Do not expect ages given in records to be 100% consistent. There are a variety of reasons why an age can be off in a record. People lie. People guess. People get mixed up. Clerks make mistakes. The individual providing the information guessed. Someone other than the “person being aged” provided the information. The list goes on.

What you are looking for is consistency. Do ages all suggest a year or two of birth (or maybe a slightly larger time frame)? Is there one age that is significantly off from others? Is there one record you think may be less accurate for one reason or another?

Is it possible that the individual in question did not know when they were born–if they were born in a time and place that did not keep records?

Transcribe every document with the age as given. Cite the records clearly and accurately.

For some people, the best you will ever be able to get is an approximate time frame during which they were born.



3 Responses

  1. I had a great-aunt and the widower of her sister who we all knew were the same age. As they moved into their eighties, he was quite proud of his age and ‘condition’, while she wanted people to think she was younger than she was. So, while she was trying to subtract years, he was adding to his age – as in, “you’d never think I was 85, would you? Well no, we wouldn’t. Nor would the auntie. Actual arguments would ensue.

  2. And don’t use tombstone dates!! Both of my grandmothers have the wrong birth year. One grandma was listed 13 years older than she really was. The other just one year younger.

  3. @Nancy Nelson My great grandmother changed birth year each time she married. She was 13 years younger than her last husband. My eternal question has been, who was she fooling? Her youngest child was 18 when she married him giving her age as b. 1898 so she was 4 years old when her LAST child was born?? And he had to know because they all lived in the same town!

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