Author Topic: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?  (Read 976 times)

Offline TunjiLees

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Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« on: Sunday 29 March 20 13:11 BST (UK) »
I've seen the record of one chap who married in 1861 and his age was given as 21. He died in 1896 and his age was given as 80. Meaning he managed to age 59 years in 35 years!

I've seen adult siblings recorded with the wrong ages on census records whereas you would think they should know the order they were born in.

I've seen records of the same people going by multiple surname spellings such as O'Neil/Neil/Neal, McMullan/Mullan, Lees/Leese/Lee even into the early 20th century!

In comparison, Scottish records are much more reliable and spellings and ages are correct in the far majority of cases in civil registration records.

So how come the huge discrepancies in Irish records?

I suppose it could also be to do with the Irish officials being less strict in their record keeping.

I've also heard the argument that people didn't keep track of their actual age much, or may have lied to appear younger or older for whatever reason. But how that rarely seems to have happened over in Scotland?

What do other people think about this?
LEES - Interested in all Northern Irish families, particularly those from Cos. Tyrone, Londonderry & Antrim.

See the project website @ ulsterlees.azurewebsites.net

Offline GR2

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 29 March 20 13:29 BST (UK) »
I have never looked at an Irish record, but you do find it in Scotland too. The registrar is dependent on what the informant knows. With deaths the informant is often a son-in-law or daughter-in-law or a grandchild who is not always sure about ages or parents' names. I wouldn't be surprised if large numbers of people today were unaware of their grandmothers' maiden names or ages.

Spelling was much looser in the 19th century. I have seen someone spell their own surname three different ways on the same document.

Offline hallmark

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 29 March 20 13:46 BST (UK) »


A lot has also to do with resentment against the English that invaded Ireland and answering their questions on forms such as Census data... even registering Births was treated by many as another case of being watched/counted by our invading English 'Big Brother'
Give a man a record and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to research, and you feed him for a lifetime.


Offline arthurk

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #3 on: Sunday 29 March 20 13:47 BST (UK) »
I've seen the record of one chap who married in 1861 and his age was given as 21. He died in 1896 and his age was given as 80. Meaning he managed to age 59 years in 35 years!

Bear in mind too that marriage records (including licences) don't always give an exact age, but might use "21 and upwards" for an adult. Sometimes when these are transcribed or indexed the software can't cope with the full phrase, so it is misleadingly recorded as simply "21".

I haven't knowingly come across it, but it wouldn't surprise me if some clergy also used "21" as their own shorthand for "21 and upwards".
Researching among others:
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Meaburn, Mennile/Meynell, Metcalf(e), Palliser, Robinson, Rutter, Shipley, Stow, Wilkinson

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Offline Maggsie

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #4 on: Sunday 29 March 20 14:34 BST (UK) »
When my Gran and Grandad married, it said both "Of full age"
She was just 18! that was in 1920.
Maggsie

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #5 on: Sunday 29 March 20 15:32 BST (UK) »
because we don't give a .., sur' it will do, twil be grand, it's not harming anyone, what they don't know won't hurt them, but most important, tell em nothing and a little white lie never hurt anyone.

I could be wrong but reading stuff in the Common Room here when people are posting about all sorts of rules and regulations on a wide variety of subjects I often think if that was over here we would give a monkeys.

Offline TunjiLees

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #6 on: Sunday 29 March 20 15:36 BST (UK) »


A lot has also to do with resentment against the English that invaded Ireland and answering their questions on forms such as Census data... even registering Births was treated by many as another case of being watched/counted by our invading English 'Big Brother'
This makes a lot of sense to me. I was also thinking that due to its rough history, literacy in Ireland might have been historically lower than in Scotland or England which meant less accurate records. I had a google but wasn't able to find statistics about this though.

I've seen the record of one chap who married in 1861 and his age was given as 21. He died in 1896 and his age was given as 80. Meaning he managed to age 59 years in 35 years!

Bear in mind too that marriage records (including licences) don't always give an exact age, but might use "21 and upwards" for an adult. Sometimes when these are transcribed or indexed the software can't cope with the full phrase, so it is misleadingly recorded as simply "21".

I haven't knowingly come across it, but it wouldn't surprise me if some clergy also used "21" as their own shorthand for "21 and upwards".
Should have mentioned in my example that all the other marriages on the page have different ages recorded, so I believe the guy really was around 21 when he married.

because we don't give a .., sur' it will do, twil be grand, it's not harming anyone, what they don't know won't hurt them, but most important, tell em nothing and a little white lie never hurt anyone.

I could be wrong but reading stuff in the Common Room here when people are posting about all sorts of rules and regulations on a wide variety of subjects I often think if that was over here we would give a monkeys.
ahahahaha
LEES - Interested in all Northern Irish families, particularly those from Cos. Tyrone, Londonderry & Antrim.

See the project website @ ulsterlees.azurewebsites.net

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #7 on: Sunday 29 March 20 15:37 BST (UK) »
I've seen the record of one chap who married in 1861 and his age was given as 21. He died in 1896 and his age was given as 80. Meaning he managed to age 59 years in 35 years!

I've seen adult siblings recorded with the wrong ages on census records whereas you would think they should know the order they were born in.

I've seen records of the same people going by multiple surname spellings such as O'Neil/Neil/Neal, McMullan/Mullan, Lees/Leese/Lee even into the early 20th century!

In comparison, Scottish records are much more reliable and spellings and ages are correct in the far majority of cases in civil registration records.

So how come the huge discrepancies in Irish records?

I suppose it could also be to do with the Irish officials being less strict in their record keeping.

My Irish great-aunts and uncle aged 2 decades between 1901 & 1911 census. Eldest great-aunt outlived all her immediate family and died 30 years later, aged only 15 years older on her death certificate than on 1911 census. Great-Grandma, their mother, was officially 70 on 1901 census  but since she'd been married 60 years by then, the age was underestimated. Her husband's recorded age at death was 88, meaning, if accurate, he may have been born c.1810. I estimate that he was between 80 and 100 when he died.
There were no set spellings of names in 19thC. If a person could write, they spelled their names however they liked. Members of the same family might spell their surname differently. An example of this is a man who informed the registrar of his brother's death. He spelled the surname one way for his brother's name and a different way for his own. When registrar queried the 2 spellings, the man said his brother used a different spelling. People who couldn't write had no control over how their name was written.
Consider that provision of elementary education in Ireland was later than Scotland.
Consider also that English was not the first language for some Irish people.
"O" and "Mc" prefixes might be adopted or dropped, depending on a variety of factors e.g. to seem more or less Irish.
Civil registration for everyone  began in Ireland a decade later than Scotland and 3 decades later than England.
Cowban

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Re: Why are Irish civil registration records so often unreliable?
« Reply #8 on: Sunday 29 March 20 15:48 BST (UK) »
On the 1979 (no census in 1976) and 1981 Census I'm recording as living in a house I hadn't lived in since 1973.