Waiting for the cold spring to turn warm, I was thinking ahead to my mother’s birthday, on May 10, which I always remember as a wonderful spring day with the lilacs in full bloom. That got me to thinking about how old my mother would have been – I thought at first it would be her 110th birthday, but it is only the 109th.
That got me thinking about generational spacing. As a rule, we use 25 years as the average when estimating the number of generations over a span of time, but, of course, human beings are never average.
Mom, Lois, was 40 when I was born. She was 33 when my oldest brother was born and 34 with the second, so her average is around 35 (children delayed first by the Depression and then by the Second World War).
Mom’s Mom, Alice, was 26 when she was born; her Mom, Ida, was 23; her Mom, Eliza, 22; her Mom, Louise, 27; and her Mom, Eliza Marie, 22 (which is as far back as I can go on my umbilical line). For the seven generations in this line between me and Eliza Marie, the average generation is about 23. Clearly, Mom was atypical for that side of the family. Oddly, though, she had more in common with her in-laws.
My Dad, Roger, was only 36 when I was born (Mother met him while he was still in high school and she was the principal’s secretary). His mother, Agnes, was 31 when he was born, the middle of three children. Agnes’ mother, Mary, was 37 when she was born, the oldest of five children of a late marriage (the last born when Mary was 46). Mary’s mother, Hannah, was 38 when she was born, and that is as far back as I can go in that direction. So for the five generations between Hannah and me, the average is about 36½ years.
Mother’s father, Ed, was 26 when she was born; his mother, Clara, was 29; her mother, Clara, again, was 25; and her mother, another Clara, was 31 (there are more generations, but I only have the 5-generation chart in front of me). So for this line between me and the third Clara, the average is about 30 years.
Dad’s father, Will, was 30 when he was born; Will’s mother, Susan, was 33 (but he was the seventh of ten children). Susan’s mother, another Susan, was 38 when she was born, and that is where my knowledge of that line ends. The average between me and Susan #2 is about 35.
Turning the exercise around, here is a chart of ages at death of three generations of my family (using the Ahnentafel numbering system):
2: Roger (97), 3: Lois (99½)
4: Will (85), 5: Agnes (93)
6: Ed (81), 7: Alice (82)
8: William (86), 9: Susan (87)
10: William (56 – died of brown lung disease from working in tapestry mills), 11: Mary (68)
12: Edward (63 – died of blood poisoning), 13: Clara (97)
14: Henry (64 – died of cancer), 15: Ida (81)
Just another way of looking at statistics.