What to do with contradictory dates?

+2 votes
From the 1841 and 1851 UK Census returns for Wingrave with Rowsham, Buckinghamshire, England, Thomas Honor's date of birth appears to be 1789/90, but these do not agree with with Buckinghamshire Baptism Index from the Archive for Buckinghamshire Studies PR235/1/6, where I found a baptism date of 17 April 1785 where the surname is spelt "Honour". I have found no evidence to confirm whether or not this is the same person. I acknowledge a child could die in infancy and the parents give a subsequent child the same name.

What date should I use in the profile?
WikiTree profile: Thomas Honor
in Genealogy Help by Martin Honor G2G6 Mach 2 (26.4k points)
You need to remember that the age as given in the 1841 census is rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 for those over the age of 15years.  (And sometimes younger than that, seemingly depending on the enumerator.)

If the guesstimated age in 1841 says 40, then they could be 41, 42, 43, or 44.  Sometimes the gap is larger, because the enumerator chose to literally go to the nearest 5, so an age of 45 could be 45, 46, 47,48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, or 54..

1841 really was hit or miss, and sometimes the age ten years later (and so on) was given to match the previous age, because who wants to upset the government?!

Then there are those who get progressively younger every ten years - and randomly older.

Any given age from a census should be taken with a very large grain of salt, and balanced against what is given on other documents, if any.

1 Answer

+4 votes
Best answer

One thing that I have noticed in censuses is that if there is a large age difference between a husband and wife then they sometimes "adjust" their ages to reduce the gap. In this case his wife appears to have been born in about 1799/1800, which could explain why he claimed to be younger than he actually was.

When he died in 1852 his age was given as 69, which fits better with a baptism in 1785 (the entry on https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp says:

HONOR, THOMAS    Age at Death (in years): 69  

GRO Reference: 1852  S Quarter in AYLESBURY  Volume 03A  Page 264)

I would therefore use 1785 in the profile birth field and explain in the biography that it looks like he mis-stated his age in the censuses.

by Paul Masini G2G6 Pilot (270k points)
selected by Martin Honor
I've also noticed that during certain periods, it seemed like it became fashionable to fudge a bit on your age so that you would appear younger than you really were. Of course, NO ONE does that today - we're all honest and truthful and never ever lie about our age.

That being said, if I encounter conflicting dates but it's clearly the same person, I make an educated guess and generally go with the oldest date or the most repeated date, but I try to logic my way through why I believe one date over the other and if there appears to be a wide range of conflicting data, I'll note that in the biography (NOTE: Some sites state the date as this, while others show it as that, so the date that appears most likely of this one is used at this time. If additional research is done and more accurate data is found, this can be updated appropriately.).

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