From: krazylisa email@example.com
I have been checking the census regularly for information on my family and have
run into a problem. On the same family for 3 census records I have different
[ages] for ancestors. In other words, the 1910 census [reports] the birth year
as 1910. In the 1920 census it said birth about 1912. And in the 1930 census it
said birth date 1901. Where do I find facts please? This is the only family I
have found such blatant errors on.
This is a common problem. Remember that in the US Federal Census records on
microfilm and online, we're looking at a copy of a copy. IE, the enumerator or
supervisor made a copy for the state and one to be sent to the federal
government. We're looking at the National Archives' copy. So anticipate the
#1 - There can be transcription errors.
#2 - People (most notably women) fibbed about their age.
#3 - Neighbors may have reported the approximate age.
#4 - Sometimes people just didn't know their own birthdates.
#5 - With age, parents/individuals forget things. Actual birthdates weren't as
important as having a roof over one's head and food on the table.
#6 - etc., etc., etc.
Anyway, a census record isn't a primary record documenting birth. However it can
LEAD you to records in a specific area that DO mention birth. We're always
looking for the most "first-hand" info on an event in an ancestor's
life, such as:
-- A birth record maintained by the town, county or state government is probably
-- A christening record from the local church can put you in the ballpark for
the birth date. Yes, there are plenty of exceptions, such as those areas where
the circuit-riding preacher came town only every few years. At that time he
might solemnize a marriage of a couple and then christen the first two children
born of the union. This doesn't mean they lived in sin, since the community
accepted this practice and recognized the couple as "married."
-- A family bible entry might provide clues.
-- A tombstone, though much removed from the birth event, might report the date.
Let's hope the tombstone cutter was accurate, or if not, that the family had
enough money to commission a new stone.
Reporting such inconsistencies is as simple as pie. You merely place the most
likely or believable date in the birth date field, and report all the
discrepancies in the notes field for that ancestor. That way, those who follow
will have the full picture.
Happy family tree climbing!
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