Humankind has always had a great fascination with individuals that are outliers in various aspects of life. Be it the fastest 100 meters sprinter or the tallest person ever. Individuals with such attributes often warrant interest and respect from their surroundings. Still, few concepts warrant more interest than the people who have lived the longest (Milholland & Vijg, 2022). We, as individuals, have a finite time on this earth and most people would give anything to be able to enjoy an extended life. There’s a reason why there was a great interest in discovering the fountain of youth or finding a way to obtain eternal life in the past. This is therefore one of the reasons why there is an interest in finding out who has lived the longest. To complicate this process is the fact that some individuals exaggerate their ages for a variety of reasons to appear older than they actually are. Some do it for pension reasons, others as a result of a mix-up in identities or uncertainty when they were born with, and some do it for notoriety (Schoenhofen et al., 2006).

In my years of researching supercentenarians, I have seen a great deal of age exaggeration with claims of having lived to be older than 115 being common. However, most of these claims are untrue. Still, in the history of supercentenarian research, some supercentenarians have been accepted as validated, only to later have their statuses disputed.

Pierre Joubert (1701? – 1814)

Early research disproved many historical supercentenarian claims from the 18th and 19th centuries, but one person that was believed to have been accurate by demographers was Canadian man Pierre Joubert (Jeune & Poulain, 2020). There existed proof of birth and death for this case, which resulted in the inclusion of Joubert as validated in several lists and by scholars up until the early 1990s, when his age was debunked by revealing that “Pierre Joubert” was actually two individuals; a father and a son and that the father’s date of birth had erroneously been attributed to his son with the same name (Charbonneau, 1990). His validation was swiftly retracted following this revelation.

Thomas Peters (1745? – 1857)

One of many inaccurate inclusions of “verified” exceptional longevity by Guinness World Records. Thomas Peters was allegedly born in the Netherlands on 6 April 1745 and died shortly before his claimed 112th birthday in 1857 (Jeune & Poulain, 2020). Peters claimed to have been a soldier and serving under Napoleon. His parents died when he was a small child, and he grew up as a “regiments-child” in the army. No early-life documentation appears to ever have existed for Peters and his age claim was rather accepted as verified as a result of hearsay. Supercentenarian fans have been trying to identify his age for several years but given the lack of information about his early life it is at present unlikely that any documents will be located. And if they are, they will most likely support him being much younger than claimed.

Media coverage of Ann Pouder’s “110th” birthday, inflating her age by one year.

Ann Pouder (1807? – 1917)

Ann Pouder is still considered to be the first American supercentenarian by less serious organizations. She was born in London, England as Ann Alexander and emigrated to the United States at a young age. Her age was supposedly validated by Alexander Graham Bell, but exactly what sort of documentation he utilized is unknown. What however is known is that when Dr. Andrew Holmes and I applied modern validation practices to attempt to verify her age, we discovered that she was in fact not a supercentenarian but rather “only” 109 years old. This was supported by her baptismal record, which was clear with the fact that she was born on 3 May 1808 rather than 8 April 1807. While not as egregious as other claims listed, being one year younger means that she wasn’t a supercentenarian.

Martha Graham (1842? – 1959)

Long recognized as the oldest person ever for about two decades by some organizations was Martha Graham, a former slave from North Carolina, and for whom the best evidence supporting her being a supercentenarian came from the 1880 census, which listed her as 35 years old. While she hasn’t been officially debunked, only disputed, observing her as being only 17 when she married in 1874 suggests that she was about a decade younger, which is further supported by the fact that she had several children under the age of five in the 1900 census. A woman giving birth in her 50s several times in the 1800s is unheard of and her claim can thus be considered exaggerated.

Shigechiyo Izumi, photo courtesy of Associated Press

Shigechiyo Izumi (1865? – 1986)

When Jeanne Calment surpassed the age of 120 years, 237 days, in 1995 she was recognized as the oldest person ever. This is due to the fact that Japanese man Shigechiyo Izumi was still considered validated at this point. Izumi wouldn’t be retracted from most lists until the 2000s. Izumi worked as a farmer and would retire only as an alleged centenarian. While Izumi hasn’t been debunked officially, indications exist that what might have happened is that a younger brother was given the same name as his deceased older brother and thus added a potential 15 years to his listed age (Asahi Shimbun, 1987; Young, 2020). This led to him losing his status as the oldest verified man of all time. There are more issues with his claim, including that his wife also exaggerated her age, which makes the claim to 120 years seem far-fetched.

Matthew Beard (1870? – 1985)

Matthew Beard was at one point considered the oldest man ever. He claimed to have been born in Virginia and lived an eventful life, starting work at a young age and being a war veteran. Beard would settle in Florida and have several children. He supposedly built a house when he was a centenarian. Research by me some years back cast doubt on his claim. A “Mathew Baird” from Tennessee, with parents loosely matching those in Beard’s SS-5 application form, was listed as age 12 in 1880 and age four in 1870, it was possible that this was the person that was linked by researchers to the man that died in 1985. My research did cast doubt on this, especially since this child’s mother had an entirely different last name than what was listed in the SS-5 form. Instead, a match was found for a Matthew Beard born in Georgia in October 1886 with parents that had matching names to his application form. As is, there isn’t any documentation from before 1930 supporting him being a supercentenarian, which makes him disputed.

Media coverage of Carrie White’s “116th” birthday

Carrie White (1874? – 1990)

After the death of Florence Knapp in 1988, Jeanne Calment was briefly purported to be the oldest living person in the world. A Florida woman named Carrie White was however later declared as the oldest living person (Young, 2010). It was alleged that White was born in 1874 and that she had resided in a nursing home since the age of 35 when she was committed by her husband as a result of mental illness. While mid-life census records did support her being as old as claimed, an examination of her 1900 census revealed that she was actually born in 1888 and only 11 years old. A realization was thus made that the wrong Carrie Joyner had been linked to the Carrie White that died in 1990.

Lucy Hannah (1875? – 1993)

When Hannah died in 1993, she was believed to have been the oldest woman to ever having died, being outlived by Calment by four years. Hannah was allegedly born in Alabama in 1875, although she claimed to have been born in 1874, and to have died in Michigan in 1993. She was likely validated based on a match where a four-year-old Lucy Terrell was living with her grandparents in Alabama in 1880. Research by me revealed that the names of the grandparents of the Lucy Hannah didn’t match these names. Further, a match for her parents in 1880 was found and there was no daughter named Lucy listed. Instead, a marriage record from 1943 was located, where a Lucille Brown (with parents with the exact same names as in Lucy Hannah’s SS-5 form) was listed as having been born in 1895. Given that there now didn’t exist any documentation supporting Lucy Hannah being a supercentenarian, her age was disputed.


Supercentenarian research has advanced over the past few decades and the standards for age validation are increasingly more stringent than previously (at least within LongeviQuest). Many people have claimed to have been supercentenarians, but far from all have actually lived as long as claimed. The people listed above are only a few of all exaggerated supercentenarian claims known to exist. There is need for strict validation standards and for research to be re-checked by a fresh pair of eyes every now and then to ensure that the quality of the validation holds up as the amount of available documentation increases.


Asahi News Service. (1987).  Japanese Expert Debunks Idea of  “Village of 100-Year-Olds.” (April 6, 1987).

Charbonneau, H. (1990). Pierre Joubert a-t-il vécu 113 ans? Memoires de la Société génealogique canadienne-francaise, 41, 45–48.

Jeune, B., & Poulain, M. (2020). The First Supercentenarians in History, and Recent 115 + −Year-Old Supercentenarians. An Introduction to the Following Chapters. In: Maier, H., Jeune, B., Vaupel, J.W. (eds) Exceptional Lifespans. Demographic Research Monographs. Springer, Cham.

Milholland, B., & Vijg, J. (2022). Why Gilgamesh failed: the mechanistic basis of the limits to human lifespan. Nature Aging, 2, 878-884.

Schoenhofen, E. A., Wyszynski, D. F., Andersen, S., Pennington, J., Young, R., Terry, D. F., & Perls, T. T. (2006). Characteristics of 32 supercentenarians. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 54(8), 1237–1240.

Young, R.D. (2010). Age 115 or more in the United States: Fact or fiction? In: Maier, H., Gampe, J., Jeune, B., Robine, JM., Vaupel, J. (eds) Supercentenarians. Demographic Research Monographs

Young R. (2020). If Jeanne Calment Were 122, That Is All the More Reason for Biosampling. Rejuvenation research23(1), 48–64.

