Find the Oldest People to Ever Live, as Reported in Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary looks through newspaper articles to find stories about the oldest people to have ever lived—and issues a challenge to readers to find even greater claims of longevity in the newspapers.

With the Baby Boomers aging and advances in medicine, longevity is a hot topic in the news these days. There’s a lot of talk about how long people lived in the past—and speculation about how long people will live in the near future.

Newspapers are a great resource to research how long our ancestors lived—and a good way to keep up with current health, medicine and aging issues going forward. According to knowledgeable sources, the oldest verified person to have ever lived attained the astonishing age of 122 years, 164 days!

Her name was Jeanne Calment (1875-1997), a resident of France. According to this 1997 Georgia newspaper article, she was interred in Trinquetaille Cemetery in Arles, France.

Honoring the Eldest, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 7 August 1997

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 7 August 1997, page 53

Several groups track longevity, including Wikipedia on this Oldest People webpage. Guinness World Records tracks the oldest person by specific activities. Some oldest-person GWR listings include the oldest person to have a total hip replacement, the oldest person to obtain a pilot’s license, and the oldest person to sail around the world.

Those Guinness senior citizen records are all interesting, but it is more intriguing to focus on overall longevity.

Jeanne Calment, who received her certificate from Guinness Records in 1988 at the age of 113, passed away on 4 August 1997. This 1988 South Dakota newspaper article shows her in her ripe old age holding a large certificate noting her birth on 21 February 1875.

Guinness Record, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 15 June 1988

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 15 June 1988, page 2

After her in the rankings of greatest longevity are three other centenarian women: Sarah Knauss (119 years), Lucy Hannah (117 years) and Marie-Louise Meilleur (117 years), although some verification of their ages is disputed.

Another entry in the greatest-longevity rankings whose age is disputed is Carrie White, who was supposedly 116 when she died in 1991. She was said to have been born in 1874, a time “when Ulysses S. Grant was president and Gen. George Armstrong Custer was still two years away from his last stand” according to this 1991 newspaper article from Illinois.

Oldest Woman, Register Star newspaper article 15 February 1991

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 15 February 1991, page 6

In 1998, when Sarah Knauss was informed of her honor as the oldest person alive, she reacted with a simple “So what?” according to this 1998 Illinois newspaper story found in the online archives.

Woman Unfazed by Oldest Designation, Register Star newspaper article 19 April 1998

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 19 April 1998, page 3

Genealogical Challenge: Find the Oldest People to Ever Live

But who’s really counting when you are a centenarian of distinction?

We are, that’s who! So readers, we challenge you to verify the life of a centenarian older than any of the women mentioned above—or, alternatively, find the oldest claimed age at death. You’ll find an outrageous assortment of longevity claims reported in GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives, though certainly none as old as the Bible figure Methuselah—who reportedly attained an age of 969 years!

By browsing this collage of obituaries, you can review a succession of extraordinary longevity claims.

collage of obituaries claiming extreme old age

Collage of obituaries claiming extreme old age

It’s as if each newspaper wanted the bragging rights for the oldest centenarian. Did Andy Roark and Cato Pidgeon really attain the age of 130 years? Was it possible for Nancy Lawton to reach 140, and who was R. Sarman, reported to have lived to 160?

  • Andy Roark: 130 years
  • Cato Pidgeon: 130 years
  • John Hannah: 136 years
  • Nancy Lawton: 140 years
  • Antionio Infante: 150 years
  • Mary Tecuyas: 150 years
  • R. Sarman: 160 years

I tried to verify these age claims, but was not successful. See if you can verify any of these ages—or, if not, see what other incredible age claims you can find in the newspapers.

Follow these guidelines and let us know what you find in the comments on our FaceBook or Blog page. There are two ways to participate in this longevity challenge.

Part 1: Verify a previously unknown oldest person

Submit evidence to prove and verify a centenarian’s age older than Jeanne Calment.

Show supporting documentation, supported by generally accepted genealogical records (GAGR).

These may include civil and church registration, census, family records, and other documentation to show longevity. Tombstone photos alone do not suffice as evidence, as errors in birth years are often caused by confusion between persons of the same name.

Part 2: Find the oldest person as reported in an obituary

Even if you can’t verify the longevity, let’s see who can find the oldest reported person in an obituary or other newspaper article. No evidence is required—just an obituary or newspaper article from GenealogyBank, printed around the time of death. Recollections or reprints from long afterwards do not count.

Let’s see who can come up with the most convincing proof of extreme longevity—and who can come up with the most incredible and unbelievable claim of extreme old age!

