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The Days When "Old" Was Young
Posted by: Richard Alan McCool Date: August 15, 2001 at 08:00:03
In Reply to: Re: Van Siclen/Eastling, Exact spelling by Van of 1583

Dear Ed and Van,

Ed has said: "What is missing in the puzzle of you death record for Cornelius Van Siclen who died in March 1850 the basis for Fanny's comment in the affidavits that Cornelius Van Siclen "died at an extensive old age". Age 74 was not even considered to be extensively old in the years Fanny wrote her affidavit. Keep in mind that Fanny born in 1837 was 13 years old and probably heard from her mother Maria that Fanny's grandfather Cornelius had died. In like manner, Ferdinand was 22 when his grandfather Cornelius died. Extensively old implied ages in the 90's."

Van has replied: "Extensive old age....from the perspective of a 13 year old. Although Fanny was old when she made the statement, her memory of Cornelius was from her youth...and 74 would have been an "extensive old age". My grandfather seemed "really old" when he died. Conversely, my father didn't seem to be all that old when he died. Reality...my father lived more years, lived to be older, than my grandfather. Point of reference. I was 6 when grandfather died and 47 when father died. The difference in perspective is about the age of the observer, not the age of the deceased. "Extended old age" implies Fanny's point of reference, not that Cornelius was in his 90s."


I would offer a slightly different perspective to the question of what Fanny and Ferdinand would consider to be old age. Using the Google.Com search engine, I found the site below (AnnuityNet.Com):

http://client.annuitynetadvisor.com/about/newsletters/live.asp

This page includes a table of life expectancies during certain eras in human history, keyed to European and American populations. Citing "Human Mortality throughout History and Prehistory," by Samuel Preston, the numbers look this way:

Time Period                      Life Expectancy
Prehistoric --1400               20-30 years
1800 -- 1900                      37 years
1900 -- 2000                     49 years
2000                      For a boy born today, 73 years.
                            For a girl, 80 years.

I think this makes it obvious that we should not impose our concepts of "old age" upon our predecessors of the previous centuries. Having lived +/-74 years, Cornelius Van Siclen of Murray had doubled the expectations. Which of the three of us would not like to double their expectations for longevity right now?

We might actually have enough time to finish our genealogical research!

Richard


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