The Guinness Book of World Records has denied a 119-year-old African-American Ohio woman’s claim as the oldest person in the country, and potentially the world, because she doesn’t have a birth certificate for proof.
According Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS-TV, Rebecca Lanier of Warrensville Heights, Ohio recently celebrated her 119th birthday with her family.
She claims to have been born to former slave parents in Mississippi in 1892, but she said she has no record of her birth because of the racist laws and practices that were prevalent during that period.
Lanier lives with her 61-year-old grandson, Jimmie Shambley and his family. Shambley says he and his relatives want to get the woman certified as the “Oldest Living Person” in the Guinness Book of World Records, but consultants at the company say verifiable proof of birth such as birth certificates and census documents are required to earn the title.
“It’s quite a rigorous process that you go through because the birth certificate is a crucial matter,” a Guinness spokesman told the British newspaper Daily Mail.
According to the Daily Mail, the woman does have a letter from the Social Security Administration that lists her birth year as 1892, but Guinness says that these “later-life documents” are not acceptable proof because they often contain inflated ages for those who applied before the age of computerization.
Lanier, who outlived her two daughters, doesn’t take medication for any ailments and passes her time doing tai-chi.
“She still is in her right mind and has great health,” Shambley told WEWS. “She is able to move about every day and makes her bed up every morning as she gets herself dressed.”
An update on the Guinness World Records Web site explained that more details were discovered about Lanier’s birth through census records. Two documents reveal that Lanier’s actual birth may have been in 1905 or 1906.
“Both the 1920 and 1930 census reports were based on verbal responses, so even with any slight misspellings, this shouldn’t deter us from recognizing who is who,” Robert Young, Senior Guinness World Records Gerontology consultant said in a statement.
The company is still trying to uncover early census matches from 1900 or 1910.