Some super-centenarians

Little girls playing, ca. 1900. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.org

Susannah Mushatt Jones, who died in Brooklyn, New York on 12 May 2016 at the advanced age of 116 years and 311 days, was (at her death) the oldest verified living person in the world. Susannah was born at Lowndes County, Alabama, on 6 July 1899, a daughter of Callie and Mary Mushatt. Her parents were African-American sharecroppers and her grandmother was an ex-slave. There have been many Americans over the years who were super-centenarians (living past their 110th birthdays), but with Susannah’s death a door in American history now closes.

She was the last American born in the nineteenth century. The history that Susannah witnessed growing up in the south, and later settling in New York in the early years of the Harlem Renaissance, could no doubt fill many volumes. She married Henry Jones in 1928, but the marriage produced no children and they were divorced in 1933.

Susannah Jones held the title as the oldest verified person in the world after the death of Jeralen Talley last June. The current oldest person in the world is not American but Italian. The title now belongs to Emma Martina Luigia Morano, who was born at Civiasco (Vercelli) in the Kingdom of Italy on 29 November 1899. She also bears the title of last verified person born in the 1800s.[1] Emma was married in 1926 to Giovanni  Martinuzzi; they separated in 1938. Emma and Giovanni only had one child, a son who died at six months. It is sad to think the last two living representatives of the 1800s will leave behind them no direct descendants. Emma Morano is in good health and resides currently in Pallanza (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola), Italy.

The second to oldest living person in the world is Violet (Mosse) Brown of Jamaica. She was born at Dunanvale, Trelawny, in British Jamaica on 10 March 1900. Violet possesses a three unique titles. She is the oldest Jamaican in recorded history; she is also the first verified super-centenarian from Jamaica; and she is Queen Victoria’s last living former subject. Violet was married to Augustus Gaynor Brown and had one daughter.

The third oldest person in the world is Nabi Tajima (田島 ナビ), who was born in the former village of Wan (now Kikai Town), Kagoshima, located on the westernmost section of Kikaijima Island in Japan on 4 August 1900. Nabi had nine children, and as of September 2015 has more than 140 living descendants, including great-great-great-grandchildren.  This really made me stop and think on my own great-great-great-grandparents. Even if one of my great-great-great-grandfathers lived to the age of 116, he would still have died seventy-four years before I was born.

Turning our attention back to the United States, the oldest American living was not born in America, and is currently the 11th oldest verified person in the world. This title goes to Goldie (Corash) Michelson, a Jewish American-Russian who was born in Russia on 8 August 1902, and immigrated to America at the age of two. Her father was a Russian doctor and sent for his family after settling in America. Goldie graduated in 1924 from Women’s College (now part of Brown University) with a degree in sociology. She later would go on to receive her master’s degree from Clark University in 1936.

The oldest verified person alive who was born in the United States is Adele Dunlap, who was born in the Clinton Hill section of Newark, New Jersey, on 12 December  1902. Adele is currently the 12th oldest living person in the world.

During my lifetime I have had the honor to know many people born in the 19th century. This group includes grandparents as well as former Major League Baseball players. It is amazing to think that Emma Morano, Violet Brown, and Nabi Tajima are the last three of that generation in the world. To have lived in three centuries is quite an amazing feat. This accomplishment will not be claimed again until 1 January 2101 when a child of my eldest daughter’s generation will become a super-centenarian, having lived in the twentieth, twenty-first, and the dawn of the twenty-second centuries.

Note

[1] Births in the nineteenth century include all those people born through 31 December 1900.

David Allen Lambert

About David Allen Lambert

David Lambert has been on the staff of NEHGS since 1993 and is the organization’s Chief Genealogist. David is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of genealogy and history. His genealogical expertise includes New England and Atlantic Canadian records of the 17th through 21st century; military records; DNA research; and Native American and African American genealogical research in New England. Lambert has published many articles in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, the New Hampshire Genealogical Record, Rhode Island Roots, The Mayflower Descendant, and American Ancestors magazine. He has also published A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries (NEHGS, 2009). David is an elected Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, Mass., and a life member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati. He is also the tribal genealogist for the Massachuset-Punkapoag Indians of Massachusetts.

6 thoughts on “Some super-centenarians

  1. My husband’s aunt will be 104 on June 28! Her father lived to be 103 11/12th, so we believe she will surpass that milestone. She is currently living in VA, in a retirement community. She is/was a concert pianist, and currently still does at least five concerts a year. I am NOT supplying her name on purpose because she doesn’t want people in her community to know just how old she is because truly she doesn’t look a day over 85!! Nor does she behave like an almost 104 year old. She is active in her community, interested in politics, and keeps in touch with her nieces and nephew. She was married but never had any children. And, I might add that she is legally blind from macular degeneration, and is a little hard of hearing. All that said, we think she is remarkable!!

  2. Nabi Tajima (to whom health and long life) and the late HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother were born on the same day, 4 August 1900.

    1. It amazing how that it is like that. And Nabi also has 2 daughters like HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother too.

  3. I am always interested in people born at the end of one century, lived through an entire century, then died in the beginning of a third century. Wish there was a database of these special centenarians.

  4. I live in a retirement home with about 500 residents, where to the best of my knowledge, the current oldest person is 104 or 105. There are really three generations here, as 60 is the minimum age, and only one of a pair needs to be that old. There are growing numbers in their early 60s, the average age is in the early 80s, and there are a handful over 100. My mother, who lived here too, died a month ago. She would have been 101 today. Four days before her death, my sister took her for their usual weekly ride; they did their typical “birding from the car,” eating sandwiches in a favorite spot while they looked at ducks. When my mother returned, she told the staff how exhausted she was. Then she said what a wonderful time she’d had, and listed the waterfowl species they’d seen! She also said how much she enjoyed seeing the wide variety of new green leaves on the trees. While her loss leaves a big hole in our lives, her attitude about observing the life around her explains a lot about why she lived so long, and so fully.

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