Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Your Age, Please?


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Genealogy tip for the day: Your Age, Please?

Inaccuracies and Inconsistencies:
When working with documents accuracy is a big deal. With names, locations, dates and all other details, we strive to make sure what we record is correct. If we are careless or sloppy, false information is too easily generated and passed on. When that happens, it is sometimes impossible to correct or stop it. Age of an ancestor is one of those details that can sometimes be hard to get right.

A person’s age is a funny thing. Not to stereotype the ladies, but quite often, they will – shall we say – embellish their answers. But I have seen where men will do the same, so everyone gets equal treatment.

We genealogists are honed to be accurate with the recording of information. So we have a penchant for getting it right. Now the problem comes where the information is incorrect, either from our source or from our pen.

Given that our information can only be as good as what we have to work with, there are times that we need to research several records and come up with our best decision. This is one reason why primary records are preferred over secondary documents.  Primary documents are recorded at the time of the event such as a birth certificate, recording a birth. A death certificate that has a birth date in it is a secondary record for the birth.

The further removed a secondary record is, the less trustworthy it becomes. That is not to say they are always inaccurate, but the rate of error rises. In the case of inconsistent information, one needs to make their best judgment call on what is accurate and what is not.

We work hard to record the information we glean, so that we are as accurate as possible. But what about the person giving or recording the information to begin with? That can be a problem. Take censuses for example. People can tell a census taker whatever they want. They are not sworn to tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but! What if the information we find in the documents don’t ring true? What then?

Census Records:
Let’s take a look at census records. If you can find a person as a child in an 1850 census or later you will find their age recorded. More than likely the age of a child is apt to be correct. Again, there are all kinds of human variables. If Dad is giving the information, he may not remember as correctly as say the Mother. But odds are, if you can find someone as a child that is a good starting point. (A birth certificate and/or a baptismal record also are usually the best starting point.)

Beyond that, looking at a person’s age over time can reveal a lot to the researcher. You need to compare one census to another. Here is where you may frequently find in consistencies, probably more than any place else. But when they are consistent with each other and other documents, then you can be the most assured of the accuracy of a person’s age.

I might also add that previous censuses to 1850 can still give you an approximation. Even without names, gender and age range can help determine if the family you are looking at, fits the census record in hand, keeping in mind the children not yet born at that point in time.

I ruled out one family by comparing the ages (and gender) of the family I knew with the ones I found in the census. They didn’t match, so I could tell this was not a match.

Tomorrow we will look at age at the time of marriage and what that can tell us.

“History is who we are; Genealogy is who I am” sg

If any of these posts are helpful drop us a line in the comments section below. We just want to know if the information we provide to you is beneficial in anyway.

James Monroe, President

March 5

Class-based legislation is passed in the colony of Virginia, exempting the upper class from punishment by whipping.

Antonio de Ulloa, the first Spanish governor of Louisiana, arrives in New Orleans.

Austrian troops crush the French and recapture Liege.

James Monroe becomes the first president to be inaugurated on March 5, only because the 4th was a Sunday.

Russians begin to retreat from Mukden in Manchuria, China.

The Italians become the first to use dirigibles for military purposes, using them for reconnaissance flights behind Turkish lines west of Tripoli.

The Soviets move the capital of Russia from Petrograd to Moscow.

Hitler's National Socialists win the majority vote in Bavaria.

Newly inaugurated President Franklin D. Roosevelt halts the trading of gold and declares a bank holiday.

Hitler and Nationalist allies win the Reichstag majority. It will be the last free election in Germany until after World War II.

In desperation due to war losses, fifteen and sixteen year olds are called up for military service in the German army.

In Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill tells a crowd that "an iron curtain has descended on the Continent [of Europe]."

The U.S. Supreme Court affirms the ban on segregation in public schools in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Gustav Heinemann is elected West German President.

Britain gives up on the Ulster talks and decides to retain rule in Northern Ireland indefinitely.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that cities have the right to display the Nativity scene as part of their Christmas display.
Born on March 5

Louis I (the Great), King of Hungary.

William Oughtred, mathematician and inventor of the slide rule.

Elisha Harris, U.S. physician and founder of the American Public Health Association.

James Merritt Ives, lithographer for Currier and Ives.

Howard Pyle, writer and illustrator (The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood).

Frank Norris, novelist (McTeague, The Octopus).

Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazillian composer.

Lynn Margulis, biologist.

Leslie Marmon Silko, writer (Ceremony).

James Merritt Ives



verb tr.: To investigate.

rom Latin scrutari (to examine). Earliest documented use: 1882.

"Philosophers have too often thought that they can learn more about human nature by scrutating the murky depths of substance and faculties than by interpreting the obvious evidence."
John Lachs; The Relevance of Philosophy to Life; Vanderbilt University Press; 1995.


If you wish to make an apple pie truly from scratch, you must first invent the universe. -Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

Today’s Recipe
March - Breakfast Foods

1 1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 cup rolled oats; not instant
1 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 apples; peeled, cored and chopped
Preheat oven to 400 F, coat muffin tin with non stick spray.
Combine dry ingredients well then mix in apples.
In a separate bowl beat the eggs, milk and molasses until well combined.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix just moistened.
Scoop (I use an ice cream scoop) batter into muffin tins and bake 25 minutes.


Now You Know!