January 14, 2018
#Longevity – Week 3
By Marilyn Sears Lindsey
Sears Family Women on Cape Cod: Longevity
When I take a look at the women who married into the Sears Family from 1632 when Dorothy Jones joined the family until 1951 when my mother, Claire Sanders, married the General, they have all lived long lives. My mother just turned 90 and we hope and pray she will live to be 100+ like her mother, Mabel Payne.
The newest bride in the Sears line is Vickie Ray Sears who married my brother in 1976 and is working hard to outlive us all.
The average lifespan is 77 years old. What a person can accomplish in 77 years is amazing just look at these examples!
Harriet Thurston Sears had 1 child and Mercy Freeman Sears had 12. The total number of children in this line is 56. Everyone else fell in the middle somewhere with 5 children being the average.
Because there were so many Sears families in East Dennis, women were often called by their husband’s first name with the honorific preceding it, for example, Mrs. Richard and Mrs. Paul. It helped cut down on the confusion.
Generation #1: Richard Sears and Dorothy Jones Sears (1607-1678) were the parents of the first female child born in this English settlement. Her name was Deborah.
Generation #2: Paul Sears and Deborah Willard Sears (1640-1721) had 10 children and were the first to use this spelling of Sears.
Generation #3: Paul Sears and Mercy Freeman Sears (1674-1747) had 12 children and owned and sailed whaling vessels. One of Paul’s jobs was to keep the boys in order on the Sabbath Day.
Generation #4: Edmund Sears and Hannah Crowell Sears (1725-1802) had 10 children. Both Hannah and her husband were descended from Richard the Pilgrim. They are 2nd cousins once removed. Edmund was a sea captain and participated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Their 4 sons were in the Revolutionary Army.
Generation #5: Elkanah Sears and Mercy Bray Sears (1763-1846) had 7 children. Elkanah was a soldier in the American Revolution and a pioneer in the cranberry business.
Generation #6: William Sears and Ruth Berry Sears (1807-1876) had 3 children and were farmers. They moved 6 times all in East Dennis. I wonder if he was the ancestor who started this moving around tradition.
Generation #7: Elkanah Sears and Lelia Eldredge Sears (1850-1940) had 4 children and built the Sears house on Sea Street. He built cranberry barrels and worked on the Methodist Church in the East Dennis Village.
Generation #8: Leslie Sears Sr. and Harriet Thurston Sears (1901-1978) had 1 child – my father. Leslie Sr attended MIT and became a civil engineer working on the Blue Hills Parkway and Back Bay Boston. In all the research I’ve done on the Sears line, Harriet is the first wife that I found who worked outside the home as a bank clerk after Leslie died.
Generation #9: Leslie Sears Jr and Claire Sanders Sears (born 1927) had 3 children – I’m the middle one. Les was in the Navy in World War 2 and served in the Army for 28 years rising to the rank of Major General.
Generation #10: Ray Sears and Vickie Ray Sears (born 1952) had 3 children. Ray is the oldest child of Les and Claire. He and Vickie met in the Army where they were both captains.
The Sears Genealogical Catalogue tells us that the longest living male in our line was Elijah Clark Sears (1805-1910) who lived to be 105 years old. The longest living female in our line was Lydia Holmes (1740-1850) who died aged 110. The average age of men and women in the Sears line is 64 years old.
In Dennis, Cape Cod 1996 by Nancy Thacher Reid she wrote “Although rude and poorly furnished by our standards in the twentieth century, the homes of these pioneers were the place where all of the important events of their family life took place. Here in the confines of these simple walls would be born the new generation of citizens who would begin to perfect the town founded by their fathers and mothers.” Page 47 It is so comforting to me to know that while so much has changed in the world since Richard married Dorothy, the basics of family life have remained fundamentally the same.
Reid goes on to say that “we can surmise that women who lived to see fifteen or twenty years of marriage were either pregnant, nursing a young child or both for most of that time.” Now that has certainly changed for modern women – the average number of children per woman is often 2. “People who study such things report of the European women of the first generation in New England that the birth rate far exceeded that of their contemporary sisters, not only in old England but in other sections of the New World as well. The reason for this high birth rate is attributed to the healthy conditions under which New Englanders lived. Fresh air, pure water in abundance, and the fact that the mean climate kept the economy so precarious that men and women had to work hard, eat simple but health diets and wear loose-fitting, homemade clothing, with no effort to comply with the restraints of high fashion – all of these factors are thought to have contributed to the high birth rate….From 1639 to 1650 we find the birth of 68 children to Yarmouth families documented, including one set of twins. There were no maternal deaths recorded and only one of these children died as a newborn.”
So there we have it! Hard work and a healthy lifestyle led to the longevity of the first generation. I venture a guess that it continued until the present.