Individuals give their ages in a variety of records before 1900 in the United States.
How many times were they asked for “proof” or “evidence” of their age? And how many times were they simply asked?
If it seemed reasonable to the clerk or official, that’s probably what got written down.
That potential for variability (or outright lying) increases if there’s really no penalty for lying.
A forty-five year old giving a wrong age on a census by a few years is an entirely different scenario from an underage minor lying to get in the military or get married.
Just something to think about
2 thoughts on “When Your Ancestor Said How Old He Was”
One of my relatives was enumerated as an infant in 1900, being less than 1 year old. In the WW 1 registrations, he took one year off his age. But, when it came time for Social Security, he became 1 year older than he really was!
George Stradtman says:
A good number of my relatives from central North Carolina eloped to Danville, Virginia in the early 1900’s. At least half of them were under 21 (which I believe was then the minimum age to marry without parental consent in North Carolina and possibly Virginia), they inflated their ages by whatever figure would bring them up past “the golden line”.