Second Report of the Committee on Scientific Memoranda. Trans. Devon. Assoc., 1877, Vol IX, pp.74-75.


W. Pengelly (ed.)

Prepared by Michael Steer

The major problem of statistics relating to centenarians is that they are vulnerable to age errors. There is a general tendency to overstate the ages of old persons as they and their family members take pride in their alleged longevity. This tendency is more pronounced in populations that are not accustomed to keeping records of age and often results in fanciful claims to extreme longevity in countries in which there was no birth registration at the time when the persons in question were born. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.


The Western Express (Bideford Newspaper) of 8th August, 1876, contained the following announcement among its "Deaths":-

"MOULTON. - 7th inst., at West Appledore, Sarah Moulton, aged 101, she retained her faculties to the last and could read the smallest print, without spectacles."

On the 22 nd of the same month I forwarded a series of queries to a trustworthy quarter, intending, on receipt of the replies, to apply for such evidence from parish registers as would prove or disprove the claims of the deceased to the distinction of centenarianism. On the 25th the replies reached me, and at once showed (1st.) That circumstances attended the case which would render it impossible to obtain certificated evidence one way or the other; and, (2nd.) That the deceased was but "99 last birthday."

.I have observed that the announcement has been copied from the Bideford paper into one of much wider circulation ; and have very little doubt of meeting it again and again as "a well established case of centenarianism in Devonshire."