Tales from the lighter side of family history.
All in the Family March Winners: Golden Years
Some of you are carrying around great genes. In a time when death lurked around every corner, your ancestors outlasted infectious diseases, accidents, food shortages, primeval medical care and the arduousness of daily life to achieve astounding feats of longevity. For sharing their family stories, these folks win our Family Tree Essentials CD.
My grandfather’s sister Gladys Pearl Johnson was born March 24, 1897, in Staples, Ontario. At age 96, she was still driving her car to the mall. At her 100th birthday party, she said to my mom and me, “Just give me a few moments and I’ll remember you, I’m sure.” She was still “with it” in 1999, when she passed away at age 102.
Cathy Maurice » Windsor, Ontario
My husband’s grandmother Anna Roelfs Knussman, born in 1894, lived to 101. She lived out her days on the family farm near Trivoli, Ill. After Grandpa died in 1966, friends and family provided her transportation. When asked why she never learned to drive, she’d always respond, “I can drive. I drive
Sue Rusch » Canton, Ill.
My great-aunt Agnes Van Broekhoven, born in Dirksland, Holland, died at 103. She immigrated to America in 1891 with her parents and six of her nine siblings. Aunt Agnes became a nurse and in 1916, married George Lincoln Broadrup in Louisville, Ky. They moved to Hawaii in 1918, where Dr. Broadrup was a government physician. Aunt Agnes worked alongside him and raised their daughter. Aunt Agnes passed away May 2, 1989, in Stanton, Neb.
Dolores Sabia » Carlstadt, NJ
My mother, Wilma Unruh, died on Christmas Day 2009. She’d reached the age of 101. Born in 1908 to a Kansas farm family and married during the Great Depression, my mother received much satisfaction from turning something others might throw away into something useful. She lived the motto, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
Anna Beth Birky » Newton, Kan.
My great-great-grandfather’s half-sister Elizabeth Jacobs Young Quinton lived to 115. One-quarter Choctaw, she was born in Mississippi in 1825 and moved to Indian Territory in 1839. Widowed during the Civil War, she remarried and moved to Quinton, Okla., which was named after her family. She died in 1941. Stories of her life appear in the Indian-Pioneer Papers <digital.libraries.ou.edu/whc/pioneer> and the Chronicles of Oklahoma <digital.library.okstate.edu/chronicles>.
Melissa Cryer » Fort Stewart, Ga.
My oldest relative was my great-aunt and surrogate grandmother Edith Quimby. After her husband died, she built a camp on the hill behind our house in Gilead, Maine, where she lived in the summer. She survived tuberculosis and a heart attack to reach 105; she died a month and two days before her 106th birthday.
Mary Tyler » Gilead, Maine
Ellen Copeland was born in 1870 and traveled to Nebraska in a covered wagon in 1873. Three of her sisters died of diphtheria in 1879. She married William McKenney, ran a bakery and served as poultry editor for the Nebraska Farmer. She even saw the beginning of the Space Age. She died one day after her 104th birthday.
Margaret Frost » Raymond, Wash.
The oldest member of our family was Aunt Emma Haley Fredrikson, who lived to 108. She was born June 20, 1893, in Peshtigo, Wis., and died Nov. 27, 2001, in Niagara, Wis. She was a farmer’s wife who worked hard all her life. When she died, her mind was still sharp as a tack. I enjoyed listening to her many stories.
Elaine Smithers » Pewaukee, Wis.
My third-great-grandmother Eva Deane Arthur Barnum was born Dec. 29, 1803, in Chard, England, and passed away Oct. 20, 1904, in Victoria, British Columbia, shortly after her 100th birthday party. In between, she married twice, gave birth to nine children, and traveled across the Isthmus of Panama to establish a farm on Lopez Island, Washington Territory, in her mid-70s.
Cathy Morgan » Mandeville, La.
My great-aunt Dora turned 102 this June, two days after my 34th birthday. She lives at home with an aide, walks with a walker and recently danced at my wedding. She bakes biscotti, loves macaroni and provides priceless stories and missing information about our family. She never married and attributes her long life to not being “bothered by a man.”
Chloe’ Yelena » Ann Arbor, Mich.
My great-aunt Lola Jaworsky Kaiser lived to 107. She was born in 1898 in Russia, where her father worked overseeing the lands of Czar Nicholas II. They immigrated to Clinton, Okla., in 1911 and celebrated their first night here with homemade ice cream. Despite the sweet start, life was soon difficult. Aunt Lola told amazing stories about life in Russia and during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression.
Rebecca Pittman » Chicago
Great-great-grandfather Frederick Ferdinand Krukow was born in Stettin, Germany, June 5, 1834. He brought his wife and five youngest children to the United States in the 1880s. They settled in Clinton, Iowa, where Fred was buried on his 100th birthday in 1934. At least three of his children inherited the longevity gene: Charlie lived to 98, Minnie died at 101 and Augusta was 104.
Larry McNabb » Cedar Rapids, Iowa
In 1995, as I left my branch library, I saw a small, lone bookcase. Going over to it, I found Alexandra Dumas’ Queen Margot, a book set during the time of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of thousands of French Huguenots in 1572. I checked it out and read it out of historical interest.
Over Christmas that year, I visited cousins, whom I hadn’t seen in 35 years, in Conway, SC. One cousin told me that our name might not be Cooper. “I was looking at a book in the library, and it might be Bois-something,” he said. That was all the information he had.
The next summer, my mother and stepfather met a man from Conway whose son had spent 15 years researching the family lineage of his wife, whose maiden name was Cooper. She had French Huguenot ancestry. From this research, I learned that my father, a sharecropper’s son and a master woodworker, was related to some prominent Huguenot families of Charleston, SC.
After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, apparently, the sons of Henri Boisselier (bois means “wood”) went to England, where they came to be known as Cooper (an occupational surname meaning “barrel-maker”).
Since that time, I’ve studied the history and shared it as a presenter at conferences and with my French students. One-third of American presidents have French Huguenot roots. I wear the Huguenot cross, proud of the sacrifices, faith and courage of these persecuted ancestors.
Carolyn L. Cooper » Sanford, NC
You’ll Remember His Name
A few years ago I was at a 70th birthday party of a colleague. Many people from her college and high school days were there, none of whom I’d ever met.
Ten 70-somethings sat at my table, and the conversation eventually turned to family history. Soon I decided to add a bit: “Clearly the only unusual thing I can add is that I’m sure I’m the only one here with two ancestors named Hate Evil Nutter.” The woman sitting right next to me responded, “Then I guess we must be related, Jean, for I do, too.”
Later, we exchanged e-mails. One of us was from the family’s female line and the other from the male line. And that was truly the name my ancestors (a grandfather and grandson).
Jean E. Miller » Arlington, Vt.
From the August 2010 Family Tree Magazine