The concept of blue zones is fairly familiar to most people. These areas see an increased number of people living longer lives and often also enjoying a compression of morbidity (Buettner & Skemp, 2016). Although, the media frenzy about these areas can probably considered to be somewhat overhyped given that the zones themselves aren’t any mysterious or magical areas where a person will live longer just from entering. Instead, these individuals live longer on average than other people because of both their lifestyles and genetic factors (Kreouzi et al., 2022). Thus, one would expect that there are individuals with the right genes and that have lived healthy lives that become supercentenarians all over the world. From my own research, I have estimated that about 1 in 160,000 people born in Sweden born between 1882 and 1910 lived to be supercentenarians (Lindberg, 2024). Other estimates are fairly consistent with this, with women being much likelier to live exceptionally long lives (Willcox et al., 2011; Perls, 2006). But are there certain hotspots that produce more supercentenarians than would be expected?

Island longevity?

A map of Martinique and Guadeloupe, per Agence France-Presse

Certain French overseas territories, namely Guadeloupe and Martinique, stand out in how many verifiable supercentenarians they have produced relative to their population (Vallin, 2020). One hypothesis that has been suggested by Vallin et al. (2020) is a theory of selection where the people who lived to become supercentenarians were the descendants of former slaves. It was proposed that the devastating effects of slavery produced a select few survivors that survived thanks to their strength and resilience and these individuals would therefore go on to passing on their specific genes.

Margaret Ann Neve (1792-1903), the earliest-born recognized supercentenarian, a resident of the island of Guernsey

Still, given that some island countries generally have quite low populations, one random supercentenarian being born there does skew the results. Take the Channel Islands: Margaret Ann Neve, the (so far) earliest-born verified female supercentenarian, was born on Guernsey in 1792. The population of Guernsey? Less than 70,000 (Britannica, 2023). Still, one supercentenarian born there in 122 years isn’t that much and would be approximately in line with my calculations. But Neve wasn’t the only one. There have also been two other supercentenarians from this Island, Ethel Wood (who was born there and later emigrated) and Felicity Crump (who migrated there). Does this imply that there’s such a thing of island longevity, or is it random chance? Can you not take any random area that produced some exceptionally long-lived individuals and claim that it is a supercentenarian hotspot?

The larger the city…

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the largest cities do produce more supercentenarians. One such city is New York, which so far has produced about 20 verifiable supercentenarians with a population of almost nine million. So, this would suggest that this city might be a supercentenarian wasteland that decreases the likelihood of people living to be supercentenarians. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that a person’s lifestyle also accounts for a person’s longevity (Passarino et al., 2016)? Being exposed to pollution and the stress of city life can surely affect the lifespans of some individuals. Perhaps cities aren’t the right place to look for potential supercentenarians?

Where do supercentenarians come from?

Everywhere! Current research indicates that supercentenarians come from varying places and have experienced various conditions. Most were born in smaller towns and lived most of their lives in these areas while others emigrated all over the world.

Many supercentenarians live in smaller cities or towns, such as Olot,
Catalonia, home of world’s oldest person María Branyas Morera. Photo by

Certain countries and areas do undoubtedly produce more supercentenarians than others, but this can partially be attributed to the quality of their record keeping systems and accessibility of data. Certain countries with populations in the hundreds of millions have produced no supercentenarians at all. Does this mean that the conditions in these countries are so poor that people can’t live exceptionally long lives? Well, partially. China, for example, has so far still not produced any supercentenarian that fulfills the criteria for a higher standard of validation, but it has also been noted that the country for a long time produced much fewer centenarians than Western countries (Wang et al., 1998). Still, there are many claims from China, and some are very probably true. But without the documentation, how can we be sure? Any serious supercentenarian researcher has to obtain the necessary documentation to ensure that a supercentenarian is the claimed age and not just rely on secondary sources or hearsay.

It has further been implied that areas with a lower quality of documentation produce more supercentenarians. Could these be the hotspots? No, these attributions of longevity to these remote areas rather stem from the poor record keeping and the individuals living there not knowing how old they actually are (Mazess & Forman, 1979). Young et al. (2010) do note that the overall fascination with exceptional longevity helps the mythology of exotic longevity hotspots to persist.

So, are there supercentenarian hotspots?

Supercentenarians come from all sorts of places and from both rich and poor socioeconomic backgrounds. Some have several close relatives that lived to be centenarians, others have none. Some come from cities, but most come from towns and rural areas. There is naturally a correlation between the average lifespan in a country and the number of supercentenarians (e.g., Japan). So, in that sense there are supercentenarian hotspots. Many potential hotspots have small populations, which means that there’s less certainty of them actually producing more supercentenarians than other areas. So, it is true that certain areas produce more supercentenarians than others, but there are many other factors that need to be considered before designating them as “hotspots.”



Britannica. (2023). Guernsey summary. Retrieved 2024-02-04 from:

Buettner, D., & Skemp, S. (2016). Blue Zones: Lessons From the World’s Longest Lived. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 10(5), 318–321.

Kreouzi, M., Theodorakis, N., & Constantinou, C. (2022). Lessons Learned From Blue Zones, Lifestyle Medicine Pillars and Beyond: An Update on the Contributions of Behavior and Genetics to Wellbeing and Longevity. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Lindberg, J. (2024). Svenska superhundraåringar. Äldre I Centrum Vetenskapligt Supplement, 4(1), 5–13.

Mazess, R. B., & Forman, S. H. (1979). Longevity and age exaggeration in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. Journal of gerontology, 34(1), 94–98.

Passarino, G., De Rango, F., & Montesanto, A. (2016). Human longevity: Genetics or Lifestyle? It takes two to tango. Immunity & ageing: I & A, 13, 12.

Perls, T. T. (2006). The different paths to 100. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83(2), 484S-487S.

Vallin, J. (2020. Why are supercentenarians so frequently found in French Overseas Departments? The cases of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Genus, 76, 26.

Wang, Z., Zeng, Y., Jeune, B., & Vaupel, J. W. (1998). Age validation of Han Chinese centenarians. Genus, 54(1-2), 123–141.

Willcox, D. C., Willcox, B. J., & Poon, L. W. (2011). Centenarian Studies: Important Contributors to Our Understanding of the Aging Process and Longevity. Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research, 484529.

Young, R. D., Desjardins, B., McLaughlin, K., Poulain, M., & Perls, T. T. (2010). Typologies of extreme longevity myths. Current gerontology and geriatrics research, 2010, 423087.

In my years of researching supercentenarian claims I have personally documented over 3,000 supercentenarians, many of whom I have also collected newspaper articles of in order to help validate their ages. What strikes me is that there are so many different aspects of their lives that supercentenarians attribute their longevity to. One of the most common things to observe when reading about supercentenarians is that they have several family members that lived exceptionally long lives themselves. There are examples of both mother-daughter supercentenarians (e.g., Mary Phil Cota & Rosabell Fenstermaker) and sibling supercentenarians (e.g., Kame Ganeko and Kikue Taira) as well as other combinations, which would hint that there is a genetic component to longevity. But is this the only factor? Do all supercentenarians have long-lived relatives? Can there be other reasons as to why some individuals live long?

What does the research say?

According to Passarino et al. (2016) human longevity is a result of both genetic and non-genetic factors. Sibling research has indicated that both siblings and children of long-lived individuals live longer than those of people with average lifespans (Schoenmaker et al., 2006). Family recontruction in an Italian study revealed the same thing, both parents and siblings of long-lived individuals do live longer (Montesanto et al., 2011). Longevity can therefore likely be attributed to genetics, which can be controlled by eliminating other factors that may affect lifespan, such as the environment. Some candidate genes have been proposed, such as APOE and FOXO3 (Eline Slagboom et al., 2018; Lindahl-Jacobsen & Christensen, 2019). This longevity advantage with lower mortality among siblings of centenarians, does, according to some research, however seem to disappear the older the individual becomes and vanishing by age 100 (Gavrilova & Gavrilov, 2022).

Still, while genetics do play a great part in allowing a person to become exceptionally old, common trends that cannot be solely attributed to genes have been noted among centenarians and supercentenarians. Resilience, the ability to adapt positively to adversity, is widely noted among centenarians (Zeng & Shen, 2010). What this means is that when these individuals lose loved ones or face other hardships they will react with a wide array of coping strategies and be able to not let these losses and adversities affect their lives negatively, rather finding ways to move forward. In the same vein, spirituality and the ability to make sense of their long lives has been found to be a crucial factor for support among centenarians (Manning et al., 2012).

But what else? Diet is commonly explained to be the key factor for longevity. Alleged (but disputed) supercentenarian Bernardo LaPallo partially attributed his longevity to eating a diet with fruits and vegetables, nutrients that have been observed in studies to benefit health in general (Probst et al., 2017). Actual supercentenarians have also been noted to attribute their longevity to their diet, although these diets often become secondary in news reports in favor of “less healthy” alternatives, such as smoking and whisky (Henry Allingham) or bacon (Gertrude Baines). A common diet that is often associated with longevity is the Mediterranean diet, a diet with a low quantity of saturated fats and plenty of greens (Vasto et al., 2012).

