- #52Ancestors challenges us with the word “longevity”. As we move backwards in time the average life expectancy diminishes. Most of my ancestors fell into the average. There were a few exceptions to this but nothing like my husbands Aunt Clara. She died 14 days short of her 105th Birthday in 2010.
Another type of longevity is length of marriage. How many marriages in your family have celebrated 50 or even 75 years? The longevity of marriage has also changed through the decades but instead of getting longer because people live longer, the tendency has shortened due to divorce and/or couples living together without marriage. Last year my in-laws celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary and they are still going strong, and my husband and I have just celebrated 52 years.
Genealogy not only looks at history but also sociology. The social standards have certainly changed since my 2x great grand parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary 2 September 1910 in California, and went on to reach the 54 year mark. Your life expectancy was 42 years in 1860. So being able to celebrate 50 years marriage on the average would have been difficult to achieve. Where today’s average life expectancy is 78 years, making it a little more common to make that milestone if you can stay married.
George Washington Francis and Clementine Shipp married back in 1860 in California. George had come west in a covered Wagon and lived briefly in Eldorado California before moving down to the Visalia area. Clementine’s family had moved west from Louisiana and in 1852 they lived in the Los Angeles area before settling in the area east of Visalia. In 1860 Clementine was only about 13 years old and George was 28 years old. Today that would raise a lot of eyebrows. Then having their son William only 7 months later would have also raised a few eyebrows. The average age for women to marry increased from the age of 20 in the 1800 to 22.5 in the 1900 and today is about 25. So Clementine’s age was very young even back then. The crossover of the average woman having her child before the average woman’s first marriage, occured in the 1970’s. My conclusion is that early births in the first year of marriage had been steadly increasing and once women got the vote and worked outside the home they were putting off marriage until the last possible moment and today more children are participating in the wedding ceremony of their parents.
Soon after Clementine and George were married the American Civil war erupted. What was it like for the Shipp’s and the Francis’s. I’m sure it sparked some debates in their household. Ohio was a free state and Louisiana was a slave state. Looking back though Clementine’s family history we can find that the Shipp’s were once slave owners. Since California had many pioneering families from both northern and southern states it is not surprising to know that there were those on both sides of the issues. George may have felt strongly about the war for he lost his brother, Andrew Francis, in 1862 at Stoney Point, Tennessee fighting for the union.
When Clementine and George married it was very much the wild west. Tulare county had lots of Indians and vaquero’s. George was a cattleman and Clementine kept house and raised a herd of children. They owned a 1/2 section of land east of Ivanhoe (north of the town of Visalia).
In 1863 construction on the Transcontinental railway was started. By the time it was completed George and Clementine had 4 children with the fifth on the way. Travel had certainly changed during their life time, going from traveling across country taking several months, to the completion of the Railroad across this nation, to the Model T Ford being manufactured and cars competing with the horse in our mode of daily transportation, and the Wright Brothers taking flight at Kitty Hawk. They experienced the assassination of two presidents, Lincoln and McKinley. And read about the sinking of the Titanic. The were able to welcome in the 2oth century. They spent their entire married life living near Visalia California. They raised nine children and 4 of them died before they did.
After helping to develop the west, women were finally allowed to vote in California in 1911. The telephone was only used for local calls, it wasn’t until 1915 that you could phone across the country, but the telegraph had connected the east coast to the west since 1861. I certainly hope that Clementine exercised her vote a few dozen times before her death in 1928, 14 years after George had died in 1914.