Oldest siblings in the world? The Tanskanen brothers and sisters have a combined age of more then 900 years
The Italian Melis siblings were recorded by Guinness World Records with their combined age of 818
By Janne Salomaa
News about the oldest living siblings in the world spread a week ago.
The three brothers and six sisters from the Melis family from Sardinia, Italy, have a collective age of 818 years, which was verified by Guinness World Records on June 1st 2012. [Guinness World Records was known until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records.]
This is a remarkable feat, to be sure, but...
There is a set of siblings closer to home, with a collective age of 928 years (for 12 live brothers and sisters): the Tanskanens from Polvijärvi in Northern Karelia.
Nevertheless, as Guinness World Records writes on its website, the Melis family has the title for ”the highest combined age for nine living siblings”.
This fact was nevertheless overlooked by numerous newspapers, including Helsingin Sanomat.
For this reason the Sardinians were widely described as being ”the oldest living siblings in the world”.
Helsingin Sanomat tried to find out from the office of Guinness World Records in London whether the Tanskanens could set a world record if sets of siblings of all sizes were counted.
However, the person who would have known the answer to this puzzle was not available on Monday.
Searching for records on the official website of Guinness World Records does not lead to any siblings who would beat the Tanskanens.
It may well be that such a large number of living siblings cannot be found.
Helsingin Sanomat interviewed the third oldest Tanskanen sibling, Erkki Tanskanen, 83, who has written a book about the family’s history.
Before hearing the news of the Melis family, it had never occurred to him that the combined age of his own sibling set could break even the Finnish record.
”One does not become aware of one’s own age so much, but the fact that all 12 of us have stayed alive must be something rather amazing”, says Tanskanen, a retired school principal, speaking at his home in Mäntyharju near Lahti.
When Erkki Tanskanen was a child in Polvijärvi, nobody was surprised at the large number of brothers and sisters.
His mother Martta came from a family with ten children, while his father Eevert also had six siblings.
”We always had someone to play with in our own family”, Tanskanen says, contemplating the advantages of a big household.
The everyday life of their parents was made easier by the fact that they did not have any twins or triplets, but all children were born at even intervals over a period of slightly more than 21 years.
In other words, when the youngest children were born, the oldest were already living elsewhere most of the year, because of their studies.
Today, the Tanskanen siblings live in various parts of Finland. Nevertheless, they visit each other on a regular basis, exchanging the latest news over the phone.
As one might guess , the twelve siblings have been blessed with a very sizeable number of offspring of their own: a combined total of 41 children, 66 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren thus far.
The combined age of the siblings also keeps growing all the time: every month the collective age grows by one year. If the whole set of siblings stays alive at least for the next six years, their combined age will amount to more than 1,000 years.
”We have already spoken about that, but there are still many years left before we reach that milestone. Of course I hope that we will eventually reach the goal”, Tanskanen notes.
Do you know of any set of siblings older than the Tanskanens? Please contact Helsingin Sanomat on this email address: email@example.com
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 28.8.2012
Guinness World Records
JANNE SALOMAA / Helsingin Sanomat