Researchers who encounter two different years of birth for a relative in records that only provide an age may wonder which is “correct.” The reality is that neither may be right. Both ages could be off and the actual year of birth could be in between the two that are suggested by the available records. Don’t just “average” them and call it a day.

Include each year of birth in your records as an alternate date and cite the source from which it was taken. There may be no other sources for the date of birth and it may be impossible to tell which of the two records is most likely to be accurate. Of course one should look for other records as much as possible, but sometimes the only sources for someone’s date of birth may be a few census records of questionable accuracy.



3 Responses

  1. Certainly when it comes to censuses, I usually assume the age is correct, but I allow that the person may have already had their birthday in that year, or may have their birthday later in the year. So I give a range of possible years until I get proof.

  2. Absolutely. When it comes to censuses I find that people tend to not remember the exact age. Probably they were too busy making a living to think about how old they or their children were. I have ancestors whose ages were totally inconsistent from census to census. (Like being 43 in one census and 50 in the next one and 55 in the next one.)

  3. I think the best census data is from their first census. Parents knew how old their babies were but as the babies aged, they did not seem to keep track.

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