Who lived the longest?

Week 3 of the #52ancestors challenge is longevity. For this post I thought I would do a bit of a survey of my direct ancestors to see who lived a long life and then I would research one of those people.

When I look at that list, I am amazed that 12 out of 19 of my direct ancestors have reached the age of 70+ years at death. What was most fascinating though was that one set of my Great great grandparents lived  to their 80s just like my parents.

William CHANDLER grew up in London near Enfield where he worked as a gardener before arriving in Australia  on the sailing ship Fortitude on 15th February 1855. Little is known of his life prior to his arrival in Tasmania. According to the shipping record, he was age 22, single, Church of England and could read and write. He was born in Middlesex and was a gardener. His application to emigrate was from John Leake in Tasmania and it cost him  £22. [1]

The Leake family owned Rosedale (near Campbell Town) in the midlands area of Tasmania where it is assumed William was an estate gardener, along with James AXTON who also arrived on the same ship. I wrote a short fiction story based on their journey.

After his marriage to Caroline BRYANT in October 1859, he was employed at Government House as a gardener. He was often mentioned in newspaper articles in the Mercury winning many prizes in horticultural fetes. I wrote a short story based on one of these articles. The birth of many children often mentions Government House where Caroline’s mother also worked. By 1865, he is mentioned as an ‘old friend’ who has again won the silver medal at the horticultural fete. In 1868, he is mentioned as gardener to His Excellency who was Colonel Gore Browne. [2]

In March 1873, William and Caroline were involved in the inquest of their daughter Sarah aged 2. At this stage they were living at Hestercombe in the area of Granton or Austin’s Ferry. [3]

In October 1882, William prosecuted John Sullivan for stealing 9 fowls off William, but the judge gave him the benefit of the doubt as only a few feathers were shown as evidence.[4]

It seems that young George Chandler (born 1874) did not enjoy attending school (or preferred helping with the gardening), as his father William was summoned in 1887 for a breach of the Schools Act in allowing George to truant. He was fined 5 shillings. [5]

In 1894, at the marriage of his third daughter Caroline, the family was living at Brown’s River Road. [6]

By the time of William and Caroline’s golden wedding anniversary in 1909, they were living in Grosvenor Street, Sandy Bay just around the corner from what is still Chandler’s Nursery.[7]

William lived at 6 Grosvenor Street, Sandy Bay at his death, and is buried at Cornelian Bay Cemetery with his wife.

To read about the Chandler family and the nursery they established, check out this newspaper account. From my research Mona Vale was built in 1867 so probably not the estate where William worked in the midlands.


[1] Tasmanian Archives and Heritage  Office (TAHO),  CB7/12/1/3 Bk 5 pp 191-192

[2] 1868 ‘GARDENERS’ AND AMATEURS’ HORTICULTURAL AND AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.’, The Tasmanian Times (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1867 – 1870), 1 April, p. 3. , viewed 16 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232859188

[3] 1873 ‘THE MERCURY.’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 5 March, p. 2. , viewed 16 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8925438

[4] 1882 ‘THE MERCURY.’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 27 October, p. 2. , viewed 16 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9028363

[5] 1887 ‘THE MERCURY.’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 17 June, p. 2. , viewed 16 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9135155

[6] 1894 ‘Family Notices’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 17 November, p. 4. , viewed 16 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9339512

[7] 1909 ‘Family Notices’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 22 October, p. 1. , viewed 16 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9997539


8 thoughts on “Who lived the longest?

  1. The longevity of our ancestors is interesting when we consider their diet and life style. Or maybe the hard work they did harden them or the6 just had good genes

    • Hi Claire,
      The first 4 gggrandparents lived on farms so presumably all that hard work and lots of children to look after must have taken its toll on the parents.
      While the last 4 gggrandparents all lived in Hobart for most of their married lives and had families of less than 10 children.

