Irish siblings named ‘world’s oldest family’ by Guinness records
A group of brothers and sisters with a combined age of well over a thousand have been officially recognised by Guinness Book of Records as the oldest family on earth.
The 13 siblings of the Donnelly family came together to celebrate their achievement at the family home in Co Armagh.
The family is made up of Sean (93), Maureen (92), Eileen (90), Peter (87), Mairead (86), Rose (85), Tony (83), Terry (81), Seamus (80), Brian (76), Kathleen (75), Colm (73) and Leo (72).
They have a combined age of 1073 years, which makes them the oldest group of siblings in the world today.
The Guinness World Records officially awarded them the title in March, but the siblings got together at their family home on Sunday to mark the achievement.
The celebration was also a poignant and emotional occasion, as the siblings remembered their brother Austin, who died in 2015.
Austin’s twin Leo, now the youngest of all the siblings, said: “At my sister Maureen’s 90th birthday, my twin brother Austin said we must be the oldest family in the world. It was a fly-away remark but it grew legs and we began making enquiries into registering for the Guinness World Record.
“We lost Austin on Christmas Day in 2015 and after that there was even more of a determination to get ourselves verified and into that book, in his memory.
“After Austin died, it took a number of years off what we needed to make that record, but after 13 months we made it up again.
“It was a great day on Sunday, we came together from all over, Mairead came from Coventry and then some of us are in Dublin, Belfast, and then from all over Northern Ireland.
“It was an emotional day as well because Austin wasn’t there to celebrate with us. I could hardly make my little speech there was a lump in my throat.”
Peter and Ellen Donnelly were the parents of the family. They had 16 children in total but tragically lost their youngest Michael aged just 25 in 1975 following a car accident, and then Oliver died from cancer aged 64.
The loss of Austin in 2015 spurred Leo and his siblings on to take action and have their remarkable family recognised by Guinness as a world record.
There are nearly 200 grandchildren and great grandchildren in the family, but it was only the 13 siblings that got together to mark their unique achievement.
Leo explained: “I’m not sure we’ll all ever be able to get together again, we’re all getting old, Sean is 93 now! All 13 of us are pensioners.
“There were no wives or husbands involved in Sunday, just the brothers and sisters. We had a beautiful cake and the Guinness adjudicator flew over to verify that everything was in order.”
“We’re going to get in the book next year. When we started this thing there was a determination to bring it all the way and it’s great now to have that title. It’s more important to us because it is in memory of Austin.”
“We had to get everyone’s birth certs together and of course some people didn’t know where theirs was. We had to get some of them sent out again, and then the marriage certs for the girls who changed their names. We had to have three referees back us up of course, to say we were who we said, including the local priest!”