Still, while green is good, another common trend that I have observed when studying supercentenarians is their ability to remain engaged in their surroundings but also that they don’t let their advancing ages limit them. The theory of selective optimization with compensation (SOC) suggests that for an individual to enjoy a healthy aging they have to be able to adapt to their changing bodies and abilities (Baltes & Baltes, 1990). Still, some centenarians are noted to be able to enjoy physical health longer than their non-centenarian peers (Herbert et al., 2022).

One thing that often fascinates many longevity enthusiasts is the fact that some supercentenarians are able to continue living independently until extremely advanced ages and be able to move about without issue.  Jeanne Calment, for example, lived on her own until shortly before her 110th birthday (and also smoked for close to a century!). While no supercentenarian has so far been observed to partake in a race of some kind, some have come close. Polish supercentenarian Stanislaw Kowalski ran the 100 meters in the M105 category and had some plans to race as a supercentenarian, which didn’t come to fruition. Norwegian man Herman Smith-Johannsen, famous for introducing cross-country skiing in North America, would still go skiing and kayaking even as a centenarian. Further, several supercentenarians have credited their longevity to hard work and keeping themselves occupied. Some research does imply that centenarians that lead active lifestyles do score better in mental status scores, which could imply that engagement is beneficial for retained functioning (Martin et al., 2010).

Herman Smith-Johannsen (1875-1987) remained physically active even as an advanced centenarian. Source: Office national du film du Canada


So, what have we learned?

Exceptional longevity is likely not influenced by only genetics, if a person wants to live long, they will have to put some effort into living a healthy life. Engagement and lifestyle are crucial for both social and psychological well-being, both of which are common in centenarians and likely supercentenarians too. Remaining physically active and eating a diet rich in nutrients will further help a person live longer. There is still a long way to go for understanding human longevity, what we have now are good guesses, but the key for unlocking the full picture concerning the quest for longevity is still out there.



Baltes, P., & Baltes, M. (1990). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In Baltes, P., & Baltes, M. (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (1–34). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Eline Slagboom, P., van den Berg, N., & Deelen, J. (2018). Phenome and genome based studies into human ageing and longevity: An overview. Biochimica et biophysica acta. Molecular basis of disease, 1864(9 Pt A), 2742–2751.

Gavrilova, N. S., & Gavrilov, L. A. (2022). Protective Effects of Familial Longevity Decrease With Age and Become Negligible for Centenarians. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 77(4), 736–743.

Herbert, C., House, M., Dietzman, R., Climstein, M., Furness, J., & Kemp-Smith, K. (2022). Blue Zones: Centenarian Modes of Physical Activity: A Scoping Review. Population Ageing.

Lindahl-Jacobsen R, Christensen K. (.2019). Gene–lifestyle interactions in longevity. In: Fernández-Ballesteros, R., Benetos, A., Robine, J. (Eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Successful Aging. Cambridge University Press, 91–109.

Manning, L. K., Leek, J. A., & Radina, M. E. (2012). Making Sense of Extreme Longevity: Explorations Into the Spiritual Lives of Centenarians. Journal of religion, spirituality & aging, 24(4), 345–359.

Martin, P., Baenziger, J., Macdonald, M., Siegler, I. C., & Poon, L. W. (2009). Engaged Lifestyle, Personality, and Mental Status Among Centenarians. Journal of adult development, 16(4), 199–208.

Montesanto, A., Latorre, V., Giordano, M., Martino, C., Domma, F., & Passarino, G. (2011). The genetic component of human longevity: analysis of the survival advantage of parents and siblings of Italian nonagenarians. European journal of human genetics: EJHG, 19(8), 882–886.

Passarino, G., De Rango, F., & Montesanto, A. (2016). Human longevity: Genetics or Lifestyle? It takes two to tango. Immunity & ageing: I & A, 13, 12.

Probst, Y. C., Guan, V. X., & Kent, K. (2017). Dietary phytochemical intake from foods and health outcomes: a systematic review protocol and preliminary scoping. BMJ open, 7(2), e013337.

Schoenmaker, M., de Craen, A. J., de Meijer, P. H., Beekman, M., Blauw, G. J., Slagboom, P. E., & Westendorp, R. G. (2006). Evidence of genetic enrichment for exceptional survival using a family approach: the Leiden Longevity Study. European journal of human genetics: EJHG, 14(1), 79–84.

Vasto, S., Rizzo, C., & Caruso, C. (2012). Centenarians and diet: what they eat in the Western part of Sicily. Immunity & ageing: I & A, 9(1), 10.

Zeng, Y., & Shen, K. (2010). Resilience significantly contributes to exceptional longevity. Current gerontology and geriatrics research, 2010, 525693.

On 9 January 2024, LongeviQuest representatives traveled to Isumi, Chiba Prefecture near the Pacific Coast of Japan to visit Hanako Ishii, age 110. Hanako-san lives in a local rehabilitation hospital, where she receives dedicated care from a medical staff treats her family. Her actual family lives nearby and she is constantly visited by family members, which she greatly enjoys.

Hanako Ishii on 9 January 2024

Hanako-san has been completely blind for several years, but aside from that is remarkably free of serious ailments. Her hearing is nearly perfect. She has a healthy appetite, a consistent sleep schedule, appropriate muscle strength for her age, and her memory is excellent, especially of her childhood. LQ representatives had our temperature scanned and were required to sanitize our hands before entering the hospital. As a rehabilitation facility, the hospital is far less austere than an emergency facility, and it is clear the staff work hard to maximize the quality of their patients’ lives.

When Hanako-san was brought into the common room to meet with us, the first thing we noticed was her wide smile. According to her family and caregivers, Hanako-san is a very happy woman, and this was abundantly clear! She had a smile on her face during nearly our entire visit. According to the hospital staff, it is rare to see her without a smile. She gave us all warm greetings and seemed happy to meet new people.

Hanako Ishii with LQ representatives Ben Meyers and Yumi Yamamoto on 9 January 2024

Fortunately for us, Hanako-san shared some of the reasons why she is so happy. But first, she had only one minor complaint. “I’m fat!” she said to us, prompting laughter from her caregivers in the room. While some research has been conducted implying that elderly people may benefit from being slightly overweight, this was of no interest to Hanako-san. Even when expressing this concern, she was smiling, perhaps because she knew it would make her caregivers laugh.

Since her positive attitude was so apparent, we asked her right away what she enjoyed so much about life. She confirmed that she loves her present life with family and caregivers who treat her so well. It is clear this is a woman who is well-loved. Quickly, however, she shifted the focus to her memories. “Let me tell you about my mother,” she said, and for the rest of our visit, her mother was her favorite topic.

Hanako Ishii with LQ representatives and her dedicated caregiving team, whom she considers family

The warm smile still on her face, Hanako-san described memories of spending time with her mother as a young girl. She especially recalled the one-on-one times she had with her mother. She remembered her mother taking her shopping – both for groceries and for toys. She remembered going on long walks with her mother. At one point, she described a particular day in which her mother took her to get food and then to a park to have a “beautiful picnic.” She made a point of saying how her mother “never got angry.”

As Hanako-san was telling us these memories, those of us visiting from LQ all independently had the same thought: she was telling us about memories from over a century ago, as if they happened yesterday! Looking at her face, it was easy to see her smile as the same one that must have been on her face over 100 years ago as she experienced those memories for the first time. To those of us visiting, these memories seemed unambiguously happy to us, rather than the melancholy often associated with recalling memories of loved ones who have passed away. In other words, Hanako-san’s memories seemed to be totally sweet rather than bittersweet.

Whereas a smile may seem to be merely a reaction to someone’s mood, it can be a cause as well as an effect. Prior research has demonstrated that a smile can induce a chemical reaction in the brain, spurring the release of hormones including dopamine and serotonin which increase happiness and reduce stress. As Hanako-san shared these special memories with us, it is likely that she herself was made happier by recalling them. In this sense, her mother’s love remains an active feature of Hanako-san’s life, comforting her on a daily basis despite her mother having passed away some years ago.

Hanako Ishii recalling memories of her mother at the age of 110

These impacts are not fleeting; the effects of these positive memories are present even when they aren’t being actively recalled. Having so many positive memories – and recalling them regularly – has been shown to build long-term resilience in someone’s emotional wellbeing, leaving them better equipped to deal with the more difficult moments in life. Per a 2017 study, “savoring happy memories might be significant for one’s ability to cope with stress, potentially promoting better decision-making and wellbeing.” Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that Hanako-san’s mother’s love has empowered her throughout her entire life.

