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Archive - Friday, 14 June 2002
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The family record-breakers
Meet the record-breaking Chapman family. Spanning six generations, the age gap between the oldest and youngest members is 94 years.
The family have just entered the Guinness Book of Records for having the most generations of one family alive at the same time.
The oldest member, May Chapman, is 95. May's great-great-great-granddaughter Shakari is the youngest at just 15 months.
Family gatherings are a little like the hit US TV series The Waltons, in which Grandma Esther Walton and Grandpa Zeb Walton are the heads of a sprawling extended family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
The Chapmans' life revolves around May, the head of the family, from Littlehampton Road in Worthing.
The family did not realise they were record-breaking until a national newspaper featured a five-generation family.
May's great-granddaughter, Christine, 34, said: "We hadn't ever really thought about it until then. We just thought we were a big family.
"After I read the article I wrote in and said, 'well we have got six generations!'"
The newspaper sent their details to the Guinness Book of Records who confirmed they did have the most generations alive at the same time.
Christine said: "It has happened because most of us had children when we were quite young. I had my first daughter at 15 and my mum Pat (May's daughter-in-law) had me when she was 15. My daughter Kay is 17 and she has just had her first daughter Shakari."
May was born in London and married her husband, Albert, in 1927. She had Ron, the first of her two children, in 1928.
According to May, the secret to her long life is a whisky a day and a large happy family.
She said: "The family come to see me a couple of times a year and I have seen my little great-great-great-granddaughter on two occasions. She is gorgeous."
The family is split between Worthing and London, where most of the relatives live within ten minutes of each other in Harrow.
Christine said family get-togethers were so large they had to be organised almost like a military operation.
She said: "We are a very close family and usually get about 25 people coming to family gatherings. We go on holiday together too. I suppose we are a bit like the Waltons."
For some reason, females in the family dramatically outnumber the males.
The family will be included in the next edition of the Guinness Book of Records, due out later this year.