Something very exciting has happened. I have won a competition to have a DNA test! No, not on Jeremy Kyle. I entered a competition run by the marvellous Families In British India Society (FIBIS) before Christmas. You had to write a piece about why a DNA test might be useful for your family history research. And I have won one of the three places!
Now, clearly this is a niche subject to be excited about but just indulge me for a moment. It hopefully means that I can narrow down which part of India my direct ancestors were from. There are also questions over a number of Irish connections (ironic, given I have married into a large Irish family) and over the parentage of a great great great grandmother. I wrote about all of these things for my entry and I have been offered a Family Finder test. A kit is on its way! How amazing and bizarre. Let's hope there are no nasty surprises... Nothing anyone hasn't mentioned in the last forty or so years... I will keep you posted - unless it is really embarrassing, obviously.
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So I got that news last night and wanted to share the news. However, I did plan to write about numbers today. A very good friend was (whisper it) fifty last week. She does not look fifty. Far from it. But she is quite fed up about this milestone. She says it feels very different to forty and no amount of reminders of the amazing fifty plus celebrities there are these days can cheer her up. And I do see her point. I haven't reached it yet but fifty years on the planet is quite something.
What would it have been like, though, in the days when fifty was properly old? England, for example, in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. When it was quite an achievement to have survived childhood, giving birth, dangerous employment. There would be the same physical changes presumably but little knowledge of how to ease them. And for the lower classes, there would be the ever present need to earn a living despite the ageing process. Or the workhouse (or worse) awaited.
There are, of course, many awful cases of people in developed countries dying at young ages still. Only the other week, I posted about cancer and diabetes and other diseases. However, in general, a person reaching their fiftieth birthday in a developed country can reasonably expect at least another twenty years on Earth.
What is very wrong with Planet Earth, though, is the number of human beings for whom fifty is still an incredible achievement and the number for whom fifty is not a time to look forward. Life expectancy is very uneven amongst our race. Fifty should not be a scary number for any of us.