I worked a lot on the parish registers of Martinique. For the thesis in particular, I realised a serial collection of more than 14,000 acts of burial in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Not long ago, I discovered on Twitter the hashtag #100ansavant1900 (100yearsbefore1900). This is a participatory project launched by Nouvelles branches to identify the centenarians of France prior to the twentieth century.
So I consulted my database to see if I had some venerable old people. I was surprised when I realised that 33 burial acts mentioned centenarians. Among them, 5 supra-centenarians (110 years or more). You can find them in this table.
You ask yourselves the question of the truthfulness of sources?
You do well!
As blogger Mascarenhas974 wrote (in French) about a woman who died at the age of 114: « Yes but! » Of the 33 cases, many are unverifiable due to lack of preserved sources. These include free people of colour – 10 peoples, most of whom only have a first name – and people born in Saint Kitts or elsewhere in the Caribbean. For these, we can probably never verify the acts of baptism. For the others, born in Martinique or in the kingdom of France, it is not always easy either.
Let’s move on to the detective game and deductions. I was able to trace the fate of some women, including Madelaine Aubin. Given that she was 16 at the 1680 census, Madelaine Aubin was born around 1664. She married in 1690 Case-Pilote with Gabriel Thiboult. The age is not specified, but given the census, she would then be 24 years old, which corresponds perfectly to the average age of a bride of the time. When she died in Fort-Royal in 1750, she would therefore be 86 years old, not 100 years old.
Léonarde Demiot was born in Saint-Pierre. She appears in the census of 1680. Her age is not given, but generally the censuses follow a more or less regular order: head of household, woman, child(ren) of the elder to the youngest. In this census, Léonarde is the 3rd of the 4 children mentioned. It can therefore be assumed that she was at least one year old in 1680. Christine, her sister, second child, was born about 1678 according to her death certificate. There is a good chance that Léonarde was born around 1679. She died in 1767. It can therefore be thought that she was about 88 years old at her death, more or less a few years, but not 100 years ago
Rose Dollé is said Creole, widow of Claude D(…) at his death. I found a Rose Dolle of 8 years at the census of 1680, she would thus be born around 1672. The Rose Dolle of the census get married in 1694 to Jean-Baptiste Prenelé thus becoming his 3rd wife. It is plausible that Claude was a second husband. If it was the same Rose Dolle, this is very likely, so she would be 91 years old at her death.
According to the information given to his marriage in 1694 with Roger Millouin, Marguerite David was about 25 years old. She was born in 1669. When she died in 1761, she was about 92 years old. We come closer, but here again there is no centenary!
Marie-Rose Martin died in 1787. I could not find any other acts to evaluate his age for now. According to genealogy reconstructed in Personnes et familles à la Martinique au XVIIe siècle, the marriage of his parents took place before 1683; His brother Jacques was baptised in 1690, the second Louis married in 1716; Marie-Rose married in 1712 to Étienne Maillet, born about 1685. Everything suggests that Marie-Rose was born after 1685, but if she dies in 1787, it is still a possible 100-year-old Marie-Rose Martin is the one who is most certainly a centenarian, but for now I have no proof.
33 centenarians reported, none confirmed. Yes but why?
I did some statistics on the deaths. And I noticed several things. For deaths occurring before the age of 25, the age of the deceased was rather under control. On the other hand, there was an over-representation of people whose death was indicated on tens (30, 40, 50, 60, 70 …) and to a lesser extent to half a tens (45, 55, 65, 75 years old …)
For the age group 20-29 years:
14% of the acts specify that the individual died at 20 years,
17% at age 25,
The remaining 68% is spread over 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28 or 29 years.
If you look at the 40-49 age bracket, this time:
38% of the acts specify that the individual died at 40 years,
24% at age 45,
Only 40% of the acts are distributed on 41, 42, 43, 44, 46, 47, 48 or 49 years.
Globally more than half of the deaths are recorded on tens or half tens, for burials concerning thirties or older. And the percentage to the tens does not stop increasing:
14% of the acts of the 20-29 age group specify that the individual died at 20 years,
38% of the acts of the 40-49 age group specify that the individual died at 40 years,
44% of the acts of the 60-69 age group specify that the individual died at 60 years,
57% of the acts of the 80-89 age group specify that the individual died at 80 years.
In other words, the older the persons die, the more the memory of the precise age of individual declines and the approximate ages are recorded, as evidenced by the recurrence of the expression « about aged ». Beyond 85 years, inaccuracies become particularly important.
Lastly, of all the acts recorded which specify the age of the deceased, 25% of the deaths I have noted concern children under 10 years … That is a lot. The first years of life were fatal to the most fragile; 72% of the group is under 4 years old. So when someone had the honour to live beyond the age of 85, which was so old that you had been born in the last century, it sometimes deserved a little faintness in the memory of humans and the mention of an age as symbolic as that of 100-years-old.
It’s a bit frustrating; But I will publish one or more updates if my research leads me to new discoveries. And if you also met centenarians before 1900 in Martinique or in the Caribbean, do not hesitate to comment.
(All in French)
Discover or participate in the (French) project of Nouvelles branches : #100ansavant1900
PETITJEAN ROGET Jacques, BRUNEAU-LATOUCHE, Eugène, Personnes et familles à la Martinique au XVIIe siècle: d’après recensements et terrier nominatifs, Fort-de-France, Désormeaux, 2000.
VALLIN Jacques, « Why are supercentenarians so frequently found in French Overseas Departments? The cases of Guadeloupe and Martinique« . Genus, 2020, 76 (26), pp.1-17.
Mascarenhas974 has since closed his blog, the dead link to his site has been removed.
Updated : 03/03/2021
Addition of the reference to the article by Jacques Vallin