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Family members seek to prove San Diego woman is oldest living person

By Catharine Ivey, The Associated Press
Saturday March 23, 2002



SPRING VALLEY — Her life has spanned three centuries and two continents. But is Adelina Domingues the oldest person in the world? 

A passport puts Domingues’ age at 113, but the woman’s family believes the document is incorrect and the native of the Cape Verde Islands is actually 115. 

If that’s true, the resident of a San Diego-area nursing home would enter the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest person. 

“She’s certainly has earned the right to be known as the oldest person in the world — if she is,” said her 60-year-old daughter-in-law Rosalie Domingues of Santee. 

Family members were always amazed at her longevity. But only recently did they suspect she might deserve a spot in the record books, said Debbie Murphy, her 42-year-old granddaughter. 

Murphy of Hookstown, Pa., has contacted authorities in Cape Verde, located off the coast of West Africa, and elsewhere to help authenticate the claim. 

Earlier this week, Guinness dubbed 114-year-old Kamato Hongo of Japan as the world’s oldest person, replacing Maud Farris-Luse of Coldwater, Mich., who died Monday. Hongo was born Sept. 16, 1887. 

But if relatives are right and Domingues was born on Feb. 19, 1887, she is older than Hongo by seven months. 

Murphy and others are searching for a baptismal certificate issued by the church in Cape Verde where Domingues was christened. Domingues apparently lost her copy. 

Her family is optimistic. A researcher recently found a Cape Verde church registry that lists Domingues’ birth year as 1887. 

Verification from other documents has proven problematic: Like many from her era, Domingues was never issued a birth certificate. Her 1906 marriage license doesn’t list her age. An old passport says she was born in 1889, but family members say Domingues’ shaved off a few years to appear younger. 

The title of world’s oldest person is one of Guinness’s most coveted, and solid proof is a must, said Della Howes, a senior researcher at the London organization, which is awaiting more documentation before verifying the claim. 

Even if Domingues was born in 1888, she would be the oldest living person in America and the third oldest in the world, Howes said. 

Other facts about Domingues’ life are more concrete. She was born to an Italian sea captain and a Cape Verdean woman. At 18, she married Jose Domingues, a whaling captain. The couple moved to New Bedford, Mass., in 1907. They raised four children while Adelina worked as a seamstress. 

Her husband died in 1950 and Domingues moved to Southern California to be near a son, who died in Palm Desert in 1998. She lived on her own in San Diego until she was 107. 

Relatives describe Domingues as tough-minded and conservative. She often wrote admiring letters to Ronald Reagan and chided female family members if their skirts were too short or their makeup too heavy. She never smoked or drank alcohol. 

These days, Domingues uses a wheelchair to get around, favors cardigan sweaters and refuses to wear makeup — even for the television crews who visited this week when news of her age emerged. 

Depending on the day, she can be lively — singing and chatting in Portuguese — or silent. She offered a recent visitor a firm handshake but no words. She takes no medication and except for failing hearing and eyesight, is relatively healthy. 

“Every year we have a birthday party and we think that that will be the last one,” Rosalie Domingues said. “But she’s around the next year too.” 


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