28 August 1865Charlottesville, Virginia, United States


5 November 1978Syracuse, New York, United States



Alice Coles

Alice Coles (née Flannagan) was an American supercentenarian whose age has been validated by LongeviQuest. After her validation, she was posthumously recognized as the former world’s oldest living person.

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Coles was born as Alice Flannagan in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, on 28 August 1865. She had four sisters (two of whom were half-sisters from her mother’s second marriage). Her parents were freed slaves who chose to remain on the plantation. When she was 9 years old, she began working, engaging in activities like knitting and other small tasks to contribute to her family’s support. She asserted that she consistently experienced poor health as a young woman, mentioning how people wouldn’t hire her due to her health condition.

At some point, she married Ladwell Coles, with whom she had six children. Her husband worked as a gardener, and she worked as a cook. Her husband died in 1910.

Around the age of 97, she moved into a nursing home. At the age of 101, she mentioned that the memory of her father had already faded away, but she could still recall her mother telling her about the Civil War. When asked about the secret behind her longevity, she referred to a verse from the Bible, Matthew 6:33, stating: “Seek the Lord first and these things shall be added.”

Coles passed away in Syracuse, New York, USA, on 5 November 1978, at the age of 113 years, 69 days. She was survived by one daughter, Hester Lee Dey, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and five great-greatgrandchildren. Her last surviving daughter passed away in November 1997, aged 106.

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Her age was verified by Jimmy Lindberg and Nick Eriksson, and validated by LongeviQuest on 12 September 2023. The earliest document, the 1870 US Census Record, confirms her age as 4 years old on August 16, 1870, aligning with her claimed birthdate of August 28, 1865. This suggests that she was about to celebrate her 5th birthday in less than two weeks. However, if she was precisely 4 years old during the census, it would support a birthdate in August 1866 and passing at the age of 112. While this doesn’t impact her status as a supercentenarian, it could potentially impact her standing as the former World’s Oldest Living Person (given that the previously validated titleholder at that time was born on June 30, 1866). Nevertheless, the majority of documents either support 1865 over 1866 as her birth year or suggest that she might have been even older than claimed.

On 18 October 1976, following the death of 112-year-old Ellen Cooke, she became the oldest known living person in the United States

After her age was validated in September 2023, it was determined that, on 16 November 1976, following the death of Niwa Kawamoto, she became the world’s oldest living person. The previously validated titleholder and successor to Kawamoto was Sophia DeMuth (30 June 1866 – 2 December 1977). However, Coles was not only likely older than DeMuth but also outlived both her and her “successor”, Marie-Virginie Duhem (2 August 1866 – 25 April 1978).

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* “She marks 101st birthday” – Syracuse Herald American, 28 August 1966

* “Life begins at 101” – Syracuse Post Standard, 29 August 1966

* “County’s Oldest Resident Dies at 113” – Syracuse Post Standard, 6 November 1978