Friday, November 22, 2013


A while ago, I mentioned that our family, specifically Grandma Carstenson's family, had been traced back to the 1500's. She was a remarkable woman, lived to be 109, was a widow for 72 years, longer than a lot of people are alive. Most of you have heard this, but it always gives me a bit of a goose-bump thing--I was thirteen when she died, I knew her, and she was 16 when President Lincoln was assassinated.

A person named Lis Birgit Jensen in Denmark did remarkable genealogical sleuthing and found several ancestors born in the 1500's who eventually are connected to Anne Marie (Grandma) Jensen Carstenson. Since our ancestry is governed by the power of two, she had 512 direct ancestors in that generation, the "seventh great-grandparents." For that same group of folks, I have an additional four generations, making them the fourteenth generation back, the "eleventh great-grandparents" and, again, considering the power of two, there would be 8,192 potential direct ancestors for me and others in my generation at that level. By the way, the names of some of those people often did not include a surname--their names were Niels (b. 1528) and his wife, Fru Niels (b. 1532), their son Jens Nielsen Moller (b. 1560) and Rasmus (b. 1560) and Mrs Rasmus (b 1560?) and their daughter, Maren Rasmusdatter (b. 1592).

Jens Nielsen Moller's son, Hemming Jensen (b. 1590?) and Maren Rasmusdatter were important people in this whole family-origin thing as they married and away we go.

This all goes back to a claim that people are not living longer today than they did "2,000 years ago" made by a woman who is touting natural foods, and particular foods that would be common on the Paleo Diets. It is understandable to conclude that people were not dying at early ages as the "average age" comparisons would indicate.

The average age back at the turn of the 19th century was, and apparently had been for some time, in the mid-40's and now, the average age is in the late 60's. These numbers are skewed by a high degree of infant deaths, child-bearing mortality and deaths from infections. That is not her point. She maintained that healthy adults were living as long as healthy adults do today, and something about that just didn't sound right. After all, we have such advances in medicine that prolong life, right? So, extract the effects of infant, child-bearing and infection mortality and we should still see longer lives in today's humans. Right?

I went back through this family to find out how long they lived. Granted, not all were located, dates were sometimes not available and the whole thing is complicated by the tendency of the Danes to name everybody the same names. There are a whole load of guys named Jens and Peder, Niels, and a few named Ole. Then some that are kind of cool--Hemming and Bent for the guys, Maren for the girls. Lots of girls named Ane, Anna, Anne, and especially Kirsten. The Danish tradition gave their sons a last name comprised of their father's first name plus "-sen" and their daughters a last name comprised of their father's first name plus "-datter." Whoa, that gets confusing, and around 1900, the Danish government apparently stepped in and told them to quit it, and come up with some unique surnames.

Of the ones located, I found thirty-eight ancestors whose age at death could be reasonably ascertained and put them on a scatter graph. I am going to try to insert that graph in here, but it may not work. Suffice it to say, that despite the really long lives of Grandma Carstenson and some of her sons and daughters, the graph did not plainly show the upward incline I expected. Sort of flat.

Add to that the diets that I know from Grandma and her children: high in dairy (her primary food as a girl was clabbered milk, something like cottage cheese), high in fat, high in meat and low in sugar. High in exercise, low in obesity. Wait, that applied to those ancestors for a lot of years back.

Now, think of our generations alive today--high in "diet" stuff, high in obesity, low in exercise, high in sugar, low in fat, high in the stuff they substitute for fat. High in cancer, knee problems, heart issues. Maybe the food of our ancestors wasn't so bad? Maybe McDonalds and Proctor and Gamble stuff isn't so good?

Here is the graph, sorry for the quality:

1 comment:

  1. Whoooa?! We are related Mr Peterson! I'm a direct decedent of the very same Jens Nielsen Møller! My name is Mattis Bødtker, i'm from Hemming Jensen's son Peder Hemmingsen's line. I live in Norway, we didn't migrate quite as far from Denmark :)