Is there a reason why someone would change their birth date when immigrating into United States?

+6 votes
As far as I can tell my great grandfather changed his birth date from 03 Feb 1858 to 14 April, 1861 when he entered the United States.  Was this something that was common or was there a reason this might have been done?  At this time his last name was changed from Leroux to LaRou.
WikiTree profile: George LaRou
in Policy and Style by Kevin Conroy G2G6 Pilot (261k points)
edited by Kevin Conroy

1 Answer

+3 votes
Best answer
I've seen this too - I'm going to guess there are various reasons - I'll speculate below:

- Age is a criteria used for various "adult" privileges - so I can see them making themselves "older" to achieve these, much like teenagers today change their driver's license or carry a fake to get alcohol

- On the flip side, Age is a criteria for less desirable things, like the draft. If you did not want to enter a draft situation, you might drop your real age by a few years to give yourself a chance to dodge the war and stay at home and help the family.

- Age is also a distinction for acceptable marriages - so again, you might lie a bit about how old you were in order to get a license and legally marry

I'm sure there are other reasons. As far as the month and day goes? Maybe the dude at Ellis Island made a mistake? Or wherever they entered the country, the immigration specialist is human and may have just got it wrong. Or perhaps that's his Christening month and day, but the year is wrong - or maybe it's right? Hard to say.

At least that's what I would speculate...
by Scott Fulkerson G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
selected by Sandi Wiggins
My husband's great grandfather had a similar situation and I came to the same conclusion as Scott-- that there was some advantage to reporting a later birth year at immigration. He didn't stick with that birth year later.

And not to be ruled out: this could be a different person with a similar name. You'll want to rule that out.
From my searching the records this is the only possible match for George Leroux born in the timeframe in Lardoise, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada as stated in his Petitions for Naturalization paperwork.
People might adjust their age but they wouldn't change the day of the year. Coupled with the name change it's far more likely that this record is not of your great-grandfather.

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