It’s a good idea for all of us to know our family medical history for it is there that we often find important clues that can help us understand and deal with illnesses and diseases that tend to move successively through generations of our family tree.
But I can find no rational explanation for males born to the past four generations of Lehmers outliving women born in that period by a ratio of better than two to one.
Starting with Elias Lehmer, my great-great-grandfather, my direct Lehmer descendants produced 14 males and 10 females over the next four generations. Of the 14 males, only two didn’t make it to age 60. Of the 10 females, however, only four made it to their 25th birthday and only two lived past the age of 55.
Both males who died young did so at very young ages – a brother of my grandmother’s was stillborn and my brother, Johnnie, died at 5 months. Even factoring in these young deaths, the average age of the Lehmer men at death was 71.1 years. For the women, though, it was just 33.8 years.
My brothers and I can take solace in knowing that (in addition to being males) longevity seems to be a strong trait in my mother’s line (her mother lived to age 97) and that our paternal grandmother, Jessie, was the longest-lived of the 10 Lehmer women, reaching age 79.
Of course, few of us know our actual expiration date and, even if we did know, outside forces could change it in an instant. Still, your own family history can give you some general clues as to what you might expect as your biological clock winds down.
Photo: Jessie and Harry Lehmer in 1923 (Walter B. Lehmer collection)