Recent Posts
Subscribe

Stay in Touch.  

Receive an email when a new

blog is posted.

Join our mailing list.

Please check your SPAM

folder for new emails.

How Old Do You Think You Are?


My friend Margaret and I were having lunch the other day, discussing her upcoming birthday that led to her recent trials and tribulations of dealing with DMV and the Social Security Administration. Our discussion is posted with her permission.

She grew up thinking she was born on October 14th.

That’s the day she celebrates as her birthday.

That’s what her driver license said.

That’s what her mother told her.

You would believe your mother, right? After all, she was an eye witness to the birth.

But…that’s not the date on her birth certificate.

That’s a problem.

Her birth certificate states she was born on October 12th. Her passport states she was born on October 12th. And so do most of her other vital and legal documents.

…except her driver’s license states her birthday as October 14th…because Margaret was the informant on her driver’s license when she completed the paperwork years ago.

Here’s Margaret’s story:

Her mother went into labor on October 12th. That’s the day her doctor filled out the paperwork. But…Margaret took her time, and decided to debut her presence to this world on October 14th. The doctor didn’t change the date. No one questioned the paperwork. And so it became fact. In reality, Margaret is two days younger than the world thinks she is. Or she is at least two days younger than the paper trail of evidence that will be left behind.

Hmmmmmmm…

Which leaves one to ponder…How old are you?

Do you remember when you were born? I doubt it. I know I don’t remember my own birth. We depend upon our parents, family, eye-witnesses and documents to tell us when we were born. We tend to believe what we are told, what we read, especially information provided by our parents or family.

The document recorded at the time of the event is supposed to be the most accurate, right?

That’s Genealogy 101.

That could be a mistake.

Take Earl Cornelius W. Burke for instance. According to his son upon Earl’s death, Earl was reported to be born 7 September1894.[1] His burial marker agrees and reads as, ‘Sept. 7, 1894 – Apr, 29, 1966’.[2]

Those are facts, right?

However, the Social Security Administration registered his birth as 7 September 1892.[3] …the 1900 census, with the informant probably being the father has… September 1893.[4] Now...which is his correct birth year?

Earl was actually born 7 September 1892.[5] He was two years older than everyone thought he was.

Hmmmmmmm…

Names. Dates. Places. Details bother me.

Then there's Almira Hayner Folderman…that’s a different story that compares discrepencies in census records. In 1900, her birth was recorded as, ‘Nov 1854’ at 45 years old [below].[6] Her husband, William, he’s 46 years old; his birth was recorded as May 1854 (remember that).[7]

Let’s go back to 1880. Almira was 28 years old.[8] If true, the first census she should appear on is the 1855 New York State census, right?

She does. Elly (Almira) is listed with her twin sister Mary. They’re five years old.[9]

Almira actually shows up in the 1850 U.S. census [below] with her twin sister Mary, both aged 7/12 months, being born about Feb 1850.[10] Not November 1854.

But then again…remember Almira’s husband, William? In 1900, he was reported being born May 1854.[11] William died in 1938 but his son Marcus recorded his birth date as 18 May 1858.[12]

However…below, William appears on the 1855 New York State census:[13]

Surprise. Surprise. I think William was born in May 1854.

Genealogy is NOT always neat and tidy.

Hmmmmmmm…

Documents are evidence. So is a family tradition or an oral story. Genealogists depend on documents to prove theories. Sometimes those documents are wrong. Like Margaret’s birth record. Sometimes people are wrong. Like William’s son Marcus. The reality is, people are not perfect. We make mistakes. Evidence is more often than not, laden with errors. As genealogists, we must sift through ALL of the evidence, the good and the bad and then evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. We think we hear something; we record what we hear. We think we know something because that is what our family told us; we tend to believe it...until we prove it otherwise.

But that is exactly what we must do – prove it…one way or another.

So, I ask you again…how old do you think you are?

Or rather, maybe the question should be…how will your document trail tell the story of when you were born 100 years later?

[1] Ventura County, California, death certificate No. 684 (1966), Earl Cornelius Burke, Ventura County Recorder’s Office.

[2] Ivy Lawn Memorial Park & Funeral Home, Earl C. Burke, (1966) image (http://ivylawn.org/records/152729

: accessed 20 August 2016).

[3] Social Security Administration, “Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014” database, Ancestry.com (accessed 18 August 2016), Earl Burke Number, SS# 367-03-7968.

[4] 1900 U.S. census, Jackson County, Michigan, population schedule, Jackson city, Ward 2, ED# 9, sheet 7A, p. 133A[stamped], dwelling 313, family 153, Cornelius in household of Andrew Burk, image, Ancestry.com, (accessed 20 August 2016) citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, Roll 719.

[5] “Michigan Births, 1867-1902” images, Familysearch, (accessed 20 August 2016) register image, C.E.W. Burk, 7 September 1892, p. 414, entry #140, citing Silver Creek, Cass County, Michigan, Department of Vital Records.

[6] 1900 U.S. census, Rensselaer County, New York, population schedule, Brunswick, ED# 32, sheet 10A, p. 42[stamped], dwelling 204, family 235, Almira Folderman in household of William Folderman, image, Ancestry.com, (accessed 10 June 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, Roll 1150.

[7] 1900 U.S. census, Renns. Co., NY, pop. sch., Brunswick, ED# 32, sheet 10A, p. 42[stamped], dwell. 204, fam. 235, William Folderman.

[8] 1880 U.S. census, Rensselaer County, New York, population schedule, Poestenkill, ED# 174, sheet 1A, p. 542[stamped], dwelling 9, family 11, Almira Folderman in household of Wm Folderman, image, Ancestry.com, (accessed 10 June 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, Roll 922.

[9] 1855 New York state census, Rensselaer County, New York, population schedule, Grafton, p. 36, dwelling 285, family 313, Elly Hayner in household of William Hayner, image, Ancestry.com, (accessed 10 June 2014), citing New York State census for 1855, New York State Archives, Albany.

[10] 1850 U.S. census, Rensselaer County, New York, population schedule, Grafton, p. 261 [stamped], dwelling 1274, family 1467, Almira Folderman in household of William Folderman, image, Ancestry.com, (accessed 10 June 2014) citing National Archives microfilm publication M432, Roll 586.

[11] 1900 U.S. census, Renns. Co., NY, pop. sch., Brunswick, ED# 32, sheet 10A, p. 42[stamped], dwell. 204, fam. 235, William Folderman.

[12] New York Department of Health, death certificate no. 54191 (1938), William Folderman, Division of Vital Statistics, Albany.

[13] 1855 New York state census, population schedule, Rensselaer County, Nassau, p. 26, dwelling 234, family 240, William Fulderman in household of Henry Fulderman; image, Familysearch.org (accessed 30 Dec 2014); citing New York State Census, 1855, New York State Archives, Albany, New York.

#BirthRecords #Folderman