The end of an era

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An era in New England has ended. The last person born in the region during the nineteenth century died 3 January 2015 at the age of 115. Bernice Marina (Emerson) Madigan was born on Hill Street in West Springfield, Massachusetts, on 24 July 1899. Her birth record appears at American; her obituary may be read here.

She was the daughter of Harry G. and Grace E. (Bennett) Emerson, who were married at West Springfield on 15 September 1897. Her father was a barber in West Springfield; her mother was a native of Cheshire, Massachusetts. Bernice’s grandparents were John and Catharine (Gibson) Emerson and Everett P. and Donna J. (Lewis) Bennett. According to her entry at, Bernice moved to Cheshire in 1906 and worked for the U.S. Treasury Department after graduating from Adams High School in 1918.

Bernice Madigan was the fifth oldest person in the world according to the Gerontology Research Group. There are three remaining Americans born in the nineteenth century (between 1898 and 1900), but Bernice was the last born in New England. The current oldest New England-born baby is Louise Silva, who was born in Rhode Island on 7 June 1903 and is fast approaching her one hundred twelfth birthday.

About David Allen Lambert

David Lambert has been on the staff of NEHGS since 1993 and is the organization’s Chief Genealogist. David is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of genealogy and history. His genealogical expertise includes New England and Atlantic Canadian records of the 17th through 21st century; military records; DNA research; and Native American and African American genealogical research in New England. Lambert has published many articles in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, the New Hampshire Genealogical Record, Rhode Island Roots, The Mayflower Descendant, and American Ancestors magazine. He has also published A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries (NEHGS, 2009). David is an elected Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, Mass., and a life member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati. He is also the tribal genealogist for the Massachuset-Punkapoag Indians of Massachusetts.

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