While her mother was Hanako-san’s favorite topic to discuss, she was not the only part of her life bringing her great happiness. She discussed her brother and her son, noting how neither of them ever got angry either. She expressed her love for her home and her daily life. She also admitted to enjoying eating, despite also mentioning again how she felt she was fat. It was clear that her caregiving team at the hospital treats her with the utmost respect, and Hanako-san appeared very comfortable. On this particular day, Hanako-san felt inspired to sing three songs, including a rendition of Kimigayo, the Japanese national anthem.

After an hour, it was time for those of us with LQ to return to Tokyo. Addressing the author of this article, who was visiting from the United States, Hanako-san said, “If you go back to America tonight, be careful, it will be dark outside when you return.” She then insisted on being taken to the elevator doors to bid us farewell, rather than returning to her room. It was difficult for all of us to willfully leave the presence of such a lovely person.

LongeviQuest researchers are often amazed by the ability of supercentenarians to persevere through tragedy. Virtually all supercentenarians have had experiences in their lives that are incredibly challenging, and their ability to cope healthily with stress is likely a major factor in their long lives. After this visit to Hanako Ishii, we are reminded that a person’s life does not have to be viewed through the lens of trauma. Hanako-san’s childhood started her life on the sweetest of terms, and it seems that for a century, there has been no factor in her life more important than love.

We deeply thank Hanako-san for allowing us to visit her and sharing her life story with us. We also thank her family as well as her caregiving team led by Dr. Tanaka.


Works Referenced

NOTE: Research supplemented by Jimmy Lindberg, MSc, co-author.


While exceptional longevity has long been a fascination for many individuals, there appears to be some that believe that there has been a tapering of regarding how long a person can actually live. Is this true? Have we already observed the oldest person that will ever live?

The first centenarian and supercentenarian?

It is likely that the first centenarian lived in ancient times and belonged to the upper class. While achieving centenarianhood may have occurred then, such instances are unverifiable. Early verifiable centenarians appeared in the 17th century, and although Eilif Philipsen is recognized as the first fully verifiable centenarian, well-documented claims born earlier than him do exist. One of the earliest known documented centenarians was the French veteran André Levesque de La Souctière (1668-1772) (Antigny, n.y.). However, the vast majority of early centenarians is unknown, making it currently impossible to determine who the first centenarian was.

A recent revelation in the field of exceptional longevity posits that the first person to become a supercentenarian may not have been Geert Adriaans Boomgaard but rather another individual from the Netherlands. Unveiled at the 15th Supercentenarian Seminar in Paris by Dutch researcher van Dijk in November 2023 was the case of Hendrika Link-Scholte(n). She was presented in a poster presentation including documentation indicating that she may have lived to be a supercentenarian. While further research is needed to fully authenticate her age, she could potentially be considered for inclusion on some lists with lower standards. What will surprise most is that she was allegedly born in 1686, more than a century prior to Boomgaard, and died in 1797.

The recognized titleholders as the oldest person ever (and others that have been considered for the title)

The (so far) first fully verified person to reach age 110 was Geert Adriaans Boomgaard, a Dutch man born in 1788 who died at the age of 110 years, 135 days. Remarkably, Boomgaard was a soldier in Napoleon’s army. He was born and died in Groningen, the son of a boat captain, and would himself also follow in his father’s footsteps. Late in life, Boomgaard would be recognized for his longevity and has long been a validated supercentenarian. In 2021, a thorough validation of his age was presented (Chambre et al., 2021).

Geert Boomgaard at age 100. Source: Beeldbank Groningen

Boomgaard’s reign as the oldest person ever would stand for only four years when Margaret Ann Neve of the small island Guernsey of the Channel Islands would surpass his age (Poulain et al., 2021). Neve led a life of relative leisure, born in St Peter Port in 1792 into a family of high standing. She was married but didn’t have any children. Neve enjoyed traveling and learning languages. As with Boomgaard, Neve started receiving accolades for her longevity after passing the century mark. She passed away of natural causes in 1903, aged 110 years, 321 days.

After the death of Neve, no other person would reach supercentenarian status for the next 22 years. Although Ann Pouder, notably “verified” by Alexander Graham Bell, was previously recognized as a supercentenarian, her age was disputed and later revalidated by me and Dr. Andrew Holmes, confirming her age as “only” 109.

Louisa Thiers, born in Whitesboro, New York, in 1814 and the daughter of an American Revolutionary War veteran, became the first person to reach the age of 111. Like Boomgaard and Neve, Thiers was born into an affluent family. She was married and had five children. Thiers was also a fervent supporter of women’s emancipation. Louisa Thiers passed away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1926, at the age of 111 years and 138 days.

Louisa Thiers at age 105. Source: National Geographic Magazine

Thiers’ successor as the oldest living person would also become the next holder of the title as the world’s oldest person ever. Delina Filkins was born in Stark, New York, in 1815. In contrast to her successors, Filkins came from a humbler background, working at her family farm until marrying at a young age and continuing to farm with her husband in the same area. Filkins had six children. In remarkable health well into her centenarian years, she even underwent surgery for a hernia at the age of 107. As the first person to reach both ages 112 and 113, Delina Filkins was an extreme outlier of her time. She passed away in Richfield Springs, New York, at the age of 113 years and 214 days, and her record as the oldest person ever would stand for the next 54 years.

For several years, the person acknowledged to have succeeded Delina Filkins as the oldest person ever was Fannie Thomas, born in 1867 and passing away in 1981. She was exactly as old as she claimed, reaching 113 years and 273 days. In fact, the year 1980 saw three individuals surpassing Filkins’ mark. Anna Murphy claimed to have been born on 15 April 1867, nine days before Fannie Thomas, and died two days before Christmas in 1980 at the claimed age of 113 years and 252 days. However, her birth record contradicts this, supporting instead that she was born on 25 April 1867, making her one day younger than Thomas. Despite this, neither of these two women would hold the title of the oldest person ever. Still, at the time of their deaths, both were the oldest known individuals to have ever died.

Eliza Underwood at age 110. Source: Columbian-Progress
Eliza Underwood at age 110. Source: Columbian-Progress

Instead, Eliza Underwood, an African American woman born in Clinton, North Carolina, as a daughter to recently freed slaves, would be the next holder of the title. Underwood led a life of hard work, starting to work at the age of eight when she lived with and worked for a family of white neighbors. She married and had one daughter, adopting another, working in the fields and weaving cloth. Notably, she boarded a plane on her own at the age of 111 and flew to Washington, D.C., to reside with an adopted daughter. She later died here, just five days after Fannie Thomas, at the age of 113 years and 318 days. However, there is a reservation that Underwood might have been even older since most documentation from her early life supports a birth in 1865 or 1866.

While there have been two men acknowledged by certain organizations as the oldest person ever, Shigechiyo Izumi and Matthew Beard, both of their claims are considered disputed by LongeviQuest. Izumi is likely to have been around 105 at the time of his death, and Beard did likely not even reach centenarian status. This highlights the importance of high standards for accurate age validation.

At the age of 100. Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Augusta Holtz at age 100. Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The next person in line was another American, Augusta Holtz. Holtz was born in present-day Poland in 1871 and emigrated to the United States in 1873 with her family. Settling in Illinois, Holtz grew up on a farm. She later married a carpenter, moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and had four children. Like the other individuals mentioned, Holtz enjoyed good health well into her centenarian years and only moved into a geriatric home at the age of 109. Augusta Holtz passed away in Florissant, Missouri, in 1986 at the age of 115 years and 79 days.

While Jeanne Calment is widely recognized as the current holder of the title as the oldest person ever, there is a possibility that she wasn’t the direct successor to Holtz. Support for Easter Wiggins of Rolling Fork, Mississippi has been growing in recent years. Wiggins claimed to have been born four months prior to Calment and died in 1990 at the alleged age of 116. However, her validation is not complete, so she will, for now, remain an addendum.

And finally, Jeanne Calment. Despite some attempts to cast doubt on her age in recent years, she remains one of the most thoroughly validated supercentenarians of all time. Calment was born in Arles, France, in 1875 and died in her hometown in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days, pushing the limit of the maximum known human lifespan by seven years. She came from a well-off family and never had to work, instead pursuing various hobbies. She married a double second cousin and had one daughter. Calment outlived both her daughter and her only grandchild. She moved into a nursing home when she was approaching 110 and remained in remarkably good health until she suffered a fall a month before her 115th birthday, after which her health very slowly deteriorated.

Will the age of Jeanne Calment be surpassed?

The individuals arguing that Jeanne Calment was actually her own daughter in disguise allege that reaching the age of 122 is statistically impossible (Zak & Gibbs, 2020). Others, including myself, argue that this isn’t the case, and it is rather a question of chance and an individual having the correct circumstances to allow them to live exceptionally long.

