52 Ancestors: Long-Lived and Not So Long-Lived

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

For this theme, I decided to write first about my oldest living relative and finally about a group of my relatives who, by our norms today, did not get to live very long.

Footstone of Mildred I Bianchi, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Mt. Carmel, Northumberland, Pennsylvania (photo courtesy of Robert David Miller)

Footstone of Mildred I Bianchi, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Mt. Carmel, Northumberland, Pennsylvania (photo courtesy of Robert David Miller)

I was very happy to be able to find a blood relative that lived to be 88 years of age and is the oldest in my tree. Mildred Irene Bianchi, my first cousin once removed is the daughter of Peter Paul Bianchi and Catherine Veronica [Gower] Bianchi. Born 18 March 1913, in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, she died on either 24 February 2001 or 11 March 2001.

 

To read more about this wonderful woman who served her country as an Army nurse, please read my earlier post from 2014, which is available at 52 Ancestors: #52 Mildred Bianchi (Tombstone Tuesday).

 

Death certificate of Peter Adam Strausser showing his cause of death in 1916 as heart failure caused by Miners Asthma.

Death certificate of Peter Adam Strausser showing his cause of death in 1916 as heart failure caused by Miners Asthma.

Many dictionaries define longevity as long life, with an added definition of lifespan or length of life. As a group, the longevity of coal miners is much shorter than average due to the occupational disease we now know as black lung or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). Black lung was a set of conditions, and until the 1950s its dangers were not well understood. Asthma, miners asthma, coal miners asthma, pulmonary tuberculosis or lobar pneumonia recorded black lung deaths before the mid-twentieth century.

All my male ancestors mined anthracite (hard) coal in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Based on the death records of those who died of black lung, the average lifespan of my male ancestors and male collateral relatives spanned 39 to 63 years of age. My paternal grandfather, Candido (Condy) Furlani died at the age of 50.   My paternal great-grandfather, Bonaventura Bianchi, died at the age of 51. As you can see from the death certificate above, my maternal 3rd great uncle died at the age of 63. My maternal 2nd great uncle, Wm. T. Meisberger, died at the age of 59. And while Mildred Bianchi died at the age of 88, her father, my great-uncle Peter Bianchi, died at the age of 39.

 

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Longevity.

 

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