Talley was born in Montrose, Georgia, in 1899 and moved to Michigan in the 1930s. She spent her early years living on a farm picking cotton and peanuts and harvesting sweet potatoes. she married for 52 years Alfred Talley (January 30, 1893 – October 17, 1988) and they had one child, a daughter, Thelma Holloway, born in 1937. Talley had three grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren. Jeralean stayed active in her later life by sewing dresses, making quilts and playing slot machines at casinos. She went on annual fishing trips with her friends. Jeralean Talley was a member of the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church. ‘That’s God’s work, not mine,” she said about the fact she was the oldest person of the world.