Given that supercentenarian one-year mortality might plateau at 50 percent, the chance that any supercentenarian would surpass the final age of Calment is approximately 1 in 10,000. This number might seem extreme but considering that each current birth cohort produces more than 150 to 200 verifiable supercentenarians, it won’t be unexpected if Calment’s age is surpassed by more than one person during this century. Still, no person out of the currently more than 2,500 LongeviQuest recognized deceased supercentenarians has even come close to surpassing Calment, with the second and third oldest individuals ever, Kane Tanaka and Sarah Knauss, both falling three years and two months short of Calment’s mark.

Scholars argue that there might exist an upper limit in lifespan, and serious medical and/or technological breakthroughs might be needed to exceed this theoretical limit (Blagosklonny, 2021; Gavrilova & Gavrilov, 2020). Considering that human knowledge and expertise are constantly increasing, it might be a given that the human lifespan will sooner or later be extendable.

Given these facts, the answer to the question of whether Jeanne Calment’s age will be surpassed is that yes, it is highly likely that her age will be surpassed this century.

Presented below is a table for how long each mentioned titleholder’s mark as the oldest person ever stood:


Antigny, A. (n.y.). André LEVESQUE de LA SOUCTIÈRE. Geneanet.

Blagosklonny M. V. (2021). No limit to maximal lifespan in humans: how to beat a 122-year-old record. Oncoscience, 8, 110–119.

Chambre, D., Jeune, B., Poulain, M. (2021). Geert Adriaans Boomgaard, the First Supercentenarian in History?. In: Maier, H., Jeune, B., Vaupel, J.W. (Eds). Exceptional Lifespans. Demographic Research Monographs. Springer, Cham.

Gavrilova, N. S., & Gavrilov, L. A. (2020). Are We Approaching a Biological Limit to Human Longevity?. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 75(6), 1061–1067.

Poulain, M., Chambre, D., Jeune, B. (2021). Margaret Ann Harvey Neve – 110 Years Old in 1903. The First Documented Female Supercentenarian. In: Maier, H., Jeune, B., Vaupel, J.W. (Eds). Exceptional Lifespans. Demographic Research Monographs. Springer, Cham.

van Dijk, J. S. (2023, November 16-17). Hendrika Link – Scholte(n) (1686-1797). Earliest Supercentenarian Ever? [Poster Presentation]. 15th Supercentenarian Seminar, Paris, France.

Zak, N., & Gibbs, P. (2020). A Bayesian Assessment of the Longevity of Jeanne Calment. Rejuvenation Research, 23(1), 3-16.


Previous research on centenarians has indicated the existence of a phenomenon known as the “mortality plateau” (Modig et al., 2017). Mortality appears to stabilize at around 50 percent annually from the age of 100 and upwards. However, few studies have investigated whether this holds true for supercentenarians (individuals aged 110 and above) as well (Barbi et al., 2018). This can mainly be attributed to the inadequate dataset of supercentenarians in the past, with the historic lack of supercentenarian data preventing proper statistical analysis.

While still incomplete, efforts are underway to update historical supercentenarian data to obtain a more accurate depiction of past and present lifespans. An additional benefit of gathering and validating supercentenarian age claims is the opportunity to analyze mortality trajectories and interpret the mortality of exceptionally old individuals.

Moreover, it has been previously noted that seasons influence human mortality, with a higher number of deaths occurring during the colder months of the year (Rau, 2007). Several factors contribute to increased mortality during colder months (Drefahl, 2005). Climate, greater proximity to others, and access to nutrition have all been observed to affect mortality patterns. Seasonality in mortality naturally depends on the climate of the country in which a supercentenarian resides, with some countries experiencing fewer seasonal shifts in temperature and humidity than others (Rau, 2007).

Similarly, it has been observed that a person’s month of birth affects their lifespan (Huntington, 1938; Drefahl, 2005). Some research suggests that this is linked to access to nutrition during fetal development, impacting the individual throughout their life (Doblhammer, 2004). This supports the notion that individuals born during or directly after the winter months may have higher mortality and a lower likelihood of attaining exceptional longevity. Drefahl (2005) acknowledges that it is still uncertain which environmental conditions precisely determine a person’s lifespan.

Given the rapidly increasing number of supercentenarians, it is worth exploring how both mortality and seasonality can be observed in this age group.


Data for 2,365 validated deceased supercentenarians from around the world, born between 1788 and 1906, were organized into tables. Information such as month of birth, month of death, age at death, and gender was recorded.

One-year mortality was computed by dividing the number of supercentenarians who died at a specific age by the total number of supercentenarians who achieved that age (e.g., if 500 out of 1,000 supercentenarians died at the age of 110, the one-year mortality would be 50 percent).

Seasonal nativity and mortality were determined by calculating the number of supercentenarians born or dying in a particular month and dividing it by the total number of supercentenarians (e.g., if 150 supercentenarians out of 1,500 were born in March, the result would be 10 percent born in that month).


Month of birth and death

Figure 1. Supercentenarians by month of birth and death (%).

It is noteworthy that there is a seasonality in the birth and death patterns of supercentenarians. Differences exist between the first half (47.99%) and the second half of the year (52.01%) regarding births, with an even more pronounced contrast between the colder months of October to March (55.73%) and the warmer months of April to September (44.27%).

Additionally, variations in death patterns were observed between the first half (52.26%) and the second half (47.74%) of the year. Notably, mortality rates were highest during the colder months of October to March (56.87%), while being lower in the warmer months of April to September (43.13%).

One-year-mortality rate and survival past 110

Figure 2. Survival past age 110.

The one-year-mortality rates were observed to be close to 50 percent for individuals aged 110-113, gradually increasing to about 60 percent for those aged 114-116. For higher ages with only a few survivors, the one-year-mortality rate exhibited inconsistency, such as ranging from 0 percent at ages 120-121 to 100 percent at age 122.

Survival milestones were also noted: 50 percent cohort survival occurred at 111 years and 56 days, 25 percent survival at 112 years and 70 days, 10 percent survival at 113 years and 211 days, and 5 percent survival at 114 years and 150 days.

The median age at death for supercentenarians was recorded as 111 years and 56 days, while the mean age was 111 years and 197 days. The maximum age achieved in the dataset was 122 years and 164 days.

Table 1. One-year-mortality among supercentenarians


The findings of the data analysis align with previous studies regarding a human mortality plateau at 50 percent, particularly for ages 110-113. There appears to be an acceleration in mortality from age 114 to 116, with observed mortality rates approaching 60 percent. However, drawing meaningful conclusions at higher ages is challenging due to the limited number of individuals (only 11) who have lived beyond 117 years. Given the diminishing data with increased survival, it is essential to interpret the results with caution.

Regarding seasonality in birth and death patterns, it’s notable that the majority of supercentenarians were born and died during the colder months of the year. This is consistent with a previous study on centenarians born in the fall months (Gavrilov & Gavrilova, 2011). The present study’s results closely resemble those of Doblhammer et al. (2005), who found that the majority of German semi-supercentenarians are born between September and February. These findings suggest that the environment in which a person is gestated and subsequently born may influence their actual lifespan.

Considering the era in which most supercentenarians were born, marked by a lack of central heating and contemporary conveniences, one could hypothesize that these conditions might contribute to exceptional longevity, especially among individuals born during colder months. Nutrition, especially before the 19th century, and infectious diseases have shown seasonality (Doblhammer et al., 2005). Harvests and increased nutrition access during the fall, followed by a decline in nutrition during the spring, could impact the later stages of growth when individuals require the most nutrition.

Concerning increased mortality during colder months, this phenomenon has been observed in other studies and has been attributed to an elevated risk of infection or increased environmental exposure (Rau, 2007). Given that increased age results in an increased likelihood of frailty and vulnerability, this could particularly impact supercentenarian mortality, especially in more temperate countries.

Strengths and limitations
The absence of any prior analysis with such an extensive dataset lends significant weight to the findings. However, it’s crucial to note that this examination of supercentenarian mortality is far from exhaustive. Certain critical factors, such as regional variations in mortality and nativity, have not been explored, potentially exerting a substantial influence on the results. It must also be noted that only deceased birth cohorts were included. Neither has any statistical analysis been performed on the results.

The findings presented in this study should rather be viewed as a preliminary attempt to comprehend supercentenarian mortality and survival trajectories. Further, more detailed investigations, including regional considerations, are warranted for a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics at play.

It is plausible that a mortality plateau exists at approximately 50 percent, though the findings in this study hint at a potential acceleration at higher ages. Similarly, the likelihood of reaching supercentenarian status seem to be influenced by the time of year a person is born and mortality also appears to fluctuate over the seasons.



Barbi, E., Lagona, F., Marsili, M., Vaupel, J. W., & Wachter, K. W. (2018). The plateau of human mortality: Demography of longevity pioneers. Science, 360, 6396, 1459-1461.

Doblhammer, G. (2004). The late life legacy of very early life. Springer-Verlag.

