Not sure how to handle 555 Wikitree (different birth date) suggestion

+4 votes

As co-profile manager (along with the England Project) for John Wilkes (Wilkes-939), I received a 'suggestion' 555 Wikidata - Different birth date.

The current date of birth on his profile is 17 Oct 1727, which matches what appears in a photo of a church plaque in his memory at Find a Grave, where his birth date is shown as October 17. 1727 O.S. (
The suggestion shows that the Wikidata entry on Wilkes ( gives his date of birth as 17 Oct 1725, and gives the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as the source.
I don't have access to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, so I can't determine what their source is (but they sound authoritative). 
I would appreciate ideas on what should be used for Wilkes' date of birth on Wikitree.
Ken McEvoy
WikiTree profile: John Wilkes
in Policy and Style by Ken McEvoy G2G4 (4.8k points)

4 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer

The 17 October 1727 date of birth probably originated in a Memoir of John Wilkes, by his friend John Almon published p.3, Volume 1 of The Correspondence of the late John Wilkes with his friends ... published in 1805.

However a later biography Life of John Wilkes, by Horace William Bleackley, has the 17 October 1725 date of birth on p. 6 which over on p. 8 gives a 9 February 1727 date of birth for John's younger brother Heaton.

I've had a quick look at the baptisms in St John, Clerkenwell and St James Clerkenwell but not found a record under 1725 or 1727 and it's possible he was baptised in a Dissenting church?

However Ancestry in their London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, database do have the Marriage bond for John Wilkes and Mary Mead, dated 20 May 1747 where he does state that he is aged "twenty one years and upwards" which would only be correct if he was born 17 October 1725.

by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (369k points)
selected by Lois Tilton
+3 votes
Whilst it's possible that there is an error on the plaque, it's far more likely to be a typo in the DNB which has passed unnoticed. The DNB is far from error-free - a number of my profiles have information which contradicts the DNB (with an explanation of why the DNB is wrong).
by Stephen Heathcote G2G6 (6.9k points)
+3 votes
Wikisource supplies three sources, all of which have the 1727 birth date. I rather suspect the DNB and Short Biographical Dictionary are both copying the info from the 1911 Britannica page.

While none of these are primary sources, by weight of numbers they seem to overrule the Wikidata page.
by Lois Tilton G2G6 Mach 1 (14.1k points)

The ODNB article was written by Peter D. G. Thomas  He seems to be a specialist in the period and has written a monograph on Wilkes.The article cites several primary and secondary sources.  It was last  revised in 2008.  I like to use ODNB as a starting point but  it's worth considering that historians aren't necessarily interested in dates of birth.

DNB is very  much earlier published in 1900, so I suspect that it was the source for the Britannica page from 1911,.

Personally, without an alternative primary source,  I'd use ODNB as the more recent publication.

But  it is interesting to contrast the two descriptions of his marriage


While still under age Wilkes married, in deference to his father's wishes, a woman ten years his senior, 


This Dutch interlude ended when he was summoned back for an arranged marriage on 23 May 1747 to a bride some ten years older than himself...

Very good point about the "weight of numbers" argument - when the number is essentially 1. It didn't start with the internet era.
+1 vote

I actually have a similar problem with Irène Bordoni. I linked in her profile her French Birth Record which shows she was older than she made herself while living in the USA. The English wikipedia uses the birth year she used in the States, but that causes a conflict with wikidata. Suggestion report always wants me to correct the date, and that suggestion doesn't disappear even though I marked it as false suggestion and put as comment: Wikitree is correct, see birth record in sources. I'm ignoring the suggestion now, but it is actually annoying to have it show up every single week again. 

by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (282k points)

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