I’ve learned quite a bit sifting through death certificates and tramping through cemeteries. And I’ve picked up on a pattern: My ancestors’ lives often spanned seven, eight or nine decades. It’s a trait that’s been strongest on my dad’s side of the family. My oldest known cousin, Jessie Britt Frazier, celebrated her 91st birthday this year.She’s been a constant source of humor, knowledge and wisdom and I love that she’s always so willing to share with me.

One of my favorite relatives I’ve been researching, Lula Tindall, my great-grandmother’s first cousin, was three years shy of reaching centenarian status. According to her Social Security record, she was born April 7, 1899 and died Sept. 15, 1996. Her brother Elijah lived until age 83.

Even those born into slavery

My great-great-grandmother, Ellen Barnes, died in May 1940 at age 90, which means she was born around 1850. According to her death certificate, she was born in Richmond, Va., which leads me to believe she was born into slavery. (And is a subject for another blog post…)

My great-great-grandfather, Henry Nance, was also born into slavery. He died in 1926 at the age of 92.

My great-grandfather, J.E. Nance, lived to see 88. Older sister Henrietta Nance Clark lived until 89. Their brother Oliver spent 87 years on the Earth. Their youngest brother, Daniel, died in 1992 at age 86.

My paternal grandmother, Ruth Whitehurst Nance, also lived to 90. She had a number of brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and cousins that lived into their 80s too. Both of her parents, Marion and Emma Whitehurst, lived into their 80s.

In 50-something days I’ll be celebrating a birthday, and if the lives of my forbears are any indication, I literally have a lot of life left in me. The best is yet to come.

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