Doblhammer, G., Scholz, R., & Maier, H. (2005). Month of birth and survival to age 105+: Evidence from the age validation study of German semi-supercentenarians. Experimental Gerontology, 40(10), 829-835.

Drefahl, S. (2005). The Influence of Season on Survival in Persons Aged 105+ in Germany [Diploma Thesis].

Gavrilov, L. A., & Gavrilova, N. S. (2011). Season of birth and exceptional longevity: comparative study of american centenarians, their siblings, and spouses. Journal of aging research, 2011, 104616.

Huntington, E. (1938). Season of birth. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Modig, K., Andersson, T., Vaupel, J., Rau, R., & Ahlbom, A. (2017). How long do centenarians survive? Life expectancy and maximum lifespan. Journal of Internal Medicine, 282(2), 156-163.

Rau, R. (2007). Literature Review. In: Rau, R (Ed.). Seasonality in Human Mortality. Demographic Research Monographs. Springer.

A large proportion of all verifiable supercentenarians who have ever lived come from the United States. Approximately 2,000 American supercentenarians born between 1814 and 1913 have been documented so far, and the proportion that are validated is continually increasing.

However, the United States of America is a vast mixture of different states, each with its own systems for recording and keeping documents (Mulcahy & Ford, 2019). This diversity results in the availability of certain documents, such as birth records, in some states but not in others.

While birth records are never the sole form of documentation needed to validate the age of a supercentenarian, they are usually among the strongest forms of documents. This is because they help establish a family relationship between the supercentenarian claimant and their parents, a connection that can only be inferred from other forms of documentation.

In general, civil birth records were not consistently kept in most states until the late 1800s. Some states have church records, such as christening or confirmation records, that can help locate this information. However, for many states, this information is unavailable, necessitating the implementation of alternate strategies.

The U.S. Census

The United States has conducted a census since 1790 (Krieger, 2019), with a decennial schedule. According to the 72-year rule for releasing census records, the most recent publicly available census is the 1950 US Census (United States Census Bureau, n.y.).

The primary purpose of the census is to enumerate the population of the United States and collect essential information about individuals (Winkle, 1994). In the first six census enumerations (1790-1840), only the head of the household was listed, along with notes on age ranges (e.g., 10-14 years old) and status (free white, other free person, or slave).

Starting with the 1850 census, each free person in the household was individually listed with their name and basic descriptors (Winkle, 1994). Over time, the information recorded in census records has expanded to capture key sociodemographic aspects of the population.

Most census records have been well-preserved and are publicly accessible. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the 1890 census was lost in a fire in 1921 (Winkle, 1994; United States Census Bureau, 2021).

Using census records to validate supercentenarians

For many American supercentenarians, an entry in the census is often the earliest available document, and in many cases, it may be the only early-life document stating an actual age for the person. This makes the census crucial for verifying claims with higher certainty.

Delina Filkins (1815-1928) on her 113th birthday. Photo source: FindAGrave

Early supercentenarians like Louisa Thiers (1814-1926) and Delina Filkins (1815-1928) can be proxy-validated using the 1820 and 1830 censuses (both listed as under ten in 1820 and 15-19 in 1830). Although not mentioned by name, family reconstruction has allowed for the identification of these individuals and validation of their age claims. No other validated American supercentenarians born before 1840 have been identified in the pre-1840 census records.

Considering that the number of supercentenarians increased rapidly in cohorts born after 1880, the loss of almost the entire 1890 census poses a significant challenge. For supercentenarians without another document (birth record, state census, etc.), there might be a gap of up to 20 years between their birth and the first time they are documented in the 1900 census (enumerated as of June 1).

Sarah Knauss (1880-1999). Photo source:

Sarah Knauss (1880-1999) was for a long time viewed with some skepticism, having been born in September 1880 but first appearing in the Census in 1900, meaning that she was a grown woman at the time. Considering that people can exaggerate their ages for a variety of reasons, especially once they are nearing adulthood (for example to get married or enlist in the army), the Sarah Knauss claim was therefore viewed by some with slight skepticism. I personally located Knauss in an 1894 church book entry where she had taken communion, but no age was given in this entry. Neither was an age given in the index in the church book from about 1888, where Knauss and her family members were listed. As luck would have it however, a recent discovery of a transcription of the 1890 census for the area Knauss and her family lived in that had been made in 1891 stated that Knauss was ten years old at the time.

While some supercentenarian claimants may be fortunate to have their 1890 census documents transcribed, others may only have documents where they were close to adulthood. The question arises: Is such a document sufficient? Arguments exist on both sides, with some advocating for a stricter “10-year rule,” while others are more lenient with a “20-year rule.”

An example of an index to documents that are available for some American supercentenarians. Note the inconcistencies in age reporting in some of the rows.

Complicating the validation process is the fact that some supercentenarians were either missed in their earliest census records or enumerated with an age inconsistent with their age claim. Mid-life census records, particularly for female supercentenarians, often exhibit mild to severe age deflation. An unvalidated (but documented) example involves a woman claiming to be 17 years younger in the 1920 census than indicated by her earliest document (1880 census) and later-life claims. Notably, the 1900 census stands out as the only census record recording a person’s month and year of birth instead of their age. Many supercentenarians also have a month of birth listed in 1900 that is inconsistent with later-life claims.

The question arises: How much credibility should be given to census records? While they are generally useful to gain insight into whether a person was a supercentenarian, caution is necessary in interpretation. When the supercentenarian claimant did not respond directly, minor inconsistencies may arise, such as a relative misremembering the month or year of their relative’s birth. Thorough validation requires constructing an overarching life story using all available documents, interpreting and weighing each document together.

An example of a U.S. census entry, in this case the 1900 census for Katie Hatton (1877-1992). Note that Hatton (Dolly) is listed as being three years older than claimed, which showcases that the census isn’t always 100% reliable.

A unique scenario arises when a census record supports a supercentenarian being older than claimed. My professional opinion is that to upgrade a deflated supercentenarian claim, two consecutive early-life census records (issued before the age of 20) supporting a higher age are needed, without another early document contradicting them. However, it’s important to note that not all researchers share this view.

The SSDI and SS-5

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) serves as a valuable document for confirming that a person indeed reached the age of 110. However, caution must be exercised in interpreting the SSDI due to instances of ‘ghost cases,’ where a person passed away decades earlier but was only officially registered as deceased at a later date. The index is compiled from a death master file and includes most individuals with a social security number at the time of death (Hill & Rosenwaike, 2001/2002). Covering the time span from 1962 to 2014, recent entries are restricted from public access.

Social Security card application forms (SS-5) also play a crucial role as genealogical tools. These forms often contain information such as the names of a person’s parents and their place of birth. The relatively recent release of SS-5 forms on genealogical websites has facilitated more in-depth research on previously validated supercentenarians. Information from SS-5 forms has helped debunk claims associated with two individuals, Lucy Hannah (1875?/1894?-1993) and Mathew Beard (1870?/1886-1985), who were previously considered supercentenarians.

Other forms of documentation

As mentioned earlier, the United States comprises numerous states, each with its unique set of available documentation. States like New York and New Jersey, for instance, maintained state censuses, while others, like Mississippi, had school censuses. Marriage records spanning various periods from the 19th to the 20th century are accessible in most states. Immigration records are available in the form of passenger lists and naturalization records for some states. Additionally, some states have public address registers for late-life documentation.


In conclusion, although not necessarily as extensive as the documentation found in certain European countries, the United States possesses a diverse array of records that allows for robust age validation of supercentenarians.



Hill, M. E., & Rosenwaike, I. (2001/2002). The Social Security Administration’s Death Master File: The Completeness of Death Reporting at Older Ages. Social Security Bulletin, 64(1).

Krieger N. (2019). The US Census and the People’s Health: Public Health Engagement From Enslavement and “Indians Not Taxed” to Census Tracts and Health Equity (1790-2018). American journal of public health109(8), 1092–1100.

Mulcahy, B. L. & Ford, C. (2019). Family History – A Concise Beginner’s Overview. Fort Myers Regional Library.

United States Census Bureau. (n.y.) The “72-Year Rule.” Retrieved 2023-12-17 from:

United States Census Bureau. (2021) January 2021. Retrieved 2023-12-17 from:

Winkle, K. J. (1994). The United States Census and Community History. The History Teacher, 28(1), 87-101.

To validate the age of a supercentenarian, a high level of proof is required to substantiate their claimed longevity (Poulain, 2010). Documentation standards vary across different countries, with some nations having a longstanding tradition of meticulously recording births and deaths, while others have a relatively shorter history of such practices.

Among the regions boasting the world’s most robust documentation systems is the Nordic area, where church records have served as a staple for several centuries, enabling thorough validations of exceptional longevity. Notably, Sweden stands out as the leading Nordic country in this regard.

