Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dating Your Centenarian - Ancestor's Real Age

How Old Was She?

As genealogists we come across our fair share of centenarians in documentation or from family folklore. Ancestors often were uncertain of their age. Ages varied from one to twenty years, or more if the person was well preserved. And usually when they were eligible for social security they struggled to prove their true age after years of “I don't quite remember” or their typical response to age: “about xxx years old.” Age was often guessed based on national events, or a family memory: “right before/after the war,” “I had the baby when I was about 17 and the baby is now about 12,” “President Cleveland was in office.”

Every once in a while the family of the Centenarian* supported their folklore through a family bible, or an official document, but it wasn't always clear how age was verified before the social security days. For Mary E. Strader (in the newspaper article above) her school records were used to establish her birth year as 1866. This was proof enough for social security eligibility, and her becoming a Centenarian. For more about Mary E. Strader: and

Mary E. Strader’s letter from the President of the U.S.A. has long been misplaced, but the article above is still a precious family memory. Plus, although the signed letter was cherished by all, it is said that a signed Centenarian Presidential congratulation was less about proving longevity and age, and more of a celebration of life experiences.

If you or your family member would like a signed Centenarian congratulation note from a President, send a request two months in advance to:
The White House
Attn: Greetings Office
Washington, D.C. 20502-0039
Or fax to: 202-395-1232

Be sure to include the complete name as you wish it to appear (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc), home address, exact birthday, age, and telephone number.

If you have a Centenarian in your family, you may also wish to visit Live to 100 and Beyond, National Centenarian Awareness Project, a blog dedicated to centenarians as role models:

* Centenarian is purposely capitalized to show proper respect to the persons who have achieved.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers

Reprint of original post Centenarian Presidential Greeting, Celebrating One Hundred;  18 Feb 2010; a3Genealogy

1 comment:

  1. This was also at a time when the 100 year mark was reached by few people! What a wonderful keepsake! Thanks for sharing.