  2. Hi Sue
    I thought you may be interested in some of my ancestors who lived beyond the age of 80. I have also added a short bio of those who lived into their 90s and beyond:

    Name Relationship Birth year Death year Years lived
    Alan Father 1927 Alive 90 in 2018
    Dorelle Mother 1929 Alive 88 in 2018
    Tom Gfather 1892 1973 80
    Elsie Gmother 1904 1991 86
    Kelv Gfather 1891 1976 84
    Doris Gmother 1893 1982 87
    Lena* GGmother 1879 1978 98
    George* GGfather 1858 1951 92
    Jane GGmother 1865 1945 80
    Martin* GGGfather 1826 1929 102 + 9mths
    George GGGfather 1819 1903 84
    Rosina GGGmother 1838 1921 82
    Charlotte* GGGmother 1827 ??? 1922 95
    Henry GGGfather 1830 1915 85
    Martha* GGGmother 1838 1934 95
    George St GGGfather 1820 1904 83
    Maria GGGmother 1836 1917 80
    Susan* GGGGmother 1807 1901 93
    Francis* GGGGGfather 1703 ??? 1803 99
    Thomasine GGGGGmother 1740 1825 85
    (* mentioned below)

    Martin was born in County Mayo, Ireland, in March 1826. He lived through the Irish famine and in 1859 emigrated to Tasmania. He was married twice – to Mary in Ireland about 1858 and the second, to another Mary, in Tasmania in 1907. The marriage certificate for his second marriage gave his age as 69 (he was actually 80) – his wife, Mary, was 28. Martin McTye died at Kempton in January 1926.

    Francis Edwards was buried at Snetterton, Norfolk, on 6 January 1803 – the burial register gives his age as 99 years. He was married at Snetterton in 1738 but to date I have not found a baptism for him in the Snetterton registers. I have yet to research the surrounding parishes for a possible baptism.

    Lena was born in Tasmania in 1879. Her birth was not registered and she was not baptised until the day she married John Hill in 1896. Lena gave birth to 16 children, 13 of whom lived to adulthood. Lena’s husband, John, was a shepherd and the children were raised in a small shepherd’s hut near Bothwell. John died in 1938 and Lena in 1978.

    Martha was born in Norfolk, England, in 1838. She married Robert Snare in Norfolk in 1856 and the following year they sailed to Tasmania on the Southern Eagle as part of the Launceston Immigration Society scheme. Also onboard the Southern Eagle were Martha’s parents, John and Susan Barker, her two sisters and a brother. Martha and Robert Snare developed a farm at Forth where they raised 13 children. Martha was 95 when she died. Her eldest child, my great grandfather, George, died in 1951, aged 92 and her mother, Susan, died 1901, aged 93.

    Charlotte was born in County Wicklow, Ireland, circa 1826-1827. She and her sister arrived in Tasmania onboard the ship, Caroline Middleton, in September 1856 where her age was given as 28 years. Charlotte had four sons and two daughters and lived most of her life near Hamilton in Tasmania. She died on 30 September 1922 and the death notice in The Mercury states she was aged 95.

    • Wow! Chris,
      That is amazing how many of yours lived till their 80s and 90s even into a century. They must have had some powerful survival genes in there. Looks like most lived on farms as well.

      I wonder if they would have lived so well if they stayed in England and Ireland instead of coming to Australia?

  3. Yes, Sue, there are some powerful genes in my family. You are right, most were farming folk and I am sure they benefitted from the Australian lifestyle. I am in awe of my ancestors who survived the Irish Famine and went on to live very long lives.

  4. I like the way you organized your ancestors to show at a glance who’s who and how long each lived. Colour-coded and all! And it is fascinating to see the patterns in each line.

  5. Hi Sue, just listening to ABC Sunday Night Life program, fellow on there discussing My Heritage family DNA testing. States, now using current DNA data base they can trace and link back eleven generations without even having to talk to the families. There is a research group looking at the question of longevity and they put forward the premise that only five to six percent of our longevity is related to our genes. The rest is most likely related to things like geographic location, time born, wars, diet, migration to a better life… They are now going to investigate further the effects of various world events and how our DNA stories relate. Also they have done some studies with mice and apparently the ones who live the longest, retain the length of the spindle parts of their cells when the cells divide to form new cells. (mitosis study) Thought provoking outcome, I wonder what else they can tell about us. Regards Marg

    • Wow Margaret, You always find some very interesting things for me to read. MyHeritage is one of the newer DNA testing groups so will be fascinating to see what they find out compared to the other testing companies.

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