Commencing in 1686, Swedish parish priests were mandated to record each birth, marriage, and death within their parish (Wannerdt, 1982). Various additional documentation systems were implemented to aid the priests in maintaining accurate population records. Although the system took some time to be fully implemented, it has been largely complete for the past 250 years. Further details on this will be elaborated in an upcoming article by the author of this editorial.

This editorial will present a case study, shedding light on how Swedish supercentenarians can be effectively researched.

Zachrison (112) when she became the oldest Swedish person of all time. Source: Aftonbladet.

Astrid Zachrison

Astrid Zachrison garnered attention in the Swedish national media from 2006, marking her 111th birthday, until her passing just half an hour into her 113th birthday in 2008 (Bastholm, 2008). News articles chronicling her life highlighted her birthplace as Fliseryd and mentioned her son, Per-Ivan, born in 1928 (TT, 2007). Astrid lived with her son until the age of 106, after which she relocated to a nursing home (Hökerberg, 2007).

While the available information may not reveal much, the Swedish record-keeping system proves invaluable. The Swedish tax agency maintains comprehensive data on every resident, including details about parents, birthplaces, and deaths. This information likely played a pivotal role in Astrid’s initial validation. However, for a retrospective case study, an array of additional resources is now at our disposal compared to 15 years ago.

One such resource is the Swedish Death Book 8, encompassing data on individuals who passed away in Sweden between 1830 and 2020.

The Swedish death book 8 contains information about every person in Sweden that died between 1830 and 2020. In this book it can be noted that Elin Astrid Sofia Zachrison died in Holsbybrunn on 15 May 2008 and that she had been born in Fliseryd on 15 May 1895. Furthermore, it was noted that she had been widowed in 1977. Her personal identity number (something that is used to identify every person is Sweden) was also listed.

From this death record, there are two search strategies that can be utilized: by going directly to the original documentation from when she was born, or by going backwards from the time of her death to when she was born.


In this instance I chose to start from the time of her birth.

The Swedish National Archives have digitized most Swedish church records and they are publicly available.

Since Zachrison’s place of birth was Fliseryd, the church books from her birth area were consulted. It can be noted that on page 6 of the christening book for 1895-1912 that Elin Astri Sofia was born to Julius Jonsson (b. 24 December 1856) and Eleonora Josefina Amalia Nilsdotter (b. 28 July 1853) on 15 May 1895. She is noted to have been christened on 18 June the same year. It is further noted that her family was registered on page 537 of the parish roll.

Consulting the parish roll, Elin Astri Sofia can be observed living with her family in the Åby-area of the parish. It is noted that she had several older siblings.

Since the roll ended in 1897, the same can be done on the next roll, which covered the period from 1897-1906. Nothing has changed in the family since there were no children born after Astrid.

Zachrison (right) with her older sister, Ester, c. 1906. Source:

The parish rolls were originally also used to assess how knowledgeable the parish members were in Christianity, meaning that they received grades from the priests. Astrid Jonsson was still too young to receive such a grade in 1906.

In the parish roll for 1907-1916 it is noted that Astrid received an A in Christianity. Two of her siblings were noted to have left home in 1907, with one later returning.

In the Parish roll for 1917- 1926 it was noted that Astrid Jonsson left home in December 1921 and moved to Högsby, where she worked as an office assistant. She returned home briefly in August 1926.

One issue with church books is that the notes can sometimes be close to illegible, which was the case here. It takes some time to get used to reading old Swedish handwriting due to many priests using peculiar writing styles.

Zachrison was noted to have returned to Högsby in 1926 and would reside at the very same place, which resulted in what appears to be a double entry, but actually contains information about the two separate times she would reside in Högsby.

In the entry for her 1926 return to Högsby there’s a note that she was married in 1928 as the 15th marriage that year. In the marriage books for Högsby, Zachrison’s marriage is recorded: Elin Astrid Sofia Jonsson married Tage Zakarias Zachrison on 26 May 1928.

Shortly thereafter it was noted that Astrid Zachrison left Högsby on 26 June 1928 and moved to Klockaregård in Alseda in Jonkoping county. In the entry in the parish book from 1927-1939 for Alseda, Zachrison can be noted to live with her husband and a son, Per Ivan, who was born in December 1928.

Per Ivan Zachrison can be noted in the christening book for Alseda to have been born on 14 December 1928 and that he was the son of Tage Zackrison and Elin Astrid Sofia Johnsson,

In the parish roll for 1940-1949 for Alseda, the Zachrison family lived in the same place, but there was the addition of a Finish-born child named Eeva that had arrived in 1948. This could potentially be related to World War II, which had recently involved Finland.

Newer church books were unavailable since a church document has to be older than 70 years in order for it to be publicly available. This does, however, not hinder further research. Arkiv Digital and Sveriges Släktforskarförbund have several available documents that can aid a researcher in validating the age of a Swedish supercentenarian.

The 1940 Sweden Census is, for instance, available, and in this document the Zachrison family is living in Alseda (which was of course already known from the Parish roll).

The next document that is available is a mental length. Mental lengths were originally used for taxation purposes but can also be valuable tools in genealogical research. Mental lengths have been compiled for every five or ten years from 1950 to 1990.

In 1950, Astrid Zachrison was noted to be living with her husband and Eeva in Alseda. Meaning that her son had left home by 1950. It was noted that she was also present in the 1946 mental length.

Zachrison can be observed together with her husband in the 1960 mental length, meaning that Eeva had also left by then.



Astrid Zachrison and her husband remained in the same house in 1970 and 1975 as well.


In the 1980 mental length it was however noted that she had been widowed in August of 1977, which was confirmed by her husband’s death index.

By 1985, when she was 90 years old, Zachrison still remained in the same house. The same was true for 1990, when she was 95 years old.

Zachrison was reported in the media to have lived with her son until the age of 106, which would likely have been where she would have been found if a document from the time period 1991-2001 had been available. Thankfully, the fact that the personal identity number exists in Sweden means that identity theft can be ruled out for this brief period of time where there isn’t any available documentation. Finally, the death index can be recalled, where it was noted that Astrid Zachrison died in Alseda on her birthday, 15 May 2008, aged 113.

To summarize Astrid Zachrison‘s life:

1895: Born in Fliseryd on 15 May 1895
1895-1921: Lived with family in Fliseryd
1921-1926: Lived in Högsby
1926: Returned briefly to Fliseryd in August before moving to Högsby again
1928: Married Tage Zackrison on 26 May 1928. Moved to Alseda in June. Gave birth to son Per Ivar on 14 December the same year
1928-1977: Lived in Alseda with her husband, being widowed in August 1977
1977-2008: Remained in Alseda until her death at age 113


There is an ample amount of documentation supporting Astrid Zachrison having lived to 113 years old. The documentation spans her entire life, starting from when she was just one month old. The fact that her date of birth is mentioned in all documents solidifies her age claim. A family tree reconstruction, while not really necessary since she was accounted for throughout her life, also solidifies that Zachrison was a supercentenarian. Given the high quality of the documentation, Astrid Zachrison can be considered a high-level validated supercentenarian.


Family Tree Reconstruction
To spare the details of the same research being performed for all of Astrid Zachrison’s family members, a family tree reconstruction is instead provided here:

JONSSON, Julius (24.12.1856 – 27.1.1933)
NILSDOTTER, Eleonora Josefina Amalia (28.7.1853 – 21.11.1944)

Married 20 May 1883

JONSSON, Ester Lydia Maria (18.2.1885 – 28.1.1969)
JOHNSON, Josef Julius Amandus (19.10.1886 – 12.6.1968), died in Illinos, USA
JOHNSSON, Karl Artur Alexius (26.1.1888 – 23.10.1956)
JONSSON, Oskar Charodotes Henry (16.4.1890 – 9.7.1962)
JONSSON, Gunnar Arvid Emanuel (24.5.1893 – 4.5.1973)

ZACHRISON, Tage Zakarias (23.9.1889 – 31.8.1977)

Married 26 May 1928

ZACHRISON, Per-Ivan (14.12.1929 – 22.11.2022)



Bastholm, S. (19 May 2008). Bara tre kvar från 1800-talet. Hallands Nyheter.

Hökerberg, J. (7 Oct 2007). Grattis, Astrid! Aftonbladet.

Poulain, M. (2010). On the age validation of supercentenarians. In Maier, H., Jeune, B., Robine, J-M., & Vaupel, J. W. (Eds.). Supercentenarians. Springer. Demographic Research Monographs.

Tidningens Telegram. (16 May 2007). Sveriges Äldsta fyllde 112 år.

Wannerdt, A. (1982). Den svenska folkbokföringens historia under tre sekler. Swedish Tax Agency. Retrieved 7 December 2023 from:


When we read in the news that a person has turned 110, we as supercentenarian researchers are naturally thrilled. But there is a need to have a critical mind from the very start because many supercentenarian claims turn out to be false, especially the older the person claims to be.