Good luck! We look forward to your responses.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

The Works of Benjamin Franklin (1817)

painting of Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis

Painting: Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis (1725–1802). Credit: National Portrait Gallery; Wikipedia.

Family Tree Have Branches in Oklahoma? Search OK Newspapers Now

Genealogists often find that they have cousins in all 50 U.S. states because our relatives, over the centuries, picked up and moved to greener pastures.

To meet the needs of genealogists, GenealogyBank.com offers a strong collection of recent and historical newspapers from all 50 states—including 55 newspapers from Oklahoma to help you research your ancestry from the “Sooner State.”

photo of a migrant family in Oklahoma, 1936

Migrant family in Oklahoma, 1936

Photo: Family on the Move in Oklahoma, 1936. Credit: Library of Congress, cph 3c30176 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c30176

You can search for your ancestors in our Oklahoma newspaper archives here:

Search Oklahoma Newspaper Archives (1871 – 1923)

Search Oklahoma Recent Obituaries (1982 – Current)

Here is the complete list of the newspapers currently in our OK newspaper archives. Each title is an active link taking you to that newspaper’s search form where you can enter more information such as ancestor surname, date ranges, and more to narrow your genealogy search.

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Ada Ada Evening News 10/29/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Altus Altus Times 1/14/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Alva Alva Review-Courier 9/5/2000 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Antlers Antlers American 10/14/2010 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Ardmore Daily Ardmoreite 12/1/2004 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Bartlesville Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise 10/18/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Bethany Bethany Tribune 12/7/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Chickasha Express Star 3/31/2006 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Claremore Claremore Daily Progress 7/3/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Duncan Duncan Banner 4/26/2006 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Durant Durant Daily Democrat 5/29/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Edmond Edmond Sun 10/24/2005 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Enid Enid News and Eagle 8/1/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Fairland American 10/4/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Frederick Frederick Press-Leader 12/3/2006 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Grove Grove Sun 2/25/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Guymon Guymon Daily Herald 5/30/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Hobart Hobart Daily Republican 1/4/1907 – 6/30/1920

Newspaper Archives

Hobart Hobart Democrat 1/10/1908 – 7/1/1909

Newspaper Archives

Hobart Hobart Weekly Chief 7/2/1908 – 12/31/1908

Newspaper Archives

Langston Langston City Herald 11/14/1891 – 3/30/1893

Newspaper Archives

Lawton Lawton Constitution 10/1/2006 – Current

Recent Obituaries

McAlester McAlester News-Capital & Democrat 12/4/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Miami Miami District Daily News 8/19/1917 – 1/31/1923

Newspaper Archives

Miami Miami News-Record 12/3/1999 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Miami Miami Record-Herald 7/28/1899 – 10/9/1903

Newspaper Archives

Miami Miami Weekly Herald 9/23/1899 – 11/20/1903

Newspaper Archives

Midwest City Midwest City Sun 7/10/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Moore American 1/3/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Muskogee Indian Journal 7/6/1895 – 7/6/1895

Newspaper Archives

Muskogee Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat 2/18/2004 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Norman Norman Transcript 9/19/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Nowata Nowata Star 10/3/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman 1/25/1898 – 12/31/1913

Newspaper Archives

Oklahoma City Guide 10/6/1898 – 8/1/1903

Newspaper Archives

Oklahoma City Oklahoman 11/1/1982 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Pauls Valley Pauls Valley Daily Democrat 9/8/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Pawhuska Pawhuska Journal-Capital 10/17/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Perry Perry Daily Journal 12/4/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Perry Perry Journal 10/3/1901 – 9/1/1904

Newspaper Archives

Perry Perry Republican 1/1/1914 – 12/28/1922

Newspaper Archives

Poteau Poteau Daily News & Sun 7/29/2009 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Pryor Daily Times 12/26/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Shawnee Shawnee News-Star 10/2/2009 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Stillwater Stillwater News Press 9/11/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Tahlequah Cherokee Advocate 4/29/1871 – 7/3/1897

Newspaper Archives

Tahlequah Tahlequah Daily Press 12/29/2005 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Tulsa Native American Times 10/27/2009 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Tulsa Tulsa World 1/1/1911 – 12/31/1922

Newspaper Archives

Tulsa Tulsa World 1/1/1989 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Tuttle Tuttle Times 3/29/2006 – 1/27/2010

Recent Obituaries

Vinita Vinita Daily Journal 11/10/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Waurika Waurika News Democrat 2/11/2010 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Weatherford Weatherford Daily News 11/27/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Woodward Woodward News 4/26/2010 – Current

Recent Obituaries