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Wed, Oct. 16

Five generations of one family becoming a rare thing

Born less than one month ago, Seth Hartwick represents the newest member of a most unusual family, because his birth marks the fifth generation in a family whose oldest living relative is nearly 100 years old.

"To have five generations living is very unusual," said Peggy Magee, who teaches genealogy at Yavapai College. "Normally, you get three or four, not five."

According to Magee, one generation spans 30 to 35 years, which translates to a matriarch or patriarch who is likely in her 90s. In Seth's family line, that person would be 94-year-old Kathleen Cook, Seth's great-great-grandmother.

Little Seth stands out in his own right, as he is the youngest male member in an otherwise all-female family line.

"The line of descent is all female," Magee said about Seth, his mother Heather Hartwick, his grandmother, Nancy Kain, and his great-grandmother Annie Hale. "It's easier to have more females living than males because males start families at a later age."

Magee said four living generations is more common today because Americans now live longer than they did 50 years ago.

"We got to be more urbanized in the 1900s and a lot more people were able to get medical care," Magee explained as she described the higher mortality rate at the turn of the last century among women in their childbearing years due to a lack of available prenatal care.

"In Ireland, we're born and we die in the house," Annie Hale said. Her mother, Kathleen, gave birth to Annie and her brother in their Dublin home, as did Hale's grandmother, who had 19 children.

"My mother's parents had 19 kids," Hale said. "I went to school with like 15 cousins."

Traditionally, Magee said, women start families between the ages of 18 and 20. That average holds true for the women in Annie's family, all of whom were either married or began having children within that timeframe.

"I've always had my great-grandmother in my life. I never realized how unusual it is," said Heather Hartwick about her great-grandmother, Kathleen.

Some or all of the family members may once again visit their relatives in Ireland, Hartwick said, adding that her Irish cousins have visited Prescott and Prescott Valley over the years.

"My cousin worked at the fairgrounds when he visited us about five years ago," Hartwick said about her cousin Ian, who stays in regular contact with his American relatives, all of whom live in the tri-city area.

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