How Reliable is that Birth Date?

A genealogy record provides a date of birth. Despite what some may say, there’s no guaranteed way to know the conclusion you have reached about that date of birth is accurate. But here are some things to think about:

  • Who was the likely informant for that date of birth?
  • How likely was the likely informant to have first hand knowledge of the date of birth?
  • Was the likely informant providing information when their memory was still fresh and reliable?
  • Any chance the informant was heard wrong or the clerk made some sort of error?
  • How possible was it that the informant guessed?
  • Am I using a reliable copy of that record or could there be an issue with the digital copy or transcription that I am using?

And there may be other issues with the record that are not addressed here. There is no formula that guarantees you’ll always make the correct decision when deciding how reliable you think a piece of information is. But we can reduce the chance we make a mistake and use the wrong date by carefully understanding and interpreting the information we have located.