GRAND Magazine- Winter 2020 - 29

history

Did New England invent
grandparents?
The Peale family by Charles Willson Peale

29 GRAND JAN., FEB. & MAR. 2020

I

f you wanted to know your grandparents or grandchildren back in the 17th and 18th centuries, your best
bet was to live in New England. That's because New
England invented grandparents.
Before Europeans came to New England, not many
people in the western world ever got to know Gramps
or Meemaw. Their grandparents usually died before they
were born. In England, for example, most men wed just
before age 30 and died in their early fifties - before
their own children married and had children.
"Few people today realize how unusual it was for
western European adults to become grandparents centuries ago," wrote historian Thomas L. Purvis. But then
colonists arrived in New England, lived long lives and
prospered. They had lots of children and lots of grandchildren. And along the way they figured out how to be
grandparents.
New Englanders on average led longer lives than
anyone in the world during much of the 17th and 18th
centuries. Cold winters discouraged disease, and stable,
close-knit communities helped people live longer. So did
the highest living standards in the world.
Granted, infant mortality was high in colonial New
England. But if you made it out of childhood you had
a better-than-average chance at living a long life. In
Middlesex County, Massachusetts, for example, 20-yearolds lived to a mean age of 60.5 - old enough to have
grandchildren.
Continued on next page


https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0994809700/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=grandmagazi0d-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0994809700&linkId=c0cf2342749a51234e00421ef2df453e https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003B6QYSW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=grandmagazi0d-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B003B6QYSW&linkId=74a78ba0a510c9871c2e38f745d59213 https://www.google.com/books/edition/Colonial_America_To_1763/BZRJSx3uMYEC?hl=en&gbpv=0&bsq=grandparents http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/how-the-puritans-raised-new-england-living-standards-to-the-worlds-highest/

GRAND Magazine- Winter 2020

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