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Tuesday Tips

Tuesday Tips #4

Have you ever wondered why your ancestors were so inconsistent with their ages? Why did your Great-Great Grandma, not age the ten years between censuses? Today’s Tuesday tip may give some insight into these inconsistencies.

Age and Birth Dates were something that didn’t matter to the average person for a long time. There were no forms to regularly fill out and with education rates as poor as they were these dates were easily forgotten.

Let’s look at an example. My 5 x Great Grandmother was Ann Cook. Many details about her early life are unknown (including her maiden name) and her very inconsistent age doesn’t help!

1871 Census of England, Durham, Monkwearmouth, Enumeration District 6, Page 67, Schedule 359, Jane Cook Household; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 11 March 2021); citing Class RG10, Piece 5020, Folio 62, Page 62, GSU Roll 848489, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey.

Above, is her death certificate and her entry in the 1871 England Census. It has her age at death as an impressive 96 years old! What’s interesting is that she manages to age 16 whole years over 9 months! That’s not even mentioning the 20 years she ages from 1861 to 1871.

As you can see we cannot trust the informants of her age and have to rely on logic. Her eldest child (we know of) was born in about 1811 therefore, assuming she wasn’t a child bride, we can narrow the age range down a little bit. We must not rule out any records based on these sort of assumptions but it makes things a little easier.

These inconsistencies are very common and shouldn’t necessarily be read too much into however it is always worth double-checking you have the right person. After all, we all make mistakes – including our ancestors about their age!

If you have any comments, corrections or questions feel free to leave them below. I’d love hear more stories about inconsistent ages!

By George Hall

Hello! My name is George Hall and I come from West Yorkshire in the UK. I am passionate about telling all the stories of all my ancestors. I am also a member of The Hidden Branch Team, the One-Place Study Society and the Huddersfield & District Family History Society.

2 replies on “Tuesday Tips #4”

You should also read the appropriate Instructions to Census Takers. Sometimes they were instructed to round down to the nearest five years, sometimes to round up – and there may be other instructions.

Liked by 1 person

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