This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Live Long.”
Strangely enough, my parents and my maternal grandmother all died in their 50s, so I’ve always had this notion that I would probably die in my 50s also. Not really a morbid thought, just a weird likelihood. When I started looking at the ages of my ancestors for this blog, I was surprised to find a majority of my ancestors lived into their 80s. Maybe I’ll get a few more years out of this life than I thought.
One of my ancestors lived to be 82…back in 1612. I think that is a considerable age for the time. According to early English records, an infant had a 30% chance of dying before the age of 15, 60% for working-class children in the city. As people had no concept of immunity, many died of childhood diseases, and as they grew, they were likely to die of food-borne illnesses or communal diseases like the plague and typhus. In 1665, 80,000 people died of the plague in London, 45,000 were children. Sanitary practices weren’t invented, and medicine wasn’t even a factor. Most thought one survived only because of luck, and many families named their children with identical names, knowing only one had a chance of surviving into adulthood.
So, in 1530, my 12th great-grandfather John Culpepper of Wigsell was born in Salehurst, Sussex, England. He had at least two brothers who also lived to a considerable age, all breaking the above mortality rates. He married Elizabeth Sedley at the age of thirty, had seven children who all survived, and remained in his childhood home of Wigsell Manor until his death 20 October 1612 at the age of 82. The home is still standing today and is privately owned. Mostly, John lived a quiet life in the country, but records show him an active Justice of the Peace in public testimonies and an involvement in Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council from 1558 to 1592.
He was buried at St. Mary the Virgin Church in Salehurst on 21 October 1612 as “Johanes Colepeper, armiger, etatis 82.” Armiger means having the right to a coat of arms, and etatis means age. If there was a monument, it was destroyed during the Commonwealth’s desecration of the local churches in the mid 1600s.