The Grim Reaper and the Inevitable Cycle of Life

While my father’s family – the Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor clan – is no bigger, better or more interesting than anyone else’s, it is symbolic of many early families who put down roots and let time work its magic. Thus our website, for which this blog is named, may change the way you think, learn about and understand families. It certainly has for me.

In studying Dad’s clan for the past three decades, and amassing a body of research, I’ve found that it’s the stories of the lives that are so fascinating. The family is inherently different from any other in terms of the lives of tens of thousands of related cousins and the intersections they’ve made with Americana.

With the exploration of “lives” comes an inevitable focus on “deaths.” None of us gets out alive, never have, never will. And reflecting this theme, I’m fascinated with the sheer volume of deaths that our family has experienced over nearly 15 years. The incessant march of time continues to take a huge toll.

Sadly, in the time that has elapsed since July 1, 2000, the exact date when we started counting with precision, an alarming number of Minerd- Minard- Miner- Minor cousins and spouses has passed away. As of New Year’s Day 2015, it was up to 1,286 known cousins and their spouses taken over the span of 5,281 days. View the list.

The data suggest that we lose a cousin once every 4.11 days on average. No epidemic illness is at work. Rather, it’s the normal cycle of life, reflecting the family’s enormous headcount, aging of the baby boom generation and the backfilling of past years’ data as we learn more. It’s a staggering toll, but certainly is not comprehensive, as we have no true way of knowing the status of every single branch of the clan. The number bumps up dramatically each time a newly discovered branch of our family is researched in depth.

I suspect that an insurance policy expert, with knowledge of actuarial tables predicting typical lifespans and such, could use our data to calculate a truer estimate of just how many of us are “out there.”

Another surprise in studying these numbers is that only a small fraction of the total names at death were some form of M-M-M-M — less than one percent. Not surprisingly, everyone else carried some other, different name — more than 99 percent.  This is because, as the family has grown to an immense population, the proportion of cousins who descend from females doubles with each succeeding generation, and with that the number of other names. That will be a Blog post for another day.

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