THE NEED FOR AN ESTIMATED BIRTH YEAR IN YOUR
by Cliff Lamere 13 Nov 2000
There are advantages to having an estimated birth year for most persons in your database. For example, my database program has an index that lists every person in the database. If I want to find the data page for a person, but I have 10 people that share the same name, how do I choose which one I want to look at first? Having a year of birth will make that decision much easier, and it will save me time if I don't look at people who were born in the wrong century. As my database grew, this became more and more of a problem that needed a solution. The following is what I did in order to have an estimated year of birth which would be useful but at the same time accurate.
ESTIMATE OF YEAR OF BIRTH - FROM YEAR OF MARRIAGE
When you don't know the age of a person for whom you have a marriage date, you cannot even be sure if this was a first or later marriage. What I do for each spouse is subtract 15 from the year of marriage. If a person was married in 1820, I report the birth date as "Bef. 1805" which means 1804 or before. That statement will be true no matter whether it was a first, second, or third marriage, unless it was a rare marriage before the age of 16. If do not want to take any risk at all, subtract some number smaller than 15; whatever will serve your own needs.
ESTIMATE OF YEAR OF BIRTH - FROM AGE OF FIRST KNOWN CHILD
It is very difficult to know if you have found the first child of a marriage unless you know the marriage date. Without the marriage date, it is always possible that you will eventually find earlier children (possibly baptized at a different church or in a different locality). So, what can you do?
Following the pattern based on marriage date, to estimate the birth year of a parent, I subtract 16 from the date of the earliest known child. If the child was born or baptized in 1820, I report the parents' unknown birth years as "Bef. 1804". My method assumes that the parent was at least 17 years old at the time of birth of the first child. You can subtract a smaller number if you prefer.
SOME ADVANTAGES OF HAVING ESTIMATED DATES
Some people record an estimated date without attaching Bef. (or Aft.) in front of it. This creates a lot of problems.
1) As the database grows and time passes, it is difficult to remember which were the
estimates and which were the dates based on more reliable sources.
2) Estimates are passed on to other researchers. You will want that data to be accurate.
The recipient will not be able to tell the difference between estimates and firm dates
without something like Bef. to distinguish the estimates.
3) If a person comes to an untimely end and the database is passed on to another
researcher or relative, estimated dates that are NOT preceded with Bef. will
eventually confuse the new owner of the data. This wrong information will cause a
lack of confidence in all dates (and possibly other information as well), because the
real dates cannot be distinguished from the estimated dates.
method that I use avoids all of these problems. You can begin using it at any
time. Your previous estimates can be changed one at a time as you come across them.
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