In West Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, just south of Route 6A (The Old King's Highway) there is a small plot of land we call the Ancient Sears Cemetery. The 124 headstones and footstones in the cemetery are facing west on a hillside overlooking a pond and everyone in the cemetery is related to the others whether by birth or marriage. You can see the tombstone transcriptions at this web page (http://www.searsr.com/searscem/searscemetery.htm) The earliest identifiable tombstone belongs to Capt John Sears (1676-1738), my 6th Great-uncle. He died about age 62 and his wife's stone, Prissilla Freeman, shows that she was 78 years old when she died in 1764. John's house still stands just a few hundred feet northeast of the burial ground. Buried next to them is his brother, my 5th-great grandfather, Paul Sears who was born 15 Jun 1669 and died 14 Feb 1739/40. Paul was 69 years old. It is remarkable that these stones still exist and even more so when you consider the age of the people they memorialize. Seventeenth century life expectancy was 35 years, partly due to child mortality, but these folks lived twice as long. Was it the food, climate, genes, work ethic, faith, family or possibly a combination of all of those factors?
Paul and his wife Mercy Freeman, a Mayflower descendant, had 12 children in 17 years. That is amazing in itself. Paul had to live longer just to support all those kids? They lived in the East Precinct of Yarmouth which later became the village of East Dennis. We see an old record - "Yarmouth a register of the names and births of the children of Pall and Marcey Seers as followeth &c; Ebnezer Seers the son of said Paull and Mercey Seers was born upon the 15th day of August 1694; Paull Seers the son of the said Paull and Mercy was born upon the 21st of December 1695; Elezabeth Seers the daughter 27th Aug 1697; Thomas Seers the son 6 Jun 1699; Rebecca Seers the daughter 2 Apr 1701; Marcy Seears the daughter 7 Feb 1702; Debroah Sears the daughter 11 Mar 1705; Ann Sears the daughter 27 Dec 1706; Joshua Sears 20 Nov 1708; Edmon Sears the son 6 Aug 1712; Hanah Sears daughter 6 March 1714/15; Daniel Sears 16 Jul 1710."
What was that home like with 12 kids running around? I am sure they all had chores and the older ones helped Momma with the babies. Even so, six boys and six girls - I guess you didn't have to worry about being cold on those winter evenings. John Denver wrote a song about a feather bed that would hold eight kids and four hound dogs and surely this Sears family had one of those? Paul was very involved in the local church. "Aug. 4, 1724, Paul Sears was one of Committee to inform Mr. Taylor of call to ministry;" Oct 5, 1725, one of Com. "to lay out meeting-house floor for pews; "June 24, 1726, "to receive Mr. Dennis answer;" Mar. 16, 1727, On Com. "on ordination of Mr. Dennis." The distance to church was about three miles and I imagine that was quite a gang that walked to church on Sunday morning. How do you get 12 kids to sit still through a church service?
All of Paul and Mercy's children had long lives including my fourth-great grandfather, Edmund Sears (1712-1796) who was a participant in the Boston Tea Party and with his wife, Hannah Crowell, had ten children. All four of Edmund's sons were also in the war. Eldest son Edmund was a soldier in Lieut. Micajah Sears' company, and on the alarm at Dartmouth and Falmouth, 6 Sep 1778, marched and did 13 days' service. Son Joshua "served in Lt. Micajah Sears' Co., 6 Sep 1778, on alarm at Dartmouth and Falmouth; and shipped in ship "General Putnam," Capt. Daniel Waters, for naval service, 12 Jul 1779, at £2 per mo.; was taken prisoner and committed to Forton Prison, England, and imprisoned several years, during which he had the small-pox from which and other hardships he nearly died. He was an active member of the church in Dennis." Maybe it is the genes that enabled longetivity through all these trials? Christopher Sears (1756-1809) "served from 27 Jan to 21 Nov 1776, in Capt Elisha Nye's Co., at Elizabeth Islands; and in Capt Micah Chapman's Co., Lt Micajah Sears, on alarm at Dartmouth and Falmouth, Sep 1778; 3 days' service." Finally my third-great grandfather, Elkanah Sears (1758-1836) lived to age 77 and "was a soldier in Lt Micajah Sears' Co., and marched on alarm at Dartmouth and Falmouth, 6 Sep 1778; was on duty 3 days."
Quite a distinct legacy of soldiers and sailors and one which my grandfather, father and I followed.