Author Topic: Why would ages be off on records?  (Read 5259 times)

Offline stitchwitch

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Re: Why would ages be off on records?
« Reply #36 on: Sunday 12 March 17 10:18 GMT (UK) »
When my great-grandmother marries her toy-boy in 1914 she knocks a decade off, presumably for appearances, to disguise the 17(!) year gap. Since the two families were next-door neighbours for many years, they must have known. The couple's entry on the 1939 Register gives their true ages, but her death certificate in 1945 has her "new" age.
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Offline iluleah

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Re: Why would ages be off on records?
« Reply #37 on: Sunday 12 March 17 19:20 GMT (UK) »
Lots of reasons, people had a hard enough time finding work, paying rent to stay in their home to celebrate birthdays and when families had lots of children they often didn't remember which year they were born let alone the date.......

In records it depends on if they are primary or secondary, primary was recorded at the time or clise to the time of the event so more likely correct, secondary are from information given about something that happened years ago. like census and it depended on who gave the information, if they knew or not, if they guessed or assumed or lied outright as many did.

Some to hide information.... When I researched my great grandmothers life I found each and every record she generated during her lifetime, each and every record has a different age on it apart from her birth cert and baptism record which are primary records. She was a second wife and 20 plus yrs younger than her husband, her children didn't know their dad was previously married, didn't know he had 5 children with his first wife, 4 of which died and didn't know their older sister was in fact their half sister ( and neither did the half sister)  My grandmother gave her Mums age on her death cert, had the dates put on her grave stone claiming she was 88yrs old, she was in fact 62yrs old, each and every census she states a different did she know or was she hiding her age making herself older so it didn't look so bad she had married an older man ......maybe a bit of both
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Offline jbml

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Re: Why would ages be off on records?
« Reply #38 on: Friday 17 March 17 14:13 GMT (UK) »
For a contemporary example of the lack of detailed knowledge, see the scene in Far From The Madding Crowd where they are trying to figure out the age of the old man in the pub.

He does it by saying "Well, I went to school until I was 12, then I worked for so many years for so-and-so, and so many years for so-and so, and ... ". The end computation was way out, because he was "double counting" those years where he worked for one master in the winter and a different master in the summer ...

OK, so it's in a work of fiction; but Thomas Hardy evidently thought that his readership would not find it outside the bounds of credibility. The key point is that the character did NOT start by saying "Well, I was born in such-and-such a year, and now it's whatever year it is, and the difference between the two is ..." which is how we would do it nowadays. Rather, he did it by trying to account for all the time he has spent and then adding them all up.

This is an inherently unreliable method of reckoning age, and goes a long way to accounting for the wild fluctuations we sometimes see, particularly amongst our unlettered ancestors.
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