B y Matthew Saari
Guinness World Records lists Jeanne Louise Calment as the oldest person ever, having passed away at the remarkable age of 122 years. However, a myth centered on a Whitehall man, “Old” Henry Francisco, may upend the record books.

Andrew Francisco

That’s what Andrew Francisco, a Chicago-based documentarian who traces his lineage back to Old Henry, hopes to find out.
Francisco recently traveled to Whitehall in the hopes of shedding light on his ancestor, and to separate out myth from truth.
“It was research with census records at the Newberry Library of Chicago that led me to find this on accident,” Francisco said. “As I was looking through census records I found what, I thought, was a mistake. There was a record of a man being born in 1686 and dying in 1820.”
Having his interest piqued, the younger Francisco set about gathering information, which brought him to Washington County and Whitehall.
The story of Old Henry is so well-known that when Francisco arrived at the county archivist, he need only mention the story and the archivist produced a file containing all known documentation of the man. The documents ranged from official census records and newspaper articles to the well-known Ripley’s Believe It or Not series.

This is only a preview of the story published in the Whitehall Times. To read the full story, pick up a print copy of this week’s paper at the newsstand or read it online here.

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