Rick Mourits | 17-12-2019 | Exceptional lives, extraordinary families. Familial clustering of longevity in the 19th and early-20th centuries

On 4 October 1829, Leendert Wisse was born in Meliskerke, a small, rural town on the island of Walcheren in Zeeland. In many ways, Leendert’s life was unexceptional. He was a farmer’s son and he worked on his father’s farm until he got married to Neeltje Geschuren at age 23. Together
with Neeltje, he moved to another small town on Walcheren – Ritthem – and went on to have 13 children, the last of whom was born when Leendert was 43. When the couple got older, they left their own farm and moved to Wissenkerke on Noord-Beveland, where their four youngest children lived. Here, Leendert and Neeltje grew old and eventually died of old age. In many ways, Leendert Wisse’s life is exemplary for those born in Zeeland in the first half of the 19th century.
Like so many others, he stayed in the region where he was born and married, had multiple children, and worked in the same profession for most of his life. But, however ordinary the life course of Leendert Wisse might have been, his life span was exceptional. Leendert lived to be 99 years old and outlived 99.9% of his peers.

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