7 Conclusion and Suggestions for Future Work
|Information presented in this review demonstrates that an
enormous amount of data on familial longevity is available now for researchers and even
more data became available since our first report on this topic . Millions of
genealogical records are already computerized and could be potentially used for the study
of the familial aggregation of human longevity. Most of these genealogies are a product of
family reconstitution, carried out both by professional genealogists and by family members
wishing to trace their ancestry back to the founder who brought their surname to America
or even to their European family roots. The compilers of genealogies aided this
time-consuming task with the many different sources: genealogical libraries, LDS (Mormon)
church family history centers, genealogical search engines available on Internet, computer
CDs with census, marriage, land, probate records and many other resources for genealogical
research. The potential of the existing data resources is understated and the data
resources are underutilized. We hope that this review of data resources will stimulate
further large-scale studies on the familial clustering of human longevity.
However, the computerized data require preliminary treatment including their transformation into relational database and critical review. It is important to study these data for their quality, accuracy and completeness before use in the longevity studies.
The most complete and reliable data on familial longevity (data on European royal and noble families) are computerized only partially by now. We hope that this work will be completed, and the database will become available for the benefit of other researchers.
Data resources on familial longevity developed for research purposes by other investigators are still not in the public domain and sometimes are even lost (for example, the Baltimore Longevity Study archive collected by Dr. Raymond Pearl and Dr. Edmund Murphy as well as the twin data from the Mormon Genealogy Database collected by Dr. Grace Wyshak). Therefore it is important to save the existing databases now, otherwise they may be lost irreversibly after the death of principal investigator (the case of Dr. Eva Jalavisto, for example). Thus, special efforts should be done to save existing databases and archives from longevity studies.
The data resources for the long-lived persons and their families are particularly interesting and promising for future studies of familial aggregation of human longevity. Unfortunately, most studies of exceptional longevity are concentrated on centenarians themselves and less attention is paid to the reconstruction of the detailed genealogies for the ancestors and descendants of centenarians. Thus, a special study should be done to construct detailed genealogies for the cases of exceptional longevity and to develop a database on extreme familial longevity available for other researchers.
The data presented in this review clearly demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale wold-wide studies on familial aggregation of human longevity for millions of people including cases with extreme longevity. However, the time when the results of this study become publicly available depends on future funding opportunities for this work.
|Data Resources for Biodemographic Studies on Familial
Clustering of Human Longevity
Natalia S. Gavrilova, Ph.D.
Leonid A. Gavrilov, Ph.D.
© 1999 - 2000 Max-Planck-Gesellschaft ISSN 1435-9871