is the prompt for Week 3 of the writing challenge. This prompted me to dig into my family tree to find the ancestor who far exceeded the average life expectancy at the time of death. So while I have ancestors who were older when they died, and in fact have aunts who are still living in their 90s, I am intrigued by my paternal second great-grandfather, Johann Heinrich Berhard Boegel. He was 83 when he died in 1920, but according to a study from the University of California - Berkeley, the average life expectancy for a male in the United States in 1920 was 53.6 years. He exceeded the average by nearly 30 years!
Johann (sometimes going by Henry, other times as John) was born on 1 March 1837 in Lengerich, in the Kingdom of Prussia to Frederich and Christine Boegel. The area became part of Germany in 1871. Established in 1147, Lengerich is located about 30 km northeast of Münster in North Rhine-Westphalia, and is small community situated on the southern slope of the Teutoburg Forest. When he was 21, Johann traveled alone to Bremen, a distance of 139 km, where he boarded the SS Auguste
for passage to America. The Auguste
was built for the Bremen shipping company E.C. Shramm and Co., and was launched on 2 November 1850. The ship could carry 358 people.
|typical 1850s sailing vessel|
was most likely a sailing ship as it was not until around 1865 that more emigrants traveled by steamship than sailing vessels. The average length of the voyage would have been around six weeks. The ship's master on Johann's journey was Henry Ehrichs of Bremen, who guided the ship into the port of Baltimore on 20 July 1858.
Johann indicated on the ship's passenger list that he was a farmer, and his intended destination in the United States was Cincinnati. Despite traveling over six weeks from his home in Lengerich to Baltimore, he still had to navigate his way from Baltimore to Cincinnati. That is a distance of over 500 miles, which he most likely accomplished by train.
On 26 November 1858, Johann married Sophia Elizabeth Suhre. Sophia was born 26 March 1837 in Lienen, Westphalia, a small village located only 9.7 km away from Lengerich. Did the young couple know each other back in Prussia? It certainly seems interesting that less than four months after his arrival in Cincinnati, Johann was getting married. The wedding ceremony was performed by F.M. Raschig, pastor of St. Matthaeus, a German Evangelical church located on Elm Street between 15th and Liberty Streets. This part of Cincinnati was referred to as Over the Rhine due to the huge influx of German immigrants settling in the area.
The couple resided in the 500 block of Elm, and Johann quickly established himself as a grocer. By the 1880 census, he listed his occupation as "grocery and saloon". Johann and Sophia had the following children: Johann Heinrich (Henry), William, Emma, Louisa (my great-grandmother), Matilda, John Henry (John), and Charles.
Sophia died on 4 December 1891 of chronic bronchitis. She was 54 years old. In the 1910 census, Johann was living with his daughter Emma and her husband, and at 73 years of age he was working as a porter in a saloon. The record also indicates that he became a naturalized citizen in 1865.
By the time the 1920 census was taken in January, Johann resided at the Hamilton County Home. Two months later, on 19 March 1920, he died at the age of 83 of prostate enlargement. Today the diagnosis likely would read pancreatic cancer. He was buried 22 March 1920 in Raschig Cemetery, today also known as Baltimore Pike Cemetery.
What was it about Johann that enabled him to live such a long life? He had been widowed for 29 years at the time he died, and five of his children predeceased him. Hopefully it wasn't the fact that he was widowed that kept him going! Was it owning his business for so many years? Continuing to work into his 70s? Even more intriguing - if he hadn't developed a problem with his prostate, could he have reached the age of 90?