The reasons for age exaggeration are many; a person can exaggerate their age from a very young age as a result of having married young or having become a parent early, there are also examples of a person exaggerating their age to both get into service, but also to avoid it (Wilmoth & Lundström, 1996; Poulain, 2010). Some people claim to be older in order to start collecting their pension early and others exaggerate their ages later in life in order to be noted by their community and media as especially long-lived individuals. Age exaggeration can also come in the form of identity theft, wherein a person assumes the identity of a parent or older sibling for various reasons (Wilmoth & Lundström, 1996).

It must also be noted that age exaggeration can be accidental, such as a person being mistaken for someone else, which can result in a person being attributed a much longer lifespan than they have actually lived. One example of this is the case of Pierre Joubert (1701? – 1814) where a father and son with the same name were mistaken for one another, resulting in this duo being recognized as the only “validated” supercentenarian for quite some time (Charbonneau, 1990; Desjardins, 1999).

From time to time there will also be examples of age deflation, where a person claims to be younger than they actually are. These cases are often not discovered since few of them actually live to be supercentenarians. One such example is that of Emma Isbell (1859-1969), who claimed to have been born in October of 1860 and died in December 1969, allegedly aged 109. However, she was listed in the 1860 United States Census as being eight months old as of June 1, 1860, meaning that it wasn’t possible for her to have been born in October of that year. Thus, in all likelihood she was actually a supercentenarian, something which was also supported by other early-life documentation.

William Thoms, the pioneer of age validation. Photo courtesy of: The Victorian Web

Age validation of exceptional longevity really originated with William Thoms and his rules for age validation (Thoms, 1873). Over the next century and a half many researchers have attempted to find the “golden rule” for age validation, with many different criteria being proposed (Poulain, 2010; Skytthe & Jeune, 1995; Rosenwaike & Stone, 2003). These criteria have been utilized and adapted for various purposes, with a supercentenarian claim being categorized as having various degrees of validation depending on how thorough their documentation is.

At the most basic level there exists proof that this person exists or existed and claimed to be a supercentenarian. This proof can come in various forms, such as a newspaper report, an obituary or a death record (Skytthe & Jeune, 1995). The next level is reached when there exists some sort of documentation supporting the age claim. Generally, the earlier a document is issued, the better the reliability of it actually supporting the correct age of the person. However, one document is not sufficient if a supercentenarian should be considered to be a validated supercentenarian. For most supercentenarians that are validated by organizations specializing in age validation there exist several documents that are in accordance with the person being a supercentenarian (Jeune & Poulain, 2021).

Some records, however, can be unreliable, especially documents issued when a person was older or when the person themselves wasn’t the respondent. Census records are generally such records that can be used to validate a person’s age with a lower degree of certainty, but they have been proven to be very unreliable, especially for claimants from the United States, where an age can fluctuate by several years from census to census. In order to achieve a higher standard of validation, birth or baptismal records are needed since they will generally contain an actual date of birth, something which is unfortunately lacking in almost all censuses or marriage records.

Still, it shouldn’t be considered sufficient that there are potential document matches for a person that is or was an alleged supercentenarian. Without doing a proper background check it is still possible for inaccurate attributions of identity to occur: especially mistaking a person for their earlier-born sibling is something that has occurred more than once for supercentenarian researchers.

Such is the case of Shigechiyo Izumi (1865? – 1986), who for a long time was recognized as the oldest man of all time (Matsuzaki, 1987; Glenday, 2010). Research later indicated that his extreme age was caused by his name given to him as a necronym for a sibling that had been born 15 years before him, thus making him only 105 years old at the time of his death.

Newspaper coverage of Shigechiyo Izumi’s purported 120th birthday. Photo courtesy of:

For some supercentenarians a validation with the highest degree of certainty will not be possible. In many areas birth registration was not compulsory when they were born, leading to them not having any birth record. And family bibles, if they existed in the first place, have sometimes been lost. Therefore, there is a need for age validation to also accommodate for these instances. If the documentation is in accordance with the person being a supercentenarian, they should be recognized as such, but it should be noted that the validation was approved with a lower degree of certainty.

To achieve a very high-level of validation, a full family reconstruction is necessary (Skytthe & Jeune, 1995; Poulain, 2010). When performing a family reconstruction, each family member that can be considered relevant is investigated in order to rule out identity-theft, accidental mix-ups, and other potential scenarios that could result in the person not actually being a supercentenarian. Each member is therefore researched, and their vital information is noted in order to paint a complete picture of a supercentenarian claimant’s biography. Often this information can be extracted from the claimant (Poulain, 2010) or their relatives. In other cases, this information can be traced from vital documents such as a death file.

The need for a claim to be objectively reviewed by more than just one researcher to eliminate bias has been addressed in various ways. LongeviQuest, for example, has a Global Validation Commission consisting of researchers that review the research that is presented to them and analyze a claim by how well it adheres to the validation standards that have been postulated by the organization.

To show how age validation works in practice, it should be noted that some countries have better documentation than others. The Nordic countries especially are among the best in the world with their system based in church records and a personal identity number that allows for a person and their family members to be traced throughout their life. This will usually easily rule out wrongful claims.

Carl Mattsson, Swedish supercentenarian, the day he became the oldest Swedish man ever. Photo taken 18 July 2019 by Helena Erlandsson.

One such example of a very high-level validated supercentenarian is Carl Mattsson (1908 – 2019) of Sweden who possesses over 30 documents supporting him being a supercentenarian. Still, even in a country such as Sweden issues can exist in ascertaining how old a person actually is. Mattsson claimed to have been born on March 7, 1908, something which is supported by all documents except for his earliest document, a christening record which states that he was born on March 9, 1908. This discrepancy is, however, minor and doesn’t change the fact that he was a supercentenarian. A full family reconstruction could be performed and confirmed his identity (Appendix 1).

In conclusion, age validation of supercentenarians can take many forms and can vary from being very unreliable to having a high standard of validation, which is something that all researchers should strive to achieve in order for their data to be as accurate as possible.



Charbonneau, H. (1990) La Rubrique du P.R.D.H.: Pierre Joubert a-t-il vécu 113 ans? Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française, 41, 45–48.

Desjardins, B. (1999). Validation of extreme longevity cases in the past: The French-Canadian experience. In Jeune, B. & Vaupel, J. W. (Eds.), Validation of exceptional longevity, Odense Monographs on Population Aging. Odense: Odense University Press.

Jeune, B., & Poulain, M. (2021). The First Supercentenarians in History, and Recent 115 + −Year-Old Supercentenarians. An Introduction to the Following Chapters. In H. Maier, J. Vaupel, & B. Jeune (Eds.). Exceptional Lifespans. Springer. Demographic Research Monographs.

Matsuzaki, T. (1987). Characteristic of centenarians. In Transactions of the General Assembly of the Japan Medical Congress.

Poulain, M. (2010). On the age validation of supercentenarians. In Maier, H., Jeune, B., Robine, J-M., & Vaupel, J. W. (Eds.). Supercentenarians. Springer. Demographic Research Monographs.

Rosenwaike, I., & Stone, L. F. (2003). Verification of the Ages of Supercentenarians in the United States: Results of a Matching Study. Demography, 40(4), 727–739.

Skytthe, A., & Jeune, B. (1995). Danish centenarians after 1800. In Jeune, B., & Vaupel J.W. (Eds.), Exceptional longevity: From prehistory to the present, Odense Monographs on Population Aging. Odense: Odense University Press.

Thoms, W. J. (1873). Human longevity, its facts and its fictions. John Murray, London.

Wilmoth, J. R., & Lundström, H. (1996). Extreme longevity in five countries: Presentation of trends with special attention to issues of data quality. European Journal of Population, 12, 63–93.



Appendix 1 – Family tree reconstruction of Carl Mattsson (1908-2019)

Rutger Mattsson (11.10.1877 – 26.11.1943)
Agda Elisabet Berndtsdotter (7.12.1877 – 7.9.1961) m. 25 Oct 1906
Bror Magnus (16.12.1906 – 7.6.1993)
Otto Ragnar (30.7.1909 – 18.10.1985)
Erik Valdemar (12.1.1912 – 24.11.2004)
Ingrid Maria Eriksson (9.4.1915 – 5.12.2007)
Sigrid Alfrida (12.10.1918 – 20.4.1919)
Sonja Juleida Margareta Behrendt (22.8.1907 – 20.4.1990) m. 12 Nov 1932, d. 7 Nov 1955
Ella Birgit Viola Andersson (21.10.1929 – 27.3.2010) m. 16 May 1964
Berit Irene (8.3.1939 – 23.3.1984)