24 June 1892Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England, United Kingdom


10 August 2004Toronto, Ontario, Canada



Mary Ellen Swan

Mary Ellen Swan (née Sysum) was a British-born Canadian supercentenarian whose age has been validated by the European Supercentenarian Organisation (ESO).

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Swan was born as Mary Ellen Sysum in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England, UK, on 24 June 1892. At the age of 18, she moved to Canada to work as a servant for a Toronto family. She had to work long hours, for which she was paid $12 a month, and she had to sleep on straw in an unheated attic. Nine months later, having repaid the cost of her transatlantic passage, she moved to a different employer where she worked until she got married.

In 1912, she married Herb Swan, a conductor on the street railway whom she had met at a church gathering. The couple had two children (a son and a daughter): Herb Swan Jr. (1912–1994) and Margaret Cahoon (born 1920). After World War I broke out, her husband left to serve in the army. Her husband became ill during the 1918 flu pandemic, and remained an invalid for the rest of his life. Her husband passed away in 1944.

Around 1990, she had a serious fall, cracking her skull and breaking her hip. The doctors told her that she would never walk again, but she recovered. Her son died of cancer in 1994, aged 78. At the age of 103, she was suffering from a slight loss of hearing in one ear and arthritis in her back. At the time, she was still attending church almost every Sunday.

Swan passed away in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 10 August 2004, at the age of 112 years, 47 days.

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At the time of her death, she was the oldest validated living person in Ontario and the third-oldest validated living person in Canada, behind Anne Samson and Julie Winnefred Bertrand.

Her age was validated by the Gerontology Research Group on 5 February 2003, and by the ESO on 3 August 2023.

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* “Rough welcome didn’t stop her zest for life” – The Windsor Star, 29 September 1995

* “Ontario’s oldest woman dead at 112” – North Bay Nugget